BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- The first group of six digital startups backed by an incubator with expertise from Procter & Gamble Co. and several Cincinnati ad, digital, design and media agencies graduated Nov. 18, making apparently well-received pitches for seed investments to fund everything from a Facebook-to-scrapbook app to an online exchange for used video games.
The ventures were part of a Demo Day at design firm LPK's Brand Innovation Center in Cincinnati for the Brandery, a seed-stage consumer marketing venture accelerator. The incubator, financially backed primarily by the state-supported CincyTech public-private partnership along with other Cincinnati donors or investors, goes farther than perhaps any other digital incubator in tapping expertise from consumer marketers and ad agencies.
"We're unique as the only one applying the principles of consumer marketing and branding and bringing the advertising and marketing world into play," claimed Dave Knox, chief marketing officer of Rockfish Interactive, who was brand manager for global branded entertainment at P&G when he began work on the Brandery (Brandery.org) earlier this year.
The Brandery most resembles TechStars, an accelerator launched in Boulder, Colo., in 2007 by digital entrepreneur and investor Dave Cohen, branching later into Boston, Seattle and New York. TechStars has mentors from a host of digital and social-media marketers, including Microsoft, Google and Foursquare, as well as from Wieden & Kennedy, and advised the Brandery on its launch earlier this year.
Providing guidance to Brandery startups have been executives from P&G, Nielsen Co., E.W. Scripps Co., and agencies Rockfish, Northlich, BBDO's Barefoot Proximity, WPP's Bridge Worldwide, Empower MediaMarketing and Resource Interactive. P&G has the largest contingent of mentors, with three current marketing executives joining two recent departees, Mr. Knox and Bryan Radtke, another P&G brand manager who went to Rockfish in September after starting on the Brandery while at P&G.
After $20,000 of seed funding and 12 weeks of mentoring, the first class of startups are largely in or about to enter beta launches. While checks weren't signed yet after yesterday's presentation to about 50 angel and venture investors, Mr. Knox said it appears all six will get the $250,000 to $1 million they sought -- ahead of the two thirds the Brandery initially projected.
They include LifeBlinx (LifeBlinx.com), which got perhaps the most input from P&G. It's the brainchild for Darcy Crociata, wife of Kevin Croiata, associate marketing director on Tide at P&G and a member of the LifeBlinx advisory board along with Lucas Watson, P&G's global team leader for digital business strategy.
The idea is to take what's become a virtual scrapbook for many moms -- Facebook -- and create an app that can be used to organize all the status updates and photos into an actual 24-page scrapbook for $20 to $25, with digital versions also available.
Other Brandery graduates that got $20,000 each from the incubator in addition to free mentoring, include:
- Giftiki, a Brandery startup founded by two Houston entrepreneurs. It's an online version of a greeting card with money enclosed, designed to let Facebook users send friends small cash gifts easily, perhaps as a digital way to buy a friend a beer to celebrate a promotion or as a way for a group of friends to go in on a gift. Giftiki makes money on the redemption, and through resale of gift cards.
- TurboBOTZ.com, which has provisionally struck a partnership with Major League Gaming to help launch its video game exchange. It comes from two University of Chicago M.B.A. students who aim to provide both higher
prices for sellers and lower prices for buyers than retailers such as GameStop and a more convenient experience than eBay.
- VenueAgent.com, launched by Cincinnati wedding planner Jocelyn Cates and her husband, which aims to provide a sort of Orbitz or Travelocity for meeting and event space. Ms. Cates said such space often goes unsold because of a lack of a comprehensive online marketplace for available inventory.
- VenturePax.com, which aims to create a web-based information, advertising and social-media hub for all things outdoors, providing information sourced by guide publishers and heavily supplemented by local users on parks, hiking, running, kayaking and other outdoor activities. It will allow users to post reviews, photos and videos of their experiences too.
- IdeaRally, which would ply a new niche in what its founders estimate is already a $1.6 billion crowdsourcing space for product and marketing ideas by linking marketers with as many as 500,000 college students at more than 20 universities globally. Marketers will offer prizes in contests that can also be judged by students, with IdeaRally taking a commission on the prize money.
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