Eye on KW: Rev Targets Growth Stage
It’s strange -- and certainly refreshing – to hear the program manager of a tech accelerator say he doesn’t really care whether startups get any investment once they graduate from his course.
In fact, Sam Legge hopes the 10 companies now going through Rev at Kitchener-based Communitech won’t need to.
Rev is the new accelerator program at the Communitech startup hub in Kitchener, and it’s unique because its focus is traction for growth-stage companies. The 10 tech companies that began the six-month program in March all have a product in the market, probably seven to 10 employees, and some revenues. Rev aims to help them ramp up those revenues.
“I honestly believe it is the most difficult phase [in a startup’s life] because there is so much growing pain,” said Legge in an interview last week. “The biggest thing is taking cofounders and making them CEOs.”
Until last September, Communitech’s main accelerator program had been Hyperdrive, which over two years graduated 34 seed companies in five cohorts. Late last year the braintrust at Communitech decided the best way to help companies in Kitchener-Waterloo was to teach intermediate companies to sell more. So they decided to replace Hyperdrive with Rev, to be overseen by Legge and Communitech Vice-President of Startup Services Steve McCartney. The hope is that growth-stage startups enter the program and corporations leave it.
“No longer is there a conversation in the accelerator on how to build a product with the aim of getting investment at the end of the program,” said Legge. “We found that works for about one out of 10 companies.”
He said Communitech wants all 10 companies in the program to scale through repeatable, sustainable sales. Therefore the curriculum at Rev focuses first on the processes needed to ensure those sales and second on the structure the company needs to grow. The accelerator arranges some funding to support the company during the course, but it takes no equity in the companies.
In the first category, Legge and McCartney are teaching things like how to use weekly sales metrics and what a sales funnel looks like. The sales processes are interesting because seven of the 10 companies in Rev have Software-as-a-Service models – that is, they deliver their product online through the cloud, allowing a truly global market.
“It’s pretty exciting because we’ve come along at a time when there are new models coming out that that focus on SaaS sales,” said Legge.
As for structuring companies, most of these participants have seven to 10 employees and have produced some traction on the strength of their product. Rev aims to help them develop sales and marketing teams and the corporate culture that will allow them to impose their brand on a global market.
“We can’t do their sales for them,” said Legge. “So much of the conversation is, first, helping them to take a critical look at their business, and second, helping them to put in place a framework so that they have the systems to scale on a sustainable basis.”
The 10 companies in the Rev program, all of which are based in or moving to Kitchener-Waterloo, receive matching funds of up to $60,000, which Communitech has arranged in partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence SmartStart program. The 10 companies now in the program are:
- Advolve Media, which installs mirrors in public spaces that can be used as advertising platforms.
- Aterlo Networks, whose NightShift product improves the quality of Netflix viewing on screens throughout your home.
- Blitzen, which has developed an intelligent hub for a growing business’s data.
- Bridgit, whose Closeout product is a cloud-based communication and organization tool for the construction industry.
- MetricWire, which gives researchers complete creative control over the design of their study within minutes.
- Nicoya Lifesciences, whose OpenSPR is a powerful and affordable label-free molecular analysis instrument for researchers.
- Nix Sensor, whose smartphone app helps designers and color professionals precisely categorize the color on any surface.
- PiinPoint, whose online platform helps businesses find the best locations for their branches and stores.
- Set Scouter, which has developed an online marketplace connecting filmmakers and producers with property owners looking to rent their spaces.
- Silqe, which allows users to search the financial data of U.S. public companies, analyzing various industries and multiple years from a single interface.