Innovative ideas, passion, and caffeine: if you were to name the essential elements that drive new businesses and startups, these would be it.
Over the past few weeks, local entrepreneurs, founders, and anyone curious enough have met at Society Hall in the West End of Greenville every Wednesday morning to mix these vital ingredients together in hopes of making new connections and to practice pitching their latest ideas.
1 Million Cups, developed by the Kauffman Foundation, is a free weekly event dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs, providing fresh local coffee, as well as facilitating new solutions and outside perspectives for budding ventures.
With over 100 cities participating across the nation, this isn’t just any networking event. Mixing elements of Shark Tank and Toastmasters, the 1MC format showcases two presentations – each comprising of a six-minute pitch for a startup or business – followed by a fifteen-minute Q&A session from the audience.
There’s no prizes to be won, however there is the invaluable opportunity to practice pitching and to get thoughtful feedback from other entrepreneurs and local business owners.
Last Wednesday two tech startups showed off their projects.
Landon Sanford, travelling all the way from Charleston, introduced us to his travel app Rayka. As an avid traveller himself – having been to over 36 countries – Landon uniquely understood the frustration of finding the best places to go when exploring a new locale.
“If every Yelp and TripAdvisor review is 4.5 stars”, he explained to us, “how can you even decide?” Landon dreamt of a platform that could capture his friend’s recommendations so that when he wanted to know the where to go, he could tap into the collective knowledge and experience of his friends and peers.
By using features from other social recommendation apps such as Untappd and an activity feed similar to Venmo, Rayka could provide a way of sourcing travel reviews from friends and trusted experts – and not from people paid to pad reviews on other platforms.
Landon hopes to launch the app in May and encouraged people to sign up on the website to receive updates.
Connect2NICU was the next tech startup featured at last week’s 1MC. Julian Nixon shared the touching story of how his newborn child spent time in NICU – the neonatal intensive care unit – and the challenges he and his wife faced.
Shante Nixon, founder of Connect2NICU and graduate of Founder Institute, created an app that she felt could help the many thousands of parents that are facing and will face the same situation.
The app not only helps explain what it means when your child is in NICU, but it also provides essential resources, a platform to connect with other parents whose child is in NICU, a way to contact and update family and friends on the situation, and even hospital information to know where to go and who to talk to.
Julien explained how powerful the early versions of the app have been for parents and hopes new versions of the app will continue to provide not only support but also a deep sense of connection.
Both pitches were met with thoughtful questions from the audience and suggestions on how best to monetize and potentially improve the apps.
If you’d like to join the community, all you need to do is show up at 8am Wednesday mornings at Society Hall. Come see next week’s presenters: Hitrium Inc. and Capaven, get caffeinated, meet entrepreneurs, and participate in the active and always growing tech scene right here in Greenville, SC!
Shawn Parrotte is the Marketing Manager of Designli, a software development agency specializing in delivering transparency and certainty to the world of custom mobile apps and web applications.