Catapult Chicago http://catapultchicago.com Where Startups Come to Scale Sun, 28 Sep 2014 21:50:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 LearnCore Wins Most Promising Startup Award http://catapultchicago.com/learncore-wins-most-promising-startup-award/ http://catapultchicago.com/learncore-wins-most-promising-startup-award/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 21:50:04 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3091 Congratulations to LearnCore, winner of the first ever Startup Voodoo Most Promising Startup Award. 100 midwest startups were nominated, with 5 finalists moving on to the voting round. The top 3 vote-getting startups headed to St. Louis for the 2-minute pitch competition at Startup Voodoo’s inaugural conference on Thursday, September 25. And at the end of the day, it […]]]>

Congratulations to LearnCore, winner of the first ever Startup Voodoo Most Promising Startup Award.

100 midwest startups were nominated, with 5 finalists moving on to the voting round. The top 3 vote-getting startups headed to St. Louis for the 2-minute pitch competition at Startup Voodoo’s inaugural conference on Thursday, September 25. And at the end of the day, it was LearnCore’s co-founders Vishal Shah and Ethan Linkner who were awarded “Most Promising Startup” – culminating this daylong event that brought together leaders in the startup entrepreneurism space.

In addition to the recognition as “Most Promising” midwest startup, LearnCore won a package of services and funding valued at $10,000 – including $5,000 in cash from Daugherty Business Solutions, 10 hours of free legal services from the Polsinelli law firm, 10 hours of free marketing services from Elasticity, and a collection of LearnCore branded merchandise from CafePress.com.

The Startup Voodoo conference was more than just an award for Vishal and Ethan. As Vishal said, “Startup Voodoo was awesome. We got great contacts… This should be on everyone’s list for next year.”

You can read more about the award and the event at Techli. LearnCore was recently featured in our Catapult Company Profile Series.

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Symbiosis Health Graduates from Catapult http://catapultchicago.com/symbiosis-health-graduates-from-catapult/ http://catapultchicago.com/symbiosis-health-graduates-from-catapult/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 16:26:21 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3094 Catapult Chicago bids farewell to its latest graduate Symbiosis Health. Symbiosis Health, co-founded by CEO Piyush Kedia (PK),  joined Catapult in December 2012 after coming out of NY’s Blueprint Health digital accelerator (like fellow Catapult alumni Procured Health). Symbiosis Health helps consumers with high-deductible health plans find pre-negotiated prices with thousands of providers–making health care more accessible […]]]>

Catapult Chicago bids farewell to its latest graduate Symbiosis Health.

Symbiosis Health, co-founded by CEO Piyush Kedia (PK),  joined Catapult in December 2012 after coming out of NY’s Blueprint Health digital accelerator (like fellow Catapult alumni Procured Health).

Symbiosis Health helps consumers with high-deductible health plans find pre-negotiated prices with thousands of providers–making health care more accessible and affordable.  Symbiosis Health (the “Expedia for Healthcare”) recently expanded to NYC. In February, they presented at Tech Cocktail’s startup showcase; and last year PK was featured on Bootstrapping in America.

We wish the Symbiosis Health team the best of luck in their new offices. We are happy to move them to the alumni column!

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4 Catapult Companies to Present at Chicago Venture Summit http://catapultchicago.com/4-catapult-companies-to-present-at-chicago-venture-summit/ http://catapultchicago.com/4-catapult-companies-to-present-at-chicago-venture-summit/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:12:20 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3086 Four Catapult companies have been selected to present at the Chicago Venture Summit on October 13 & 14. Alumni TempoIQ, Shiftgig and Procured Health, and current resident Opternative are among the 30 tech startups to attend this invitation-only event. Chicago Venture Summit aims to bring together the best venture-backed technology companies in the Midwest with the most […]]]>

Four Catapult companies have been selected to present at the Chicago Venture Summit on October 13 & 14. Alumni TempoIQ, Shiftgig and Procured Health, and current resident Opternative are among the 30 tech startups to attend this invitation-only event.

Chicago Venture Summit aims to bring together the best venture-backed technology companies in the Midwest with the most influential venture capitalists from around the country. All the chosen companies met the criteria of being midwest, IT-related startups with a minimum of $1M in venture capital.

Read about all the companies selected in the Chicago Tribune.

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VLinks Media Company Profile http://catapultchicago.com/vlinks-media-company-profile/ http://catapultchicago.com/vlinks-media-company-profile/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:53:35 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3034 In 2010, Ethan Linkner and Vishal Shah were 4 years out of college when they realized they wanted to start their own business and be their own boss. The high school and college friends (#GoBlue!) identified a lack of innovation in the educational space and decided to fill the void. In true startup fashion, within […]]]>

In 2010, Ethan Linkner and Vishal Shah were 4 years out of college when they realized they wanted to start their own business and be their own boss. The high school and college friends (#GoBlue!) identified a lack of innovation in the educational space and decided to fill the void. In true startup fashion, within weeks Ethan and Vishal quit their jobs, Ethan moved to San Francisco, and VLinks Media was born.

The founders and company have come a long way since those early days in San Francisco (literally and figuratively, as they are now based in Chicago, at Catapult). Today, Ethan and Vishal are more experienced entrepreneurs – leading a team of 10, scaling their company, and looking to the future.

LearnCore, the flagship product for VLinks Media launched in August 2013, is corporate training at its best. The cloud-based platform allows organizations to create and deliver personalized training courses that are highly interactive, easy to navigate, and trackable. With its innovative Pitch IQ skills assessment and improvement tool, LearnCore is disrupting the corporate training status quo.

We sat down with Ethan Linkner, Co-Founder and VP Operations, to talk about VLinks Media, LearnCore, entrepreneurship and Catapult. It is clear that Ethan and his team are a passionate and close-knit group, confident in their company. With their dedication to quality products and services, coupled with their drive to succeed, we are confident they are on the road to becoming the backbone for all workforce development and skill building.

How has your business evolved since its inception?

We’ve grown up. We fundamentally changed the way in which we do business – we rely on systems and processes, rather than brut force. We value the long tail of a relationship instead of immediate cash flow. We’ve defined industry standards. We’ve leveled up with everything from our processes to people to our scalability. Working with Fortune 1000 companies doesn’t allow us to do start-up things.

How do you handle different opinions/conflicts among the leaders of your team?

As cliché as this sounds, we talk it out. Vishal, Ryan [Leavitt, VP Business Development] and I are typically on the same page about things, but when we don’t agree, we always have a fair discussion and allow the best solution to win. No egos, no resentment, just clear business objectives. Everyone on our team has the company’s best interest in mind.

Where do you see your company in the next 2-3 years?

We will be known as the premier workforce development platform in market. We will unfortunately have left Catapult because our team will have tripled in size. We will be working with at least 20% of the Fortune 5000 companies.

What would you say is the most important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Being really good at being really good! Every single day you are faced with new challenges that you need to quickly resolve across every facet of the business.

What is most beneficial about sharing a space with multiple entrepreneurs? What is the best part of Catapult?

It is exciting to be surrounded by great friends with whom I can share stories and collaborate. I can easily build my network and get a variety of view points on analogous problems. We’ve loved working with the sponsors. Their help allows us to easily focus on our core business rather than deal with non-essential items. The city views aren’t half bad either.

What other company at Catapult are you most intrigued by and why?

Supply Vision – I am intrigued because I don’t know a lot about them, but whenever I look at the mail, I always see a check or two addressed to them.

What advice would you give a first-time entrepreneur?

Hang on. You’re going to go through peaks and valleys at a frequency that you’ve yet to experience. With your hard work, determination and grit, you can make it work, but you’ve got to hang on and find balance.

What was the worst piece of entrepreneurial advice you ever received? 

“Maybe…” said by every VC I’ve ever spoken to.

What does your team do to bond and relax?

Team BBQ’s at Ryan’s; Zombie murder mysteries in the loop; team basketball tournaments; and some volunteering.

Last words?

Be original. Execute like a boss. Create raving fans. Buy our services.

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Opternative Company Profile http://catapultchicago.com/opternative-company-profile/ http://catapultchicago.com/opternative-company-profile/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:51:27 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=2926 Taking an eye exam has never been easier with help from Opternative, the world’s first online eye examination system that delivers a valid prescription signed by an ophthalmologist within 5-10 minutes for around $35. We recently spoke with Dr. Steven Lee, EVP and Co-Founder of Opternative, to get an inside look into the company. Since […]]]>

Taking an eye exam has never been easier with help from Opternative, the world’s first online eye examination system that delivers a valid prescription signed by an ophthalmologist within 5-10 minutes for around $35. We recently spoke with Dr. Steven Lee, EVP and Co-Founder of Opternative, to get an inside look into the company.

Since its inception in 2013, the eye exam the team has developed has “improved dramatically” according to Lee. A number of leading optometrists and ophthalmologists have provided Opternative with feedback and suggestions to create an extremely robust and thorough online refractive eye examination system. The way the exam works is through the use of both a smart phone and computer. By measuring a credit card, the user is able to calibrate the exam to his/her screen size. The test also accurately measures sight at different distances by asking your shoe size and telling you to either take heel-to-toe steps away or toward your screen. By testing for color blindness, astigmatism, contrast, and distance reading, Opternative is able to provide a legitimate prescription for everyone.

According to Lee, the best advice the company has received thus far has been to keep innovating. Innovation is one of the key characteristics that make companies succeed despite the possible failures that come along with being startups. It comes as no surprise that Apple and Facebook, two of the most innovative companies in history, are businesses that Lee looks up to. Much like the aforementioned companies, competition exists in the marketplace for Opternative. The team is constantly evaluating the competitive landscape and searching for ways to distinguish themselves as the world’s first and only refractive online eye exam that delivers a valid prescription.

So far, the consumer responses to Opternative’s exam have been positive. The individuals that have taken the exam as test subjects have mentioned that the exam is “not only convenient, but also intuitive and fun.” Having taken the exam myself, the speed with which the exam can be completed is something I am especially drawn to. As opposed to a traditional eye exam that requires me to drive to the doctor’s office, wait for the doctor, and then complete the exam which could take up to an hour, Opternative’s exam took me only a few minutes. In a world where time and money are extremely valuable, Opternative has cracked the code on making sure you can see clearly in a matter of minutes at a fraction of the cost.

What does Dr. Steven Lee do when he’s not disrupting the eye care industry? He enjoys running, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Relaxing and working in Chicago have their benefits, despite the harsh winters and (usually) hot summers. The variety of restaurants and sites to visit year round keep plenty of entrepreneurs busy and inspired. With all of the exciting things happening with Opternative, we’re definitely looking forward to winter 2014 when the company is set to launch the exam and forever change how the world sees eye care.

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GetSet Launches http://catapultchicago.com/getset-launches/ http://catapultchicago.com/getset-launches/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:50:45 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3015 GetSet, a Catapult alumni, is out of stealth mode and has officially launched with over 10,000 freshmen at Arizona State University. GetSet is an edtech company aimed at reducing the high college dropout rate. GetSet allows students to meet other students with similar backgrounds/goals, ask questions, and get advice/feedback – using a natural language processing […]]]>

GetSet, a Catapult alumni, is out of stealth mode and has officially launched with over 10,000 freshmen at Arizona State University.

GetSet is an edtech company aimed at reducing the high college dropout rate. GetSet allows students to meet other students with similar backgrounds/goals, ask questions, and get advice/feedback – using a natural language processing (NLP) engine called PeerWisdom.

Check out the press for GetSet:

Just out of stealth mode, GetSet is already helping thousands of college students stay in school in Built In Chicago

With Back-to-School Season Underway, GetSet Looks to Reduce Drop-Out Rate Through Data in ChicagoInno

GetSet Uses Natural Language Processing To Reduce College Drop-out Rates in TechCrunch

PrepMe founder is back with sophomore effort in Crain’s

GetSet graduated from Catapult in May, moving into their own office space. Now out of stealth, we are so excited to (finally!) include GetSet among our list of alumni.

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In Their Own Words – Supply Vision Moves to Catapult http://catapultchicago.com/in-their-own-words-supply-vision-moves-to-catapult/ http://catapultchicago.com/in-their-own-words-supply-vision-moves-to-catapult/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:24:29 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=2997 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 […]]]>

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 http://catapultchicago.com/introducing-the-catapult-by-bucketfeet/ http://catapultchicago.com/introducing-the-catapult-by-bucketfeet/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:02:38 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=3001 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 […]]]>

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 http://catapultchicago.com/tactify-company-profile/ http://catapultchicago.com/tactify-company-profile/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:29:41 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=2846 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 […]]]>

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 http://catapultchicago.com/packback-raises-1-million/ http://catapultchicago.com/packback-raises-1-million/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 17:04:27 +0000 http://catapultchicago.com/?p=2982 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 […]]]>

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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