The results are in from the Village Capital VentureWell startup accelerator program that took place in Louisville this summer. Two innovative ventures were selected by their peers to receive $50,000 to continue growing their companies: Spensa Technologies and Solar Site Design.
The announcement, made at Louisville’s IdeaFestival in September, was the culmination of the three-month program, which brought together nine start-up ventures seeking to address agricultural, energy and environmental problems facing our country. The winners were selected by the entrepreneurs themselves rather than investors, analysts or judging panels. During the program, the teams ranked each other three times based on criteria such as team, product, customers, financials, and return on capital. The teams’ final rankings at the end of the program determined who won the funding.
Spensa Technologies aims to make insect management more efficient for farmers through robotics. Instead of manually counting insects caught in field traps every week, farmers can use Spensa’s device to automate the process and get real-time feedback electronically. That means they can respond to pest problems more quickly, avoid overspraying, and save time and money.
“This award gives us an unexpected resource to help us move the needle on expanding the business,” said Kim Nicholson, Spensa’s vice president of business development. She said one of the most helpful pieces of the program was the collaborative feedback they got from the general cohort. “Other entrepreneurs are very honest,” she said.
Solar Site Design, founded by Jason and Samantha Loyet, is a cloud-based app platform that allows roofing and electrical contractors to gather data about a building project and share it with all parties involved in quoting and installing solar panels. Their tool streamlines a process that used to take weeks down to a few days and can help reduce the cost of solar projects by up to 50%, according to Jason. “We really evolved our model right in the Village Capital program, so in the last three or four months we’ve grown pretty rapidly,” said Jason.
Sustainable America is proud to be a sponsor of this program, which was a joint initiative of Village Capital and the VentureWell program of National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. Other sponsors included Blue Sky Network, Invested Development, Radicle Capital, Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center, Stiefel Family Foundation, Stephen Reily and Emily Bingham and, through their support of NCIIA, The Lemelson Foundation.
“We’ve watched the maturation of these business models over the course of the summer, and had a chance to do some mentoring with the group,” said Gray Peckham, Sustainable America’s Director of Investments. “Sustainable America is pleased with the quality and mission of each of these ventures, and is working to uncover and meet more startups seeking to effect positive change.”
To date, 90 percent of companies in Village Capital programs are still in business compared to 75 percent in traditional accelerator programs that do not use the peer-selection model. Other startups that participated in the Venture Forum include: NOHMs Technologies, Re-Nuble, RemoteCycle, Shellfish Solutions, SmartFarm Solutions, Totus Power and Tule Technologies.