A concept over 18 months in the making, startups and entrepreneurs now have a new incubator program to help them build their business in Columbus. Luke Westerman of venture capital firm Solomon Global Holdings and a team of seasoned entrepreneurs introduce Endeavor Forward. Taking a hands-on approach to provide strategic direction and planning, the program quietly launched this spring and is now going public with big plans for growth over the next year.
“What we’ve got is something pretty original,” Westerman says. “One of the things we found was most of these accelerators/incubators would have kind of one track for startups. What we wanted to really deliberately do was create a lot of options for startups.”
With a variety of programming, Endeavor Forward is able to work with startups on what they need versus taking a generalized approach. It’s programming that’s compatible with both first time and serial entrepreneurs.
For most first-time business owners the incubator’s six-month program is the best fit.
“It’s going to teach you everything you need to know about running a successful business,” Westerman says. On the flip side, “We wanted to have an a la carte menu of things too,” he adds.
About half of the companies in the Endeavor Forward program are from serial entrepreneurs. Many don’t need the full six-month program, but need help with strategic help with certain facets of their business or with funding. The incubator offers tracks for marketing, sales strategy, business strategy and getting funded.
Unsurprisingly, Westerman says a lot of companies come to them and say they just need money, when in reality on the top 10 list of things startups need, money ranks in the last spot.
“There are nine other things far more important than money that you need to get right,” he says.
Westerman provides an example of what a business that needs help with funding might encounter. The first step is a real valuation done by a professional, not the business owner themselves. This means most businesses come in under value versus what they had imagined, but, “We need to make sure they are on the same page as us in terms of real valuation,” he says.
Most companies think they need to raise much more than they actually do. For instance if a company comes in and says they need $1 million and they are determined to really only need $350,00 this can actually be very beneficial for a business. It’s less stake a business owner has to give away. The advisors might also recommend raising money in rounds. Take an initial $200,000, inject it into the business, and gain traction and say look what we have been able to do with only part of what we’ve needed.
“That next $150K will come much easier,” Westerman says.
Being a company in the program also means possible access to capital through the Endeavor Forward Fund.
“The fund only invests in companies that have already been accepted and enrolled in our Endeavor Forward program,” Westerman says. Businesses must wait 90 days to apply for funding, giving both parties time to make sure they are a good fit for each other. Funding often comes in smaller seed rounds from $50,00 to $250,000.