Seed Sumo announces their next startup class
Most people know Bryan, Texas as the home of Texas A&M University, but as a Longhorn (hook ’em!), we’re more excited about the city’s bragging rights to international startup accelerator, SeedSumo.
Today, the accelerator is unveiling their second annual accelerator class, comprised of eight companies that will begin the program on May 20th, and they will participate in for three months. They’ll be exposed to intensive mentoring, business model design, and a twist on demo day for investors.
A super intense review process
Seed Sumo is a new program, and you may remember them from the Hot Pepper Pitch at SXSWi. They narrowed the applicants down to these eight brands through an intense process:
Seed Sumo reviewed 1,227 applications and conducted a series of reviews to get down to its eight startups. The first 700 teams were cut based on lack of team, traction or tired concepts (i.e. workout apps or Uber for anything). Seed Sumo then evaluated a little over 500 teams using a recruiting star system to rank startups by team, market size, traction and idea – similar to what is used in college football. After narrowing this list to 100, Seed Sumo used a Class C Psychometric – a behavior profiling technique used by some of the biggest teams in professional sports. A narrowed down list of 40 were then given “challenges” to see which teams could execute (i.e. A/B tests, conversion goals, pricing tests). This was followed by video interviews and email Q&As. This brought the list to 16, and the final eight teams were selected as they offered the greatest benefit to Seed Sumo’s network and resources.
Based on this review process, the following eight startups were accepted:
- TheCarforce is a virtual auto dealership and service center. It provides concierge service for automobiles under warranty, picking up and dropping off the car while providing a loaner to the owner during service.
- Gripe-O is a customer service platform. Its marketplace addresses complaints and provides resolutions for consumers and businesses. Simply put, GripeO sees all feedback, even negative sentiment, as an opportunity.
- Kinskii. is the integration of video chat and gaming to bring families closer together. It transforms video chat technologies to real world play experiences for military families, travelling parents, separated families, and anyone who is currently dealing with a family lacking communication and engagement.
- Sleepra the first device to touch-enable your bed. With a Sleepra tucked under your sheets, you can touch, tap, or swipe gestures on your bed to snooze an alarm, turn on a lamp, adjust a room’s temperature, and control an ever-expanding array of smart home devices from the comfort of bed.
- Polco is the social network for politics. It gives citizens better platform to engage and politicians real-time, localized policy analysis, while providing digital politic advertisers valuable real estate. (Think Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for professionals, Polco for politics)
- PrepFlash create’s study aids such as flashcards, multiple choice and True/False quizzes in real time, automatically using cognitive science software similar to what is in SIRI and IBM Watson. A user supplies the content from an image of a textbook page, PDF file, web page, Microsoft Word Document, class notes from Evernote, or from Kahn Academy videos and PrepFlash automatically quizzes you.
- PetQuest offers online veterinary advice for Chinese pet owners. A curated selection of veterinarians answer questions about pet health instantly for $5, in a market where veterinarians are not as trusted as in the U.S. and it is difficult to get help quickly.
- TargetVision is changing the shooting experience with technology. Using a camera that is placed 10 to 15 feet from the target, a video signal is broadcasted back on an iPad or iPhone instead of using a spotting scope.
Seed Sumo’s original class started with $20k each and has gone on to raise almost $4.5MM since graduating. Some of the companies making headlines nationally are (AskU, Unseen, Gazