“Despite the fact that we won’t be introducing a new iPhone or an iWatch, you will see some new innovations here in Nebraska,” Ardinger joked with the crowd in his opening remarks.
NMotion is an accelerator program that works with early-stage startups by giving them capital in exchange for equity in their company. During the 14-week program, entrepreneurs work with mentors and industry experts to transform their ideas into companies.
“Being an entrepreneur is lonely and difficult,” said Ardinger, the founder of NMotion. “One of the reasons why we like this type of accelerator model is that you get to have founders interacting with each other and they’re at the same stage.”
This year NMotion had seven startup teams in the program, three of them with founders from outside of Nebraska. Demo Day, of which the University of Nebraska is a sponsor, was the culmination of the teams’ efforts to develop their companies in the last 100 days and share their ideas with the community.
Patrick Riley from the Global Accelerator Network opened up Demo Day as the year’s keynote before the founders began their pitches.
“It’s such an exciting time to be an entrepreneur,” Riley said. “I truly think Nebraska is a great place to start a company.”
He went on to describe a few the common problems that cause companies to fail and how the NMotion entrepreneurs can overcome the challenging hurdles.
Then the pitching began. Each founder had six minutes to pitch their company to the room, followed by a brief question-and-answer period with a panel of judges from the entrepreneurial community.
Demo Day serves as the celebration and conclusion of the program and showcases the value of the ideas as well as modifications that the teams made during the process. Everything from the startup’s name to its concept were tweaked as a part of the growth process, because that’s what an accelerator is all about, Ardinger said.
“That’s not uncommon with an accelerator model,” he said. “If they came in with all the answers fully baked they wouldn’t need an accelerator.”
However, Ardinger said very few companies overhaul their idea like this year’s team of Mike Fingado and Brian Dzingai. The cofounders developed Mowdo, a startup that touts itself as the “Uber for lawn care,” connecting lawn care experts with clients using a mobile app.
Fingado and Dzingai originally came to NMotion from Seattle and Chicago with a sports-related idea, but quickly saw they would need to change directions and they stumbled onto the idea for Mowdo.
“We just ran with it and had paying customers within a week,” Fingado said.
Fingaldo said he’s been a part of a few startups but he’s excited about finally getting to run one of his own.
“I love building things and seeing people use them,” he said. “I love to link people to something they can use.”
While Kurt Knecht and Jennifer Rosenblatt stuck with their original idea for the entire program, it was still a difficult process.
“We were constantly learning how to get along and communicating was a huge thing for us,” Rosenblatt said.
The husband-and-wife team started MusicSpoke, a marketplace for independent composers and purchasers of sheet music, as a way to merge their talents and meet a need in the market.
Rosenblatt runs Argyle Octopus, a design and printing company based in Lincoln, and Knecht is a world-renowned composer and professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They are a busy couple, but had mulled over the idea for MusicSpoke more than a year before NMotion began.
“For us, the biggest benefit is that (NMotion) made us actually do it,” Rosenblatt said. “We quit everything to do it.”
She said while the process was challenging it was also exciting to put their idea into action and connect with other entrepreneurs in Lincoln.
Now that the program has come to an end, Rosenblatt said she and the other NMotion graduates are asking themselves the question: What’s next?
The answer to that looks different for each team, but Ardinger said he hopes the teams are equipped to go out into the market and be successful, knowing they have the support of the NMotion team in the past as well as the future.
“This is really the beginning … with the support we have here I think we can do some really great things,” Ardinger said.
NMotion’s class of 2014 included:
Ryan Cooper: Adolade – Mobile rewards platform enabling brands and mobile developers to monetize in-app experiences.
Kunwar Gill & Richard Bansel: Commissioner – Analytics and performance evaluation platform for coaches & athletes.
Jason Kristufek: Fanstreamm – Group ticketing for sports and entertainment venues made remarkably easy.
Brian Dzingai & Mike Finagdo: Mowdo – Mobile platform providing on-demand lawn care.
Kurt Knecht & Jennifer Rosenblatt: MusicSpoke – Marketplace for independent composers and purchasers of sheet music
Stacy Carlson: oneCanvas – Graphics engine for digital scrapbooking and photo books.
Vishal Singh: Quantified Ag – Sensors and data platform for the cattle industry.