Cool Summer: Founder of Harbor Springs Incubator on Lessons Learned

Coolhouse Labs, the startup incubator operating out of a renovated boat house in Harbor Springs, MI, is in the middle of mentoring its second crop of startups, and founder Jordan Breighner says he incorporated what he learned during Coolhouse’s inaugural session last summer to improve what he currently offers to the startups in residence.

“We didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” Breighner admits. “We spent last fall, winter, and spring figuring out what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

Brieghner refined Coolhouse’s mission: “Let’s provide teams with free housing, help them build out their products, and double down on connecting them to angel investors and VCs. We import talent, and we’re working to keep them here.”

Coolhouse, which Brieghner likes to call “summer camp for startups,” now connects its companies to host families so they have free housing. The incubator still offers each startup $25,000 in exchange for six percent equity, and the centerpiece of the program remains its extensive network of successful entrepreneurs, often highly successful titans of industry who have summer homes in the community.

“We go in every year looking for three things: a high-quality team, companies who are trying to solve real problems, and teams we feel like we can genuinely help,” Breighner says.

This year, a record 200 startups applied for the eight-week program, and none of the teams who were eventually accepted are from Michigan. “For whatever reason, we haven’t found local teams that fit,” Breighner says. “There are seven teams here this year, up from five last year, and they’re from all over—Denver; Ontario; New York; Houston.”

Two companies from last year, TRNK and Project Travel, have gone on to raise money, Breighner says. Two from this year’s class are already planning on staying in Michigan; LocalFu is moving to Ann Arbor, and LeaseMaid is staying in Harbor Springs.

“The companies this year came in with traction and revenue,” Breighner notes. “Last year, they just came with ideas. I don’t think there’s anyone in this group that won’t go on to raise money.”

Coolhouse is doing some fundraising of its own, and Breighner says he expects to close on a three-year fund valued at “just north of $1 million” in the final quarter of 2014.

Without further ado, here are the startups spending their summer at Coolhouse Labs: This Denver-based startup is focused on connecting those who want an experience in the great outdoors with outdoor enthusiasts to create non-traditional sources of gear rental and tour operators. Outdoor enthusiasts who want to share their favorite experiences with others can apply at

BlueMed: From Ontario, BlueMed has created an automated self check-in system for medical practices. The system uses sensors on an iPad to automatically record a patient’s vital signs and even includes a scale, blood pressure cuff, and heart monitor.

Cotalented: Based in New York and San Francisco, Cotalented is an online service connecting employers with recruiters.

Fountain Greetings: New York City-based Fountain Greetings is trying to innovate the greeting card market by helping users send handwritten greeting cards as easily as sending an email.

—LeaseMaid: LeaseMaid is a website and mobile platform that streamlines the closing process for landlords and rental management companies by screening tenants, generating lease and disclosure documents, collecting rent, and managing repairs.

—LocalFu: LocalFu is a travel site that gives users personalized travel itineraries from locals for $5. After testing in Harbor Springs, the company has now launched in six other cities.

Rex: Houston-based Rex was created to improve the quality of companion animal health, but it also helps pet owners connect with veterinarians and instantly book appointments.

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