Intro to Rev1 Ventures
So, my name is Alicia Oddi. I’m a managing director of entrepreneur and inclusion programs of Rev1 Ventures and I’m here to just talk a little bit about Rev1. And, here we go.
Our Mission “Help Entrepreneurs Build Great Companies”
So, our mission is simple. We are a startup studio that provides services – and in some cases, capital – to help entrepreneurs build great companies.
Built to Serve & Attract High-growth Firms to Columbus
So how do we do that? And what’s our business model?
We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on economic development outcomes. That means jobs created, revenue generated, and capital is attracted. We work in concert with regional economic development leadership and have formal partnerships with many of the municipalities and entrepreneur support organizations in the region, including Cultivate. About 35% of our funding comes from the state of Ohio’s Developmental Services Agency through the third frontier program and we have peer organizations in several regions across the state, also funded through this program.
Focused on Scalable Companies with High Impact
So, a question we get a lot is “Why the focus on scalable tech-based companies?”
So you can see from the data on this slide that startups generate the majority of net new jobs and attract and retain talent. They become pillars of the community and give back and grow their local economies. We’ve started to see this impact in Columbus with companies like CoverMyMeds, Root Insurance, and MyOwnExcess. Once a start-up like this is acquired or goes public, that leadership will exit as well and work on a new idea. Each time this happens, you’re building a knowledgeable and skilled workforce that helps keep that cycle going. This has a great positive impact on our region.
So, I’m going to give you a second to digest this with this slide – and then I’m going to talk a minute about the word “scalable”.
So, this is oftentimes the trickiest part of what we help companies figure out. A scalable business model is one that sees increasing returns as it invests more capital, labor, and service and that results in declining unit costs as a business expands. This is very different from a services-based or retail business or other types of small businesses that we described as main street businesses as you see in this chart.
Main street businesses can be often profitable and they’re highly important to the economic and social fabric of our community but they just don’t have the same growth and return potential as a scalable business.
Startups Are Risky Business
However, there is some bad news about all of this. For every CoverMyMeds, there are dozens and dozens of companies that never make it out of the valley of death pictured on the slide here.
When you’re building a high-growth technology or technical company, you’re building something new. That means that even if you’re getting early customer traction, you’re going to be spending more money to get that technology off the ground than you’re taking in. And most of the companies that start this endeavor just don’t make it.
Reducing Risk, Improving Success
Rev1’s goal is to shorten the amount of time in the valley of death and increase the survival rates of companies we work with – and we’ve seen results. Our companies have a 50% survival rate as compared to the 35% national average
Rev1 Investors Startup Studio
And this is because we’re focused on what we call the noble unknowns.
These are the five areas of risk that can kill any startup. These questions:
- Is the product differentiated?
- Is there a serviceable market?
- Is it a high-growth business model?
- Can the team execute?
- Is the company fundable?
…need to be answered by every business regardless of the industry, type of technology, or business model. By addressing these five areas of greatest risk, we increase the success rate of our start-ups.
Rev1 Investor Startup Studio
So how do we work with you, the entrepreneur? We offer a suite of strategic services and help you to build a solid capital access plan with funding from Rev1 where there is a fit.
Our studio is organized around the four pillars you see here and why these focus areas? We want to approach it from the entrepreneur’s perspective. What are the key things that you need to grow your business? You need a team to execute; customers to give feedback, and ultimately buy the product; capital to fuel growth through milestones, and; a space that isn’t just affordable but puts you in the center of the innovation community in Central Ohio.
Opportunities Created Across Diverse Industries
So, I’ve talked a lot about technology and technology enabling companies and products but what does that mean?
Here’s a snapshot of our clients in the industries they represent. You see a lot of IT. 70% of our companies are either enterprise software data analytics, digital health, or healthcare IT, but it’s not just about computers. The remaining 30% represent life sciences, think therapeutics, or medical devices, as well as food and IT, advanced materials, and alternative energy.
