The South is home to dozens of accelerators that help entrepreneurs take their already budding businesses to the next level. But what about entrepreneurs who are still in the idea phase of their venture, or ones who aren’t quite ready to make the full-time commitment? For those individuals, we recommend checking out a pre-accelerator.
Pre-accelerators are programs designed to help entrepreneurs test the viability of their concept and lay the foundation for their business. These programs typically cover basic entrepreneurship principles, such as how to develop value propositions, create business models and discover potential markets. Some pre-accelerators even provide participants with access to mentors and experts in a variety of fields.
One example of a pre-accelerator program can be found at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The EC’s program, Preflight, is offered three times a year to startups in all industries.
The first term of Preflight 2016 recently came to a close, and I got a chance to sit down with one of its participants, Zach Casebolt, to talk about his Preflight experience and his new venture.
Casebolt is founder and CEO of Harvest, Inc, a company that—once launched—will provide musicians with an easy way to collect royalties for their work. As Casebolt explains it, “[Harvest] gets artists paid for their streaming music. Every time you stream a song, there are a number of parties who are entitled to a royalty for that song… We’ve developed an audio file that contains all the rights holders’ information and has the ability to pay them the money that they’re owed as it streams. The song itself literally pays you.”
As a professional musician, Casebolt has seen firsthand how outdated processes have kept musicians from being fairly compensated for their work. “I realized it wasn’t just me as a session player,” he says, “it was every creative person in the music industry not getting paid what they were owed, or they were losing money, or they were missing dollars.”
The idea for Harvest came to Casebolt, like all good ideas, in the shower. He immediately got out and wrote a paragraph describing the software. And after four months of research, he had the plans for an audio codec and a container that would turn his idea into a reality.
Casebolt knew he had something valuable on his hands. The only question was what to do with it next. He met with a few colleagues who helped get the ball rolling. They raised a bit of money, hired a patent attorney and filed the patent. “And then,” Casebolt says, “I entered into this program at the Entrepreneur Center, PreFlight.”
When asked why he chose Preflight, Casebolt responds, “I had this idea, and I didn’t know what to do with it. And there just happened to be this program I found that seemed to answer that, and it looked perfect.”
Casebolt’s expectations for the program were clear. “What I hoped to get out of it,” he says, “was to take my idea and build a company around it, and by the end of it have a business model. This idea is a real thing that we can take to the music industry, and say, ‘Let’s do this, guys.’”
What he actually got out of the program, however, exceeded his own expectations. “It was what you wanted to make of it. It can be as little or as much work as you want. But the resources were invaluable,” he says. “I had access to a limitless supply of the top experts in my industry and in all of the relevant industries that could be associated with this. I’m a musician… I don’t have an MBA. But I was given the tools that an MBA program would give one to start a company… It was intense and it was really stressful, and I’ve never been more excited to wake up in the morning.”
Casebolt says he would definitely recommend a pre-accelerator program to entrepreneurs like himself. And now that his own pre-accelerator experience has ended, Casebolt and his team are working to bring Harvest, Inc to life; the company is scheduled to launch early 2017.