Two years ago, Cole Kinchler was still a student at Alabama’s Auburn University. Today, he’s the COO of Simply Prose, a collaborative writing platform for writers and editors that is getting some serious startup love. In addition to taking the startup scene in Alabama by storm, Simply Prose was invited last year to demo at Tech Crunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley in San Francisco.
In 2014, Kinchler and two partners, also students at the time of Auburn’s Harbert College of Business, knew they wanted to start a business, but they took their time coming up with a concept they thought would work.
“We saw the inefficiencies clearly: writers were bogged down with a seemingly infinite number of options on how to move forward with their work, publishing was decentralized, and professionals felt distant,” Kinchler explains. “Timelines seemed to remain the same or lengthen each year, even as technology improved. The costs of editing still surged, even as sharing information becomes simpler every day.”
Kinchler’s team saw the benefits of merging real-time collaboration and the community that writers have built in existing infrastructure of writing forums and self-help pages. Additionally, they wanted authors to be able to share and promote their work in order to gain experience and build an audience.
“We thought through software that would help the publisher too; collaboration and project management tools could cut down on costs and reinvigorate their followings,” says the Opelika, Alabama-based entrepreneur.
As the partners put their heads together to figure out how to solve issues that writers and editors were facing, Auburn was planning Tiger Cage, its inaugural entrepreneurship competition. Fast forward to last April and SimplyProse took the stage as one of the winners at the event.
“That gave us the initial validation that we were looking for,” Kinchler says.
In the past year, Kinchler and his partners have continued to receive validation. Following its Tiger Cage success, the company entered Alabama Launchpad, a statewide entrepreneurship competition sponsored by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).
“After several more pitches and nervously waiting to hear our names called at the finale, our team became the youngest to win money through the competition,” Kinchler says.
SimplyProse took home $40,000, which he says put them in a good position to begin development on the product.
Quickly following the Launchpad win, the company was invited to demo at Startup Alley, becoming the first company from Alabama to ever attend the event.
“After returning from San Francisco with new perspectives on startup culture, we began ramping up production on our beta,” he says.
The product is now in open beta, and the team has capped sign-ups at 250 so that they can gather feedback, fix bugs and make important improvements.
“The initial response has been exciting, to say the least,” Kinchler says. “We are hoping to continue expanding our connectivity to writing communities through focusing on increasing collaboration opportunities based on location and interests, developing tools for literary professionals and creating avenues to get in touch with publishing houses. We are excited to continue growing and providing the best solutions for authors and writers online. Financial and networking limitations should not prevent a writer from pursuing a dream.”