Catapult Chicago Where Startups Come to Scale Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:35:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Their Own Words – Supply Vision Moves to Catapult Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:24:29 +0000 Supply Vision, the cloud-based, logistics software company, joined Catapult only two months ago, but CEO Amanda Bohl and her team have jumped right in to be an integral part of the Catapult community. This guest post first appeared on Supply Vision’s website.

Supply Vision is thrilled to announce it has become a member of Catapult Chicago. Catapult allows the company to leverage the teams’ innovation with like-minded technology entrepreneurs in a scale-up environment. Working in close proximity of other entrepreneurs gives Amanda Bohl, CEO of Supply Vision, an instant community. “It’s the best environment we could be in. The growth happening within these walls builds an energy that everyone can sense. It’s palpable.”

“We’ve been growing quickly,” Bohl continued, “And Catapult nurtures our people in a community of technology entrepreneurs.” This unique space is the right place for the growing Supply Vision transportation technology team. The atmosphere is one of collaboration and continuous innovation. Supply Vision developers are a part of the Catapult community where technology experts can bounce ideas off each other. This out of the box thinking helps the team come up with new features that help our shippers. Features like real time status updates, on demand reporting,  export compliance integration (AES Direct) and integrated quoting are innovations that sets Supply Vision apart in the marketplace.

“On behalf of the Catapult community, I am thrilled to have Supply Vision and its team in the space,” commented April Lane, Executive Director of Catapult. “They add insight into the technology industry through a logistical lens that will significantly benefit the other residents.”

Bohl sees advantages for herself, too. “I get to be a part of an elite group of business leaders,” she said, “We come together to share resources, bounce around ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. This level of engagement with like-minded technologists has produced ideas for new features that are already in our development pipeline.”


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Introducing The Catapult by BucketFeet Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:02:38 +0000 We are excited and proud to have a BucketFeet shoe named after us!

The description of the Catapult Canvas Lace-Up:

Designed by BucketFeet Co-Founder Aaron Firestein, these colorful shoes are inspired by the vibrant characters and outpouring of creativity present at our first co-working space in Chicago, Catapult.

We could not have said it better ourselves.

Others are talking about it as well – check out the article in ChicagoInno.

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Tactify Company Profile Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:29:41 +0000 We recently spoke with another Catapult newcomer, Daniel Beatty of Tactify. Tactify is an associate resident of Catapult and offers easy mobile marketing solutions using the latest technologies like NFC (Near Field Communication) and Beacon (BLE) to deliver a level of engagement to mobile marketing not yet seen before. Tactify allows you to create printed media and beacons that connect to Mobile content, like business cards, promotional cards, stickers, even digital mixtapes (Sharetapes). Their software allows easy creation, real time management, and analytics, so campaigns get the highest possible return on investment.

With an idea this innovative and complex, it’s natural to wonder how Tactify got started. Beatty explains that NFC technology was fascinating, but under-utilized in the current market. The company founders all have a deep background in smartphone/mobile technology so when they noticed the industry building NFC chips into the phones, they saw it as a great opportunity to breathe life into the space. The key was to develop a way to manage that content online, so it could be adapted into the latest technology, as it evolved, like Beacon.

When asked what differentiates Tactify and its team members from other entrepreneurs in the technology industry, Tactify’s Content Management System is what really sets them apart. This system allows you to update your messaging of the NFC and Beacon products you purchase with Tactify real-time, as well as retrieve detailed analytics on the execution. Beatty explains that people often “realize their projects can be adapted after they sign on the dotted line, allowing them full control over the execution and the greatest chance of the highest return on investment”.

Even with Tactify’s distinctive Content Management System, fear is inevitable when you are an entrepreneur. Beatty’s greatest fear is “worrying that no one likes your idea. That, and running out of funding right before the tipping point.” Despite this, however, Tactify continues to grow and generate new ideas for the business by utilizing a discussion channel where team members can post interesting articles relevant to the industry. Ultimately, these posts lead to discussion and brainstorming. If the idea gets enough traction with the team, time is assigned for someone to see if real value exists.

Although the company’s headquarters are in Sydney, Australia, Beatty would like to have more staff spaced around the US in key markets to leverage Tactify’s diverse portfolio and creativity. With the team communicating from Australia to the US and vice versa, celebrating success consists of a high five via webcam. Even with the fifteen-hour time difference, the Tactify team finds plenty of time to discuss solutions to problems. Beatty explains that the team is “very open and candid and [we] don’t take failures personally. We are growing and learning constantly.”

Since the majority of Tactify’s team is in Australia, Beatty values the opportunities at Catapult to learn from others in the space. With constant ideas being shared among the Catapult members and events promoting communication among companies, there is always knowledge to gain about how to grow one’s business.

