One year ago – the 20 founding members of Jumpstart Foundry came together in my office to “do something” to grow the Nashville entrepreneurial ecosystem.
None of us really knew what that meant, but the concept was to “eat our own cooking” and launch JSF using the lean startup methodology. Rather than spending months searching for the perfect plan – we would launch a MVP for the microfund space, learn from our customers (entrepreneurs, mentors, investors etc.) and then use feedback to improve the offering.
Our belief then (and still today) was that a few core principles combined with the right team could change our city for the better. After hours of spirited debate (often fueled by beer and pizza), those 20 founding members came up with a basic offering and core principles:
JSF initial MVP:
Invest $15K, 3 mentors’ time and 90 days to accelerate one concept every month.
1. Learn by doing (mentors and entrepreneurs)
2. Less talk – more action
3. Jump in and start – then learn and iterate
Looking back now, it is amazing how naïve we all were, but the 20 founders were very strong so the plan worked well. We publicly launched in March 2010 and held seven monthly meetings.
JSF reviewed 71 applicants. We listened to 23 pitches and invested time and capital into 7 concepts. Details regarding these companies can be [found here], but in summary I am incredibly pleased (and a little surprised) with how strong the graduates are today. All are still in business and growing. One has successfully raised additional capital. One is cash flow positive and 4 are in the midst of securing new rounds of capital.
We also learned several lessons from the experience including:
- Nashville has many aspiring entrepreneurs (plenty of deal flow).
- Applicants will drive hours to be part of JSF (record was 4 hours).
- Entrepreneurs all need to be taught a core skill set (we repeated ourselves often).
- Mentoring is great fun, but it takes a lot of time (we need more mentors).
- Nashville needs more active angels to support our graduates.
- A physical space gives the program a framework to build on — thanks EC.
- 15 minutes is not enough time for due diligence in order to make the best decision.
This feedback has been digested and incorporated into our 2011 offering. You can read about the new program in the coming days, but a few changes are worthy of note:
- JSF will group all our companies into a cohort over 14 weeks in the summer. This will allow us to design a strong educational program geared to what the companies need each week. Further, we will be able to introduce our graduates to the public at a big party. Please mark your calendars’ for Investor Day – Thursday, August 25.
- We are growing our Mentor group to 50, while also widening the expertise to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs. This is the key value of our program and the reason for our success. We had a great group of 20 last year – 2011 will be stronger.
- We have begun to build the angel community in Nashville. JSF will generate many exciting angel investment opportunities. It is important to simultaneously strengthen the number and quality of angels to support this deal flow.
I am excited about JSF 2011. We have come a long way in 12 months and I’m excited to watch JSF continue to grow and prosper. There are many ways to get involved (Mentor, Apply, Sponsor, or Angel). Please join us and help build the Nashville entrepreneurial ecosystem.