Smart RIA, a Knoxville-based SaaS company that simplifies and automates compliance for registered investment advisers (RIAs), has already had a busy 2017.
They started the year having just closed a $250,000 seed round, with investors from New York, Florida and California. The team got news in April that they had been selected to be part of 36|86 entrepreneurship and technology conference’s Village 36. And at 36|86 in June, CEO Mac Bartine pitched to the largest audience he’s ever pitched to, which he says was both scary and exciting.
“I had a fantastic experience, and really can’t recommend it strongly enough,” says Bartine, a long-time entrepreneur who joined Smart RIA in 2015. “During the conference, I met more than a dozen prospective investors who are either a good fit for our $1.2M raise now or will be later as we continue to grow, got to see a keynote speaker say that our industry niche in regulatory compliance is an incredibly hot and growing market, and began or grew new relationships with startup founders from all over the Southeast. In short, it was great!”
When we ran into Bartine at the conclusion of 36|86, he said he was headed back to Knoxville immediately to start with the latest cohort of The Works accelerator, powered by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. His response initially surprised us, since we’ve come to see this particular accelerator program as geared to early or idea stage companies. In addition, Bartine’s been an active mentor since 2014 to several programs at the KEC, including serving as a lead mentor to a prior MediaWorks program.
So, why is Smart RIA, an experienced company that launched its product nationwide in 2016, going through the Works accelerator? In short, the program itself chose to iterate. “When I heard that KEC’s 2017 cohort of The Works would be focused on slightly later stage startups that already have traction, I was immediately interested,” says Bartine. “The programming is designed to help the cohort’s entrepreneurs solve problems together, complete ongoing strategic planning, and more specifically to tackle one or two major initiatives during the course of the accelerator.”
Bartine also added the KEC’s accelerator model that required less time to participate was also an added benefit, especially for “a company like ours that’s a little further along.” While the teams do not get specific cash funding during its 12-week program, the KEC values the services, consulting and other benefits from the Works to be over $50,000 per team. The teams also have a chance to showcase their products to the entire Knoxville community and beyond on their demo day, which will take place on Sept. 20 during Innov865 Week.
When asked if participating in an accelerator is a good idea for any startup, Bartine offered the following advice to those who are thinking about participating: “I would only recommend participating in an accelerator if it is a fit for where the startup is at the time. That said, if it is a fit, the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs, which should be limited to the executive team’s time. In addition to the programming and resources offered by the accelerator, participating in a cohort generally opens doors for startups who are looking for greater visibility in the press, within their industries and among investors.”