Tactify’s future looks bright. In the next few years, Beatty would like to see Tactify establish a strong foothold in the mobile marketing industry, with satellite offices in few major markets in the US. They would like to triple their workforce, providing more jobs to individuals and have well-developed relationships with localized partners and distributors, allowing even faster turnaround times. We are so happy to have Dan Beatty and the rest of his team at Catapult.

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Packback Raises $1 Million Wed, 13 Aug 2014 17:04:27 +0000 Congratulations to Catapult alumni Packback on raising $1 Million in funding.

The seed funding comes from various investors, including Mark Cuban (from the celebrated Shark Tank victory), 1871′s Howard Tullman, Math Venture Partners’ Mark Achler, University of Chicago Booth’s Mark Tebbe, and Context Media’s Rishi Shah.

Packback is generating a lot of press with this announcement – check it out…

Packback lands $1M from Cuban, Tullman and host of angels in Crain’s Chicago

Packback raises $1 million, including ‘Shark Tank’ investment in Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovations

After Shark Tank, Packback Seeded For ‘Pay-Per-View’ E-Textbook Rentals in Wall Street Journal

eTextbook platform Packback closes $1M round from Mark Cuban and local angels in Built in Chicago

Packback Scores $1M for Daily Digital Textbook Rentals in Edsurge


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Scholastica Company Profile Tue, 05 Aug 2014 09:00:31 +0000 Next up in our Startup Spotlight Series is Scholastica, a publishing platform that makes it easy for scholars to manage manuscripts, find editors and reviewers, and publish journals online. Brian Cody, CEO and Co-Founder of Scholastica, recently spoke with us about his company, life as an entrepreneur, and being a part of the Catapult community.

Since Catapult is a digital start-up community, we are not strangers to the technology industry and neither is Brian Cody. What differentiates Scholastica’s team from others in the industry is their unique perspective, which is rooted in two ideals: remaining deeply academic and passionately practical. Cody explained that the mission of Scholastica is focused on scholarship, and so “as a company Scholastica really tried to model the best aspects of academia, including intellectual honesty, transparency of sources, and public discourse”. Scholastica tries to link this scholarly orientation with the strengths of the startup world: a focus on producing, addressing real-world problems, the experiment/learn/pivot process, and being agile through rapid iterations. Combining the thoroughness of academic research with the fast-paced startup mantra is challenging, but Cody is proud that his team feels it’s a noble goal—and this combination also pushes them to have a great product.

When asked what the worst part about being your own boss is, Cody responds: the inability to compartmentalize worry. You have to worry about everything, including the things you don’t even know you have to worry about yet. When he’s not worrying about running the business, Cody loves to build wooden furniture, though he doesn’t think he is particularly good at it. As much as we love furniture, we’re glad he’s sticking with disrupting academic publishing instead.

Excluding his own company, Brian Cody is most intrigued by Opternative, another startup in our space. Opternative is the world’s first online eye exam that yields a valid prescription from an ophthalmologist, something that Cody notes would benefit him significantly. He currently orders his glasses online and knows that Opternative offers a super-clear benefit that millions of people are going to love.

Joining Catapult has significantly changed the way Brian Cody looks at entrepreneurship. Based on his experience in our co-working space, Cody thinks other entrepreneurs are the most valuable resource available to entrepreneurs, a key feature of Catapult. He notes that one of the biggest challenges of growing a tech company is “dealing with unexpected developments and coping with uncertainty”. This has become more manageable through experience. He discovered that augmenting his own experience with first-hand accounts of other founders’ experiences, asking them questions, and learning from their shared experiences is increasingly valuable. Brian Cody also wants to thank Raman Chadha of The Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership for starting a forum among Catapult startup founders, which has dramatically increased the quantity and quality of shared experiences Cody has been able to learn from.

With all of the success surrounding Scholastica and their recent funding, there’s no telling what else this company can do!

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Roompact and BondingPoint Join Catapult Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:50:26 +0000 Two promising startups are joining Catapult. Roompact and BondingPoint are innovative tech companies led by smart, dedicated entrepreneurs with energetic teams.

Roompact predicts, prevents, and reduces roommate conflict in college and university Residence Halls. Roompact works with industry leaders to analyze data about roommates and help university staff take action. Roompact was recently featured in USA Today College. We welcome Roompact founder Matt Unger and his team.

BondingPoint is a cloud-based consumer engagement platform that, on the front-end, enables brands to deliver their own white-labeled virtual currency and reward program – engaging and rewarding a user at the exact moment of any digital or social interaction. On the back-end, the platform collects permission-based use data – empowering the brand with rich data and business intelligence, and allowing for more refined marketing efforts. We welcome CEO John Calzaretta and his team.

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StyleSeek Graduates Catapult Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:48:31 +0000 Congratulations to StyleSeek, graduating Catapult and joining the ranks of our 2014 alumni which include Packback and Procured Health.

