From MIT Robot Whiz to DoD Engineer: The Gener8tor Startup Founders
The fourth gener8tor accelerator program got underway this week with a blitz of “speed dates” between the entrepreneurs and a field of potential mentors.
On Tuesday I hung out at gener8tor’s office in downtown Madison, WI, where the program’s winter crop of five startups shuffled between office suites in 15-minute individual sessions with mentors. The startups will spend the next two weeks meeting with more than 70 potential mentors. Afterward the entrepreneurs will take a survey and get matched by gener8tor officials with a handful of experts who will help guide their companies over the three months of the program and possibly beyond.
The volunteer mentors include attorney Greg Lynch of Michael Best & Friedrich’s Madison office; Tim Nott of MobileIgniter, a Madison mobile app developer and gener8tor alum; and investor Ken Johnson of Kegonsa Capital Partners. Thanks to Skype, gener8tor said it has recruited mentors from as far away as Dubai.
The volume and geographic diversity of the mentors speaks to how gener8tor, which alternates accelerator programs between its Milwaukee and Madison offices every six months, has progressed since its first startup class in summer 2012. That first program included about 10 mentors, gener8tor said.
As I reported on Friday, gener8tor’s latest class seems to be creating a buzz outside Wisconsin, with startups that hail from around the country and even outside its borders.
The quality of companies has increased with each class, according to gener8tor co-founder Troy Vosseller.
“Our goal is to level up each time we do this, and I think we’ve done that,” Vosseller said.
To better acquaint readers with the latest group of companies, here’s a fun fact about each one:
• Edison DC Systems founder John Meinecke worked as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor for 10 years as a direct current power systems engineer. He said he designed multi-megawatt systems for the Navy and was involved in developing the DDG 1000, a ship that launched in October 2013 and features an all-electric integrated power system.
• Liv Blends co-founder Matthew Udomphol, a 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, is an avid robotics designer. He won the MIT Autonomous Robot Design Competition in 2008 and took second in the Tokyo International Design Contest in 2009. Observers might think Liv Blends—which has developed what it calls “the Nespresso machine for freshly blended beverages”—is a food company, but it’s really more of a robotics company, Vosseller said. “It’s meant to be a smart blender and let the consumer create [the blended beverage],” he said.
• Men’s Style Lab chief technology officer Aaron Hoffman was actually one of his company’s first five customers. Hoffman heard Men’s Style Lab founder Derian Baugh pitch his startup concierge clothing service last year at an event hosted by 1 Million Cups in Des Moines, IA, an entrepreneur meetup group that is part of a network founded by the Kauffman Foundation. Baugh has worked a variety of retail jobs, from selling shoes to cell phones, he said. Hoffman, a software developer, wanted some wardrobe assistance. “I continue to be style-challenged, but with great help I look reasonable,” Hoffman joked.
• Review Trackers founder Chris Campbell, a Chicago native, got his first taste of Madison in April 2012, when he helped lead Wisconsin’s first Startup Weekend event. Campbell has attended more than 30 Startup Weekend events around the world and helped facilitate a dozen, including in Poland and Colombia, he said.