Startup Impact | 2013-2021
So, back at the start of this webinar, I talked about our focus on economic development outcomes which you can see here on this slide. So to date, companies that we’ve worked with have provided over 3.2 billion dollars in startup impact. That’s through revenue capital and exits that they have provided.
Since 2013, Rev1 has served over 1,000 clients and we’ve funded 133 companies, investing 60 million in start-up capital, and most of it back into the Columbus region.
Pathway to Becoming a Rev1 Client
So how do you, an entrepreneur, get connected to Rev1?
We have an intake process outlined here. Here we see kind of, our targets, you’re over here. For each step of that process so, our goal is to have 1000+ entrepreneur inquiries. What that means is: You’ve submitted a get-started form on the Rev1 website, that’s been reviewed by our intake team, and we qualify those leads based on the criteria we can see under the qualified leads bubble. So to be qualified: you need to be in the Columbus region; you need to have an idea for the tech-enabled product and; we need to see the potential for a high-growth business model. Could it be scalable? And could you attract a large part of the market? That’s a lot to figure out just based on a get-started form so if we initially qualify you, we reach out and ask you to get out of the phone and talk to us and talk through what you’re working on.
If we think that it’s a good fit, we’ll ask you to come to the customer learning lab and which is really around verifying markets. So for us to engage with the company, we need to see early product-market validation before you get to that 40+ engaged bubble. We will help you gather that through the customer learning lab. About half of our clients – of that 40+ – a year go through the customer learning lab, the other will come to us with this work already done.
Along the way, we make referrals to the various partners you see here, including Cultivate. So, we have a very back and forth relationship with Cutivate and so, you know, hopefully, we’re referring people up to Cultivate, giving back great service as Cultivate giving entrepreneurs back to Rev1.
Intro to Customer Learning Lab
All right, so I’m going to talk a little bit about the customer learning lab, and then we’ll have plenty of time for questions.
Rev1 Investor Startup Studio
So, our model is stage-based with critical questions to be answered in each risk area you see down the slide of the screen. At each stage that you see across, these are all based on those knowable unknowns around the product, market, business team, and capital, those five risk areas. You can’t skip these steps; each stage builds on the last and this is really the secret to our success. So it’s not unusual for companies to come in having built the product, but not proven that product-market fit, identify customers, or figure out if there’s a sustainable business model.
So where we start with every company is by answering these first critical questions about product-market fit, and that’s what a customer learning lab is designed to do.
Startup Failure Entrepreneur’s Voice
Why is this the number one thing we focus on?
Because of what we see year after year, there’s a survey conducted by CB Insights, which is from the entrepreneur’s perspective. The number one reason startups fail is no market need and the reality is, that information is out there for you to get. You just need to take the time to do it and understand how to evaluate it.
So this is kind of, that grid flipped showing you the process you take when building a company. Like I said, a lot of times people are just eager to build. You need to have a lot of things you need to do first. You need to validate your problems, validate your customer, and then validate your business. A customer learning lab can help you with those first two. Very few companies leave the customer learning lab ready to build your product even though they are set to engage with Rev1, you’re just starting the whole process.
This is an Alterative Process
Successful companies never stop talking to their customers. They use this process over and over to refine features, roll out new products, and get feedback on branding and other things.
Before Customer Learning Lab
So here’s an example to illustrate the impact of the customer learning lab’s market validation process.
So before without validating your market fit, you’ll make products for the world that they do not want with a high chance of failure and along the way, will waste time and money. So before I expand this slide, we need to think about how many of you have walked through a park and not stayed on the path.
After Customer Learning Lab
Just like in this photo, not everyone walking through a park is there to spend time. It might just be a way to get from point A to point B and the path or features in this analogy are not addressing the user’s needs. Without talking to your customers, you can’t see the whole picture at first but then it expands just like your idea. So it’s not that your original idea necessarily changed, it’s that you’re now seeing existing behavior and customer needs. You’re going beyond what you know or what other people have said which is this proxy data and talking directly to your target audience.