StyleSeek was one of the first startups to join Catapult, believing in our mission from the beginning. During its time at Catapult, StyleSeek has grown – including raising more funding last year. StyleSeek is busting at the seams (pun intended) with 15 employees and has outgrown our space, as is the goal for all Catapult companies.

Recently, StyleSeek was featured in our Startup Spotlight feature.

We wish co-founders Tyler Spalding and Chris Walti, and the entire StyleSeek team, the best of luck in their new digs. Something tells us they will look good!

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Ryan Leavitt Interviewed Sun, 27 Jul 2014 19:09:22 +0000 Watch Ryan Leavitt, our president and co-founder, talk to Will Flanagan of ChicagoInno about all things Catapult Chicago. Ryan describes how Catapult fills the need of a shared space for companies with business traction; he explains our unique peer selection process; and he highlights some of our most notable graduates (BucketFeet, Shiftgig, TempoIQ).

See it here!

In addition to being president of Catapult, Ryan is VP Business Development at VLinks Media.

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Bootstrapping with Learnerator Sun, 27 Jul 2014 18:20:18 +0000 Luke Lui, co-founder of Learnerator, was featured on Bootstrapping In America on the tastytrade network.

Luke talks all about Learnerator’s humble beginnings and where it’s heading in the online Education market. Also, watch him impress Tom and Tony with his entrepreneurial spirit (3 startups by 24!).

Learnerator joins the growing list of Catapult residents and alumni who have been featured. Check out the archives:

Bootstrapping with Aaron Dallek of Opternative.

Bootstrapping with Mike Shannon of Packback.

Bootstrapping with Brian Cody of Scholastica.

Bootstrapping with Piysh Kedia of Symbiosis Health.

Bootstrapping with Ryan Leavitt of Catapult Chicago.

Bootstrapping with Andrew Cronk and Justin DeLay of TempoIQ

Bootstrapping with Eddie Lou of Shiftgig

Bootstrapping with Tyler Spalding of StyleSeek

Bootstrapping with Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein of BucketFeet

Bootstrapping with Vince Leung of MentorMob

Bootstrapping with Erin Hopmann of Dabble

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Style Seek Company Profile Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:11:04 +0000 As one of the first companies to join Catapult, StyleSeek is well known in our startup community. The personalized e-commerce site for lifestyle products, specifically fashion for men and women, has been growing rapidly since its inception in 2011. We were able to sit down with Tyler Spalding, CEO and Co-Founder, to get an inside look into this innovative company.

The main idea behind StyleSeek is to try to build a relevant system and sort through everything available on the Internet. Spalding has a background in data analytics and algorithms and wanted to put it to use somewhere. He began with clothing because there was good market opportunity, good structure data, and good consumer data. So far, the consumer responses to StyleSeek have been favorable. Since they’ve created a relevant system that isn’t invasive, meaning that StyleSeek doesn’t scrape information from you, they have been able to cut through the clutter on the web and sell a lot of clothing and accessories.

What differentiates StyleSeek from other companies in the industry is approaching lifestyle products from a new angle. Being a data driven company, StyleSeek relies on the data to tell them everything about consumer preferences. Part of what makes StyleSeek so unique is their StyleGame: a nine-step quiz that identifies your personal style by presenting pictures, not necessarily related to fashion, that you choose from between recognizable items such as 500 Days of Summer and Roman Holiday, a Range Rover and a Maserati. The StyleGame creates the user’s “Style DNA”, customizing the user’s preferences, in order to make the shopping experience unique for each individual user.

Even though StyleSeek has made a name for itself in the startup community, Spalding still says that there are companies he looks up to. He leans more towards emulating businesses that go after non-consumer plays and solves some sort of a need. Amazon is the first to come to mind, as the online retailer has been able to maintain smaller company culture while being a huge company. Similarly, Spalding looks up to Google for its useable consumer products, continuous reinvention, and creation of products that engage people in different ways.

Currently, StyleSeek has fourteen employees but is looking to expand on the engineering side. They are already a heavy engineering team, but they are searching for people who like prediction and data science—aspects of StyleSeek that really distinguish it from other personalized e-commerce sites. One requirement to fit in with the StyleSeek team: enjoy fast food. When asked what the team’s favorite restaurant in Chicago is, Spalding responds, “Engineers love McDonald’s.” When they’re not sipping on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, the StyleSeek team is writing a ton of code. Right now, the Style Seek team is focused on creating new products in the mobile space as well as handling user experience information.

One of Tyler Spalding’s greatest fears is running out of challenges. Startups always have challenges and he would hate to get to a point where he’s done with StyleSeek and the difficulties that come with it. He always wants to be building something meaningful, continually innovating and engineering. Though running out of challenges is a fear for him, he doesn’t think it will ever happen. There is always something more to do … and we can’t wait to see what StyleSeek is up to next.

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