Antony SeppiDirector of Flow
Chris LawsonVP of Misc Stuff
Rahul BawaChairman of Board
Antony SeppiDirector of Flow
Chris LawsonVP of Misc Stuff
Rahul BawaChairman of Board
LOOKING FOR MENTORS
We are looking for mentors at Pipeline. Our unique approach to mentorship may be a bit different than other programs. We believe that mentorship is the end result of period between a willing advisor and an interested advisee.
WE CREATE OPPORTUNITIES
We liken it to any other relationship. We don’t make dedicated pairings between mentors and the startups. Instead, we create opportunities and make introductions.
We leave it in the hands of both parties to agree that they’d like to work with each other and take it from there. We believe this organic approach leads to better mentoring, which results in a better experience for both parties.
What is the Pipeline water-tech commercialization platform?
The Pipeline program works with startups that have commercialization potential in the water-tech industry. It is our keen passion for the environment, intertwined with our desire to build the startup community that drives our mission. The demand for innovation in the water industry is now stronger than ever due to dwindling supply, aging infrastructure, and sustainability initiatives that are being driven by both private and public entities.
What are the connections?
Pipeline has value-add connections throughout the region and elsewhere. These connections include representatives from both private and public organizations – university faculty, guest lecturers, utility directors, funders, Fortune 100 companies, and many more. These resources can be utilized in an assortment of ways to move startups forward, including a willingness to put your solutions to the test. We have agreements with our partner connections that allow our startups to test their solutions in a live environment.
What qualifies as a “Water Startup”?
A “Water Startup” is a company whose primary value proposition utilizes or affects water to some extent, and is the primary driver of projected company revenue. All rapidly scalable business models are welcome – B2C, B2B, or B2B2C – and the solutions can be infrastructure, physical product, application, and services. Pipeline is looking for solutions that address infrastructure, reuse/recycling, wastewater, monitoring/metering, and consumer innovations.
Who are the backers of the program?
The backers of Pipeline are a consortia of the leading academic, private, and startup support organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio. This collaborative includes Cintrifuse, University of Cincinnati, The Hamilton Mill, City of Cincinnati, City of Hamilton, Confluence, Xavier University, Environmental Protection Agency, Central State University, etc. These backers are united by a strong vision to advance water technologies in the region.
Who funds and supports the program?
Companies and organizations that see value in building out water cluster – companies that have strong sustainability initiatives and water compliance requirements. These organizations directly or indirectly are supporting this initiative:
- The Hamilton Mill
- Village Capital
- City of Hamilton
- City of Cincinnati
- Xavier University
- University of Cincinnati
- Central State
When is the program?
February 2017 – May 2017.
Where is the program?
The “where” is a unique component of our program. While you do need to be in the Greater Cincinnati area for limited durations the unique feature of our program is the “City as a Lab” approach. This approach utilizes the resources throughout region as a test-bed for participating startups. Entrance into the program will be partially based upon an identified need of a regional partner. For example, a startup that creates efficiencies in water utilities will be placed with a corresponding utility department throughout the region.
Additionally, there will be multiple co-working spaces throughout the region that will encourage collaboration and knowledge share. Mandatory “module” workshops will be held regularly throughout the duration of the program and the dates of these will be given far enough in advance to accommodate busy schedules.
There will be weekly gatherings (one per month during the 3 month program) that will feature a talk, and an opportunity to check in with your peers (and food!). There will be other workshops, intensives, faculty office hours, networking events, and brokered customer meetings throughout the program you can use based on your interests.
What about travel costs and accommodations?
If you are coming from outside the Cincinnati area travel requirements will be minimal. We anticipate travel to the area about 3-4 times (1 week per month) over the course of the program. Those are costs that the startup will be responsible for – but remember to deduct that from your year-end taxes. We are looking into housing options throughout the area for the weeks that startups come into Cincinnati.
Can you share any key metrics on the performance of Pipeline?
This will be the inaugural class of Pipeline, however, it is worth noting the prior collective track record of the various partners include hundreds of assisted startups and major institutional investments.
What do you look for in evaluating applications?