So after the customer learning lab, you’re likely to fail faster. Right? It’s much better to put an idea out there, and find out: “Nope, doesn’t resonate. Quit wasting time and money”. With a customer learning lab, you can really identify the cool and amazing technology and that customers have built something with the proof that it’s got traction in the market.
Building Strong, Scalable Companies
So what happens next?
If you’d like to find more, if you think you’re fit for our services – for the customer learning lab – go to Rev1ventures.com and fill out the get started form. I’ve circled that little green button on the top of the screen.
We help Entrepreneurs Build Great Companies
And finally, why do we help entrepreneurs build great companies. I hope that we can help you.
That only took about 15 minutes.
Well, thanks for that overview.
I’ve had the opportunity to go through customer learning labs a couple of times. I’m an entrepreneur myself and I found it hugely valuable even though that did not lead to like an engagement for the ideas that we were kicking around. As Cultivate, we get like you said a number of those referrals from folks that really aren’t a fit because their idea isn’t scalable. So, we end up getting a lot of those main street businesses, folks like that, they need some extra help and in that case, we’re helping them depending on where they’re at in their process. If they are still really kind of creating a business plan and some idea, some thoughts around their business, we’ll help them with a business plan or if they’ve already started getting customers, then we will help them with things to grow their business. But, one of the things that we find is people are very eager and looking for sources of investment for their ideas and I think sometimes people are surprised that there are really relatively few resources in Central Ohio for people to go and get investment or that the process to do that, for instance, with the Rev1, is there’s a lot more steps between those first conversations and eventually maybe having an opportunity to get investment then what they were expecting. And so, that’s really one of the main reasons why you know we just tried to organize this presentation is just to help people understand that whole process.
I would love to hear any questions that people have in the audience that you just want to know in the chat, we can address those. I think that people – they may or may not know can go to Rev1 Ventures website and it’s pretty clear they’re likely to get started for them which is what people fill out to begin that intake process. It’s not really a very long-form but it gives them those key things that they need to know to really evaluate if your idea is a good fit to move forward. I think you also have some restrictions on the kind of location of business. I think a certain amount of them have to be in Ohio base- company and in some of those restrictions also are attributed to what you said was like, a third of your funding was through the third frontier program so some of what you do and who can help is kind of tied to your funding sources.
So, that’s how Rev1 is different from kinda standard venture capital firm. So, we do have for-profit funds that operated under the venture capital model but we are very location-based. Again, very tied to the economic development goals of the region and to some extent, to the state. So we have a cup, you know, we have a fund through state auto that can fund anywhere in the world based on what state auto’s trying to fund. So it’s not, it’s also not just Rev1’s money that’s in those funds. We have limited partners, we have entities that have specific goals around return and investing back in the community and so it’s a little different than venture capital firm which has raised a lot of private money and it’s just out there looking for the best deals.
(replies to chat)
Yes. So, we only serve specific industries. So that industry slide that I showed really illustrates the industries we serve. So IT, but really we focused around SAS space at our Enterprise Solution because those are scalable to a greater extent than a B2C app might be, and healthcare IT is another one and then we have the life sciences, advanced materials, etc. Those industries are defined for us by the state of Ohio through the third frontier program. And so we’ve been able to kind of expand beyond what’s tech-focused and the tech-enabled so we may have a situation where something is started as service and the other has built a product around that to help scale that but it is really focused in those industries.
One other thing that I experienced, when I went through the customer learning lab is that some people feel that they need to be further along on their business idea before they jump into filling out the get-started form on your site and getting the customer learning labs. It seemed like there was a real mix of businesses where some people, like myself, we really just had an idea versus other people may have a- maybe started building a software product, or maybe even have a couple of customers but maybe you just speak to that and even why it might be better or some instances to go through this process before you start building something.
It goes back to that number one reason why startups fail, which is the lack of product-market fit. And so products, you think about the valley of death and how you know when you’re developing a new technology or a new product that’s focused around technology, it takes a lot of time and resources to get that thing off the ground. You’re gonna be doing a lot of testing, there’s going to be failures, and for some of the more complex products, it can take years to get to a finished product. So if you think about the difference between a task-based software solution and then actually manufacturing something, there’s a wide range of time spent in that valley of death. There’s really no reason to get started if you don’t have anyone to buy the product. So while it’s never really too late to go through the customer learning lab and we do have people go through the customer learning lab that has built a product or have an MBP or might have paying customer to, the best time is when you first have the idea.
So you need to have one idea for your product, you need to be able to articulate what some of the features are that you’re thinking about and have an idea of who your customer is and that’s really what you need. It’s good if you’ve maybe talked to a customer too. You don’t have to have done that. Sometimes we’ll ask you to do that first, but typically we are trying to get people at the idea stage before they build something.
(replies to chat)
So the customer learning lab is hosted five times a year. So, that question around the timeline is really just depending on when you fill out that get started form. So we’re kicking off our second one of the year next week, and if you were to complete the get started form next week, we wouldn’t be able to get through the customer learning lab till June. So it’s just based on when we have the program available, but we try to get and make it so it’s no more than two months in between each one. And I do want to iterate that not everyone who we have the first call with gets to get invited to a customer learning lab. The majority of those companies do but there might be some more work to do before you’re ready for the customer learning lab.
One other area that I think people might be interested to know is all the different resources that are deployed on your behalf if you do get to that step for an engagement is with all the organizations and community partners I guess that you work with different businesses that might help provide services but even more importantly so maybe touch on that for just a second, but even maybe more important that for these businesses that are seeking investment is that actual investment from Rev1. If they ever get to that stage, it may be smaller than they expect in some cases. But you are doing this really extensive due diligence on behalf of their business and really positioning them for what is gonna be really just a big part of their time moving forward is continuing to raise new capital and how you help them with the foundation to be able to do that.
Yeah, so real quickly, and actually, there’s a question in the Q&A that’s perfect for those which is does Rev1 generally assists entrepreneurs with potential legal compliance issues? So Matt refers to our partners, so we network vetted service provider partners in all areas of business services, so legal accounting, HR, marketing, etc. who provide discounted, in some cases, the pro bonus services to our clients. So, we have a really good idea of what legal compliance issues companies aren’t going to need to address, and our legal partners, we basically have legal partners lined up for every type of question or legal assistant you might need as a start-up. Regardless of your industry, different industries might have additional things to think about as you brought up compliance that’s something that, in the healthcare industry and things like that, you’re going to need to think about that
So we have Rev1 advisors that- So basically, we bring business expertise to the table through our Rev1 advisors, service providers, mentors, and then we have talent services available to help identify sea level talent for your company, and we have learning labs that are designed to increase your business knowledge while focused around the five risk areas.
As far as investment goes, what we really try to focus on with companies is what is your capital access plan. A capital access plan is basically – when you think about that valley of death. It’s basically looking at how I get out of the valley of death, right? And how do I do it in a way where I’m looking ahead 6 to 12 months? I’m figuring out what milestones I need to accomplish to move the business forward, these milestones and; how much money do I need to get there? And so that seems very simple, there’s a lot to spread now. I’m not an investment professional and I’m not a finance professional but that’s really the layman’s approach to what a capital access plan is. We do have assistants to help you build that both with our advisors and we have CFO, IR services, and other accounting services but it’s just basically creating really good projections based on how much it cost – your unit costs – to create your product and then all the expenses that go into creating it and selling yet, how much does it requires and take to acquire a customer you know that all goes into these financial projections and you’re basically saying ”Okay how do I buy it off one chunk at a time? And how do I raise enough money to just bite off that one chunk?” And then that way, if you’re successful then you can go ahead and raise the next amount of funding. So in Rev1, basically, we have funding available at the preceding scene and the growth stages at the moment. And so we’re basically looking for companies that have early market traction, we have some paying customers, and other things like that, and if you’re not a fit for our funding, we have a broad network of funds and funding partners that we can connect you to. There are also other sources of funding, especially for spinouts or types of products around grant funding as well. So, the state of Ohio has a fund and the federal government has some funding and so, will also help you explore those avenues as well.
So, I’m looking at Eric’s question. So beyond the customer learning lab, given comments about the slower-paced process of investment. So, I will say that- let me go to part 2. So, we definitely facilitate conversations with local and west coast VCs paid brands – it’s not just the west coast. There’s a good network of venture capital funds in the midwest that are a lot of times focused on the midwest so that is often a really great place to start. We do have relationships with West Coast VCs, East Coast VCs as well and drivers usually working in a different stage or even just a different capacity, they’re actually investors in our Rev1 fund too. So, they’re one of our limited partners because we’re really working earlier than they are and do not have, we would not necessarily cone best around with drive, just because they’re investing much larger round sizes than we are. We are the most active seed-stage investor in the region which means, we get the most investments out the door but there are going to be a smaller check size than a drive might do. It’s just a different animal, as well.
And then as far as slowness, I would say that were probably where I don’t know that we’re slower than any other investment firm that’s going through due diligence. We follow national venture capital association processing guidelines for due diligence in our process and something we try to do with people with entrepreneurs’ expectations. You’re basically always fundraising. It’s going to take three to six months to raise rounds, right? And you are going to be spending that over the next 12 to 18 months which means you maybe have a few months off before you start looking for the next round. So I think, generally, it’s not the overall VC process that probably takes a little more time than entrepreneurs might realize.
So CLL, B2C, B2B, and PACL do not fit specific industries. We would probably refer you to another group just because, although we would love to serve everybody, we all get frustrated if we go outside of our core offerings. So, we have engaged occasionally with a B2C business that has a business model that is very focused on channel partners and it was kind of location-agnostic, but that’s not going to be a fundable business with Rev1 and so we need to kind of really think about whether we’re the best fit for you or if another entity would be a better fit. We just, unfortunately, can’t be all things to all people.
Matt, did I answer your investment question?
Yeah, I think that was great. So, we’ll just give it just another second here to see if anybody else has a question before we wind this down but I did want to mention that I’m so we’re recording this presentation today. We intend to replay this several times throughout the year for folks that didn’t catch obviously this time around that are interested in understanding what Rev1 does, how they work, how they collaborate with community partners like Cultivate and others in the region, but we also have course, free courses that we have available on our website. So, we have registration open right now for those courses and so, we’re actually kind of bundling this video along with several others that Rev1 has facilitated for us over the last year or two.
So there’s a great presentation that we did a while ago that talks about understanding if your business is investable. So that’s a great one. And then there are a few others that we have around business, funding alternatives, besides getting investment, that you know what looks like and that is maybe more gear for businesses that aren’t fit to get investment through Rev1. So focus on looking at other sources of capital. So, that is available at Cultivate Works.org. You see on the homepage of our site the spring course session. So, I just let people know that’s available for some additional information and then it looks like we just have really just one more question, and then we’ll wrap it up.
So I can’t really then I can’t really answer that question as far as whether we work with a startup with a smart device component potentially. I think that’s it. Do you know why? That depends on whether I know what your idea is and whether there is market validation. So, I invite you to fill out the get start form so we can loan out more. So the counties, it’s the 13 regions surrounding Franklin county, and I do not have them off the top of my head. I apologize. We can have a conversation with anyone in Ohio. The state has given us a little more flexibility these last few years to work in concert with our, you know sister organizations so that if you’re outside of our county – our county area – we can certainly, at least, have a conversation and see if we can work together.
Alright, well, thank you very much Alicia for wrapping this together for us. As I said, we’ll send out a recording of this. It might take a couple of days before we get that out but we know everybody is linked if they want to re-watch any portion of this. Again, thank you for all your attendance today and keep an eye out for future events that we host with Rev1. Thank you!