TechFaster: Today we’re joined by Jeremy Vaughan of the Factory. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what the Factory is and what you guys do?
Jeremy Vaughan: So right out of the gate I’d say the Factory truly is a focused and distraction free environment to launch and grow companies, specifically technology startups. When we say that, we’re really focused on the quality of the conversation that we’re providing, creating for not only the startups coming through our programs, but also the investment community that we’ve engaged. Are the ideas coming through the Factory, marketable, feasible, viable, solving real problems? Would someone come and pay to be on the platform? Will they come back and use it? Are the founders really wanting to be entrepreneurs, business owners?
They understand the risks associated, how hard it is to be an owner and operate a business? Do they have skin in the game? Do they want skin in the game? There’s three elements to the Factory. One, the incubator which is lock and key office space for startup small businesses that want to be involved in this community and in this environment. There’s the co-working space which we’ve keyed the CoLab that is for individuals who want to be in this conversation. They’re passionate. They want to be and collaborate with likeminded individuals. Maybe they want to be a co-founder, first or second employee. Then the execution piece, the accelerator.
We put together a mentor network that will help them learn business skills, product development. We help them execute and develop a proof of concept or minimal viable product. We have marketing partnerships in place to help with customer development needs as well as go to market strategies. Getting customers interested in the platform, on the platform, giving us feedback so we can implement those. So suits and nuts, getting a product, vetted product into the wild with customers so that their business can be sustainable and operational when it launches.
The Factory is basically our take on solving a problem for the Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem. We saw a lot of activity in larger markets, Silicon Valley, Boston, stuff like that and we wanted to take some things that we’ve learned, research from there and not mimic what they’re doing, but bring some things that they’ve learned and bring them down to Florida and solve the Florida problem with a similar model, but specific to Florida. So it’s really helping technology startups meet the right people, the right resources, meeting them with investors in our area and helping to educate the investors in our area on a risky investment which is a technology startup, but help them learn how to invest and us trying to be that, providing quality startups and helping them.
TechFaster: Great. Jeremy, tell us a little bit about the application process for startups that may want to join that initiative with the Factory and facilities that you have there.
Jeremy Vaughan: It’s really pretty new to us right now. We’re working with F6S. I don’t know if you guys have heard about them, but they have a pretty good application process and we’re working with them to implement what they have on our site and they also have like $300,000 and something of free startup, just companies, people offering things to startups. So we’re basically trying to get in with them and the application process is more around how much research you’ve done about your startup, the feasibility, have you validated assumptions, do you have entrepreneurial experience before or has someone been in a sales and marketing role? It’s great if you have an idea, like can someone actually go and sell this thing? So that’s really what it is, is we’re trying to get people in here that are also going to not only want your good idea, but be able to sell it.
TechFaster: Sure. What’s the capacity for the facilities there? How many startups could you take on or you plan to take on I should say?
Jeremy Vaughan: Right now? So there’s a couple of different programs. We have the incubator program which we have six offices for startups coming in. those don’t necessarily have to be going through the accelerator program. We’re still figuring out whether those should be pre-accelerator or post. Are we going to mentor them in the incubator to get them to go through the accelerator or are these going to be the startups that stick around and we help them after they get their business launched and going? So we’re still trying to figure that out, but there are six offices for them and then there’s also a CoLab which we’re calling a CoLab facility is kind of like a co-working area, a big spot out in an open room that’s co-working, it’s a CoLab.
So we really want people that are interested in this conversation, have something to offer for these startups, could possibly be a co-founder and one of them. The City of St. Augustine is actually looking for us for a larger building, hopefully soon, but that’s where we’re at right now. The accelerator program is like I said before, is those startups that have proved market validity, their ideas are feasible and they’re ready to go to the next stage.
TechFaster: Great. What are some of the benefits of startups coming into the Factory? I saw something about Microsoft BizSpark. I’ve never even heard of that, but it seemed pretty cool.
Jeremy Vaughan: BizSpark is one of those programs that really help startups. It’s proof that Microsoft is moving into the startup game. They have – so there’s two tiers of BizSpark. One is the free licensing for a whole bunch of products, but the really cool one which only accelerators and incubators offer is the BizSpark Plus which gets you $60,000 free of Windows ads or Cloud hosting which is huge for a technology startup and especially when you’re talking to an investor when you can say hey, that $60,000 can go to marketing or sales or something else besides hosting. So you also get tapped into the whole network there. Microsoft has programs where they can get you tapped into the investors, their community and just give you visibility. So it’s a really cool program.
TechFaster: Jeremy, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your venture that you’re involved with, Feature? Just a little bit of background about that company and maybe how it led you to this initiative with the Factory?
Jeremy Vaughan: So Feature is a custom software engineering company. We kind of have gotten really good at helping startups come in, consulting them not only the technology side, but also the business side of things and also connecting them to the right resources, not only for technology things, but also business, helping them get in contact with investors, things like that and get funding. So in talks, startups were like ‘hey, we have a business, we have an idea but we can’t get into the conversation with investors.’ But when we’re talking to investors they said ‘hey, we have money to invest, but we don’t know where to go to meet these startups.’
So we basically just stepped up and said hey, for our region there’s nothing really like this going on. Why don’t we turn this into a brand, buy a little bit extra space and see if we can turn this into something? That’s where the Factory evolved. It’s just – we have more legs on it than I can keep up with, but it seems like we’re getting overwhelming response, positive response from the community that this is needed on both sides of the gambit. So that’s kind of where we are.
TechFaster: I think it’s a great project. You and I talked about Charleston Digital Corridor which is a similar initiative. It was headed up here by the city and by our nest and it really changed the whole culture in Charleston as far as how it was viewed as a tech hotspot in the southeast and I think it’s been a great thing and I think you’ll see similar results from your project.
Jeremy Vaughan: I agree and anything moving Florida forward, the whole southeast region forward is beneficial to all of us. We all need to I think come together and help each other just like the other regions of the states have. So I think it’s 2013 forward is going to be really fun times.
TechFaster: Absolutely. We certainly hope so too. Well Jeremy, we appreciate you joining us today and giving us a little bit of background about what you’re working on. Is there anything that – parting thoughts you’d like to leave us with or anything that you’d like to talk about?
Jeremy Vaughan: Yeah. I think what’s really awesome coming up here in northeast Florida, in Jacksonville, is we’ve had some success, not me myself, but a couple of other community leaders launching a very large, really impressive co-working space and now they’ve come together and they’re launching this thing called One Spark. I think it’s beonespark.com and it’s basically a $250,000 crowd fund and they’re building a platform where anybody can come in and you vote on creators. They’re calling them creators. It could be anything. Robotics and a new application, a video game, a medical invention, something, anything, but you get votes. You have – depending on the percentage of votes you can win a portion of that $250,000.
What’s also cool is in their platform you can get money or funding from people walking through the event, walking through the venue. So say someone comes by and they like your presentation, they like your creation, they can ‘hey, I’ll give you $10 or I’ll give you $1,000. I really like what you’re doing.’ But this is open not only to Jackson, but anybody who wants to come and to be a creator. I think it’s only like $45. So you come in and you have a venue and you present and you have a potential to get a percentage of that $250,000 pot or just people helping fund your idea. It’s really cool.