Assuming a clearly aligned focus area is a given, the most important dynamic is the team. In the team, we first look at the technical founder(s). The technical founder must be distinctive. While we don’t have any strict criteria, we find that the most distinctive technical founders exhibit these common traits: very strong technical chops, tenacity, ability to explain complicated things clearly, judgment in making good tradeoffs, good product sense, and a passion for outcomes, not process.
We prefer teams of 2 or 3. We will admit purely technical teams, but the ideal team has one or two technical co-founders, and one business-side co-founder.
We find that the best business side co-founders exhibit the dual traits of being able to sell a vision convincingly to customers / VCs / employees AND the ability to execute. For example, if the company will be involved in direct sales, we look for strong sales-centric business leaders. Additionally, we will be looking for founding teams that great talent will want to join.
Prior experience in water-tech is not required, although if founders have prior experience that provides a competitive advantage that is a good thing.
We also place a high importance — though secondary to the team — on the market or customer. A central tenet of our program is to test your MVP (minimum viable product) through our “City as a Lab” program. We will admit stellar teams who do not have a clear market focus, yet but we would prefer a clearly identified customer segment so that we can assign a pilot testing location.
Can I apply without an idea?
We won’t say “never”, but our programmatic focus is to enhance technology validation, not ideation of product.
What are the program rollout and timelines going forward?
Our program is based on cohorts. 8-10 quality startups will be selected for our first official cohort that begins in February 2017.
What are the programmatic details?
Our development program is called, “VIRAL” short for “Venture and Investor Readiness and Action Levels”. It is a unique curriculum which supports entrepreneurs in achieving investment-readiness both in terms of their development and peer-to-peer cohort assessment.
Specifically, VIRAL describes the nine levels through which a company passes as it “levels up” from a startup to a growing, successful company. VIRAL also maps to the levels or stages at which different types of investors invest in a company.
VIRAL is not meant to imply that as a company levels up it becomes necessarily more investable. A company at a higher level in VIRAL is not by definition a more investable company. For example, a company might have repeat sales from customers and therefore has satisfactory proof of “product-market fit”–Level 7 out of 9 on our scale. But such a company might have a product offering that is limited by geography and therefore its long-term impact potential and investment potential would likely also be limited.
To assess investment potential–which occurs through peer ranking in four mandatory successive module sessions within the Pipeline workshop–we use a set of twenty criteria which we call the Enterprise Framework. A company at a lower level on VIRAL–for example, a company just testing its value proposition and not yet with a development business model let alone sales–might have much greater investment potential as rated in the Enterprise Framework than a company at a later development level.
To summarize: VIRAL is about company maturity; the Enterprise Framework is about investment potential. Ranking on VIRAL is not correlated to investment potential although a company that is more mature and is also high in investment potential will certainly find it easier to raise capital. In order to move up the development curve and mature as a company, there are three core practices in which entrepreneurs engage: Customer Discovery, Team Discovery and Investors Discovery.
Customer Discovery is about testing hypotheses about the value that a company provides to the world and specifically its customers.
Team Discovery is about testing hypotheses about who can participate in providing that value and how to engage them in the enterprise.
Investor Discovery is about testing hypotheses about who will fund the company in order to improve its ability to add value to the world and at what level of company maturity these funders will participate.
Other program topics will include:
- Marketing, sales, branding
- Regulatory landscape
- Scaling, operations, finance
- Raising capital
- Hiring and growing staff
- Intellectual property
- Cash flow
- Manufacturing processes
- Metric and key performance indicators
- Know your customers in the water industry
Who will be my point person, staffing considerations, organizational structure?
Beyond the multitude of advisors, mentors, partners, and cohort peers The Hamilton Mill will serve as check-in central where there is a dedicated program director who will provide concierge service when questions or issue should arise.
We will also have a selection board that is representative of Pipeline partners.
What stage founders do you take?
Any founders who have not raised an institutional Series A round (typically, if you have not raised more than $2M already) qualify. Our main focus is on the teams and an identified customer.
Do you accept founders who are from outside the United States?
Yes. If you have not already done so, you will need to set up a US Incorporated entity to be a part of the water program (which we can also help you do). Additionally, we will provide a letter of endorsement that can be used as part of your application process for a Visa.