The hardest part of owning a startup is always the beginning: the process of turning your idea into a company with a working business model and appropriate funding. Luckily, there is a multitude of accelerator programs in the South available to entrepreneurs who want to launch their startups quickly.
At the northern tip of Kentucky where two rivers, the Ohio and the Licking, meet sits the city of Covington. While the city’s population is around 40,000, UpTech, an accelerator for data-driven startups, has been steadily gaining more attention. The applicants to last year’s cohort spanned the globe, and they expect to see this international attention continue as they finish up accepting applications for their fifth UpTech cohort on June 26.
The UpTech accelerator program, under the leadership of JB Woodruff, offers the selected startups some of the usual set of program perks, such as working space, mentoring and beverages. But there are several differentiating parts to this program, ranging from a six-month schedule and a geographic location that allows for the community to take advantage of several startup movements in two states.
Just before a run to two events, JB Woodruff talked with Startup Southerner about UpTech’s accelerator model, the benefits of their location, and an interesting but regionally appropriate program partner.
You run a tech accelerator program for data-driven startups. What exactly is a data-driven startup? A data-driven startup is one that believes that the efficient capture, analysis and usage of data is necessary to make informed and vital business, product and customer decisions. We take this one step further with our startups by emphasizing the importance that this same value can be passed onto their customers in the form of a differentiated offering by service or product. This second item isn’t required for entrance into our program; however, we use it in our evaluation criteria knowing the value it brings in making a company investable.
Why does such a program exist in Covington, Kentucky? And how is it also connected to what is going on in Ohio, or more specifically, Cincinnati? UpTech was founded with the goal of revitalizing the region through the creation of an information-based economy cluster. We’re well on the way to achieving this goal and continue to work closely with our partners at the Kentucky Innovation Network, Cintrifuse and regional universities; among many other partners.
UpTech was founded in Kentucky and is proud of that differentiating fact due to the KY Tax credit programs offered as well as the connection with the Kentucky Innovation Network. However, being a river city, we recognize that we’re also proudly a part of the #StartupCincy movement. Our drive is to create investable companies and that means we have to partner with groups all over the country to make this possible.
I like that say that Covington is Cincinnati’s Brooklyn and we have the bridge to match (Roebling Suspension bridge).
One of the differentiating components of UpTech is its program length. Do you believe that your 6-month approach to the length of the accelerator has helped the startups? I know that the 5+1 month approach works. Having worked at 2 accelerators, over 4 programs and in 3 countries, I know that a post program ‘cliff effect’ is real and felt by startups. The +1 is all about supporting the founders and making the transition to post program as smooth as possible. I know it’s working because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback from founders and the community.
Who are some of the UpTech alumni? Successes have been Tixers and Travel Notes with their acquisitions. Citilogics is now in multiple municipalities across the country with a promising customer/revenue pipeline. We’re seeing great things from our 4th cohort and hope to report more success stories there in the near future.
I did notice that you have an official distilling partner. That’s so…Kentucky. The distillery partner was born from the notion that we’re a KY-based accelerator, why don’t we have bourbon? We could have hit up the big guys near Lexington, but wanted to work with a local partner. New Riff is an up-and-coming distillery and we wanted to help them as well as continuing to find more unique differentiators in our program.
Photos provided by UpTech