Seattle-based startup accelerator 9Mile Labs celebrated its latest cohort today in front of more than 400 mentors, advisers, investors, startup founders, engineers, and tech industry participants in Seattle. Eleven area startups presented final presentations to the group after completing the 14-week accelerator program. The companies were:
- CPESuite helps professionals efficiently track and complete continuing-education credits.
- Trenzi pays users for referring friends to brands on social media.
- IoTfy is a Web dashboard to link connected devices.
- Muze is a cloud-based DJ simulator.
- Jodone uses machine learning to identify recyclable items among waste.
- ClientLinkt produces a branded app for real estate agents to connect clients and home owners with resources and home-services referrals.
- Globatom is a Web-based platform to automate scheduling, shipping, and tracking of global trade shipping containers.
- Namastream is a comprehensive, on-demand virtual yoga and wellness studio platform.
- StormSensor offers cloud-based storm water data collection and monitoring.
- Viato facilitates secure lead-data sharing between sales channel partners and companies.
- Minima tracks data use and storage to maximize efficiency.
Wrapped into demo day was the announcement of 9Mile Labs’ new advisory board of local industry experts. Heather Redman, vice president of business operations and general counsel at Indix Corporation; Bob Kelly, corporate vice president of M&A strategy and business development at Microsoft; Michael Orbach, managing partner of Cascadia Capital; and Gary Rubens, founder of StartIt Labs and serial entrepreneur, were welcomed into the 9Mile Labs family.
Four of the new board members — Orbach was not able to attend the event — participated in a panel discussion about the startup ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, moderated by board member Tom Casey, 9Mile Labs cofounder, and vice president of platform and infrastructure at Apptio.
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Redman is bullish on the startup scene in Seattle. She lauded the area’s engineering talent, heritage of entrepreneurship, and dominance in cloud technology.
“It’s a great time to invest in startups, and it’s a great time to start a company,” she said.
According to Kelly, there has never been more disruptive change in technology happening so quickly. He became an investor and mentor to startups to stay close to the hum of change, and take part in the energy and passion that startup founders have.
“I look for bright eyes,” Kelly said about meeting founders. “This person has passion and energy and will do what is necessary for success.”
When asked what kind of innovation he would like to see next, Kelly promptly responded with, “I hate buses.”
“They take up too much space. It’s an archaic way to move people,” he explained. “We are right on the cusp of an intelligent, automated system for moving people. So if anyone out there is interested in tackling that problem, come talk to me.”
But when it comes to starting a company and succeeding in the market, Kelly had something a little more direct to say.
“If you want to start a company in Seattle, you have to sell to actual customers,” he said, explaining that it is common practice in Silicon Valley for companies to invest in startups, eliminating the need for paying customers in early stage development. This framework has developed and honed a so-called killer instinct in the Valley, but “Seattle is just so nice,” he said. “You have to balance customer development with just going for it.”
During the panel discussion, Rubens said he initially got into investing to stay in touch with technology. Rubens said he has participated in 80 investments since selling his company to Lowe’s Home Improvement in 2012. A year later, he founded StartIt Labs, and early stage investment company headquartered in Bellevue, and he is on the board of multiple philanthropic organizations in Washington.
Rubens emphatically talked about the importance of commitment by the founders to the idea. “I look for founders to be invested as well. Either invest your own money or quit your day job. You must be all in,” he said. “There is nothing like having your house on the line to make you do everything you can to make this work.”
Casey, an investor and mentor in addition to working at one of the area’s leading mid-stage companies, included what he seeks out in potential investment opportunities.
“I look for people who can learn. If you can’t learn, then I can’t help you,” Casey said. “You must be invested and have a team. Have an idea and the passion to get there, and be willing to learn from the people who are out there to help you.”
The graduation and demo day wraps up 9Mile Labs’ fifth cohort. The B2B startup incubator is accepting applications through April 25 for its sixth cohort.