Endeavor Forward Takes a Unique Approach as a Business Incubator

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To date, there are 14 companies enrolled in the Endeavor Forward program. The group has an aggressive growth strategy, anticipating to be at 30 companies by the end of the year and over 100 by the end of 2015.

One such company is Columbus-based MedPac Technologies. The startup provides SaaS for electronic medical records in the healthcare industry.

Tailored to long-term care facilities, “We promote a platform that allows the doctor and the nursing home to communicate directly with each other,” says Founder & CEO Christian Armstrong.

He and other Founder Abram Cookson were working on the technology on the side when they hit a point where they either had to dedicate all of their time and move forward, or hang it up.

“It became a matter of trying to find complimentary services at a price we could afford, which was absolutely nothing,” he says. What they found was Endeavor Forward.

With his background, Armstrong was well-versed in the medical field and in business, but needed help filling in some gaps with services like marketing.

“One of the things endeavor brought is a full team of of people,” he says. MedPac now has a team of resources behind them they otherwise wouldn’t. Armstrong cites examples of the Endeavor Forward team going above and beyond to help them prepare for pitches, clearing schedules and staying late. Bringing such opportunities to the forefront has been a huge advantage for MedPac.

“Those are the kind of things that have really helped us propel what we’re doing to the next step,” Armstrong says.

MedPac represents one of the industries Endeavor Forward is deliberately targeting.

“We’re never going to turn a company away,” Westerman says in reference to industries from which they seek startups, but, “We do have areas of preference – health tech, ed tech and anything app-based.”

As they got their feet under them, Endeavor Forward found portfolio companies through references and personal relationships, but with the public launch have opened the door for more companies to join the program.

An extensive validation process that takes about 30 to 45 days determines if a startup will be a good fit for the Endeavor Forward program.

Once accepted, “We only take equity stakes,” Westerman says. Their services are 100 percent free to a program company, all they ask for in exchange is equity. The percentage is determined by a number of factors including what a business needs help with, how much time the services will take and risk vs. reward.

“We’ve got companies in our program that we’ve just taken a few percentage points, and we’ve got companies in our program that we’ve taken a 20 to 30 percent stake,” Westerman says.

Westerman has been investing in startups for about six years now as Founder & CEO of Solomon Global Holdings, a venture capital firm providing Series A funding to early stage companies. Realistically, venture capital is only a fit for a small percentage of startups, but Westerman was left wondering, what about the others?

His overwhelming desire to help startups, coupled with a noticeable lack of resources in the Columbus market, drove him to start Endeavor Forward.

“There are a lot of really talented startups out there and there aren’t a whole lot of groups that can work with them,” Westerman says.

A 2013 industry report on venture capital funding in Ohio revealed that Columbus lagged behind Cleveland and Cincinnati in total venture dollars obtained. The lack of resources causes businesses to either fail, or move elsewhere to find finding – a trend Westerman would like to stop.

“We believe the rising tide raises all ships,” he says. “We want to do things that will be beneficial for the other groups serving startups here.”

Westerman and his team spent 18 months researching other incubators and accelerators before quietly self-launching the Endeavor Forward program this spring. Essentially a series of pick your brain meetings, the group asked other organizations what was and wasn’t working, finding many being open to discuss the ins and outs of their programming. From there Westerman took what he calls the greatest hits from incubators across the country, as well as some brilliant but often under developed ideas that were on the not working list, and created Endeavor Forward.

The group is excited to bring such a resource to the city with team members steeped in investment and entrepreneurial experience. They know first hand that making the decision to start your own business is a life-changing event. People put it all on the line to start something new.

“Let’s do everything we can to help them accomplish that,” Westerman says.

For more information, visit endeavorforward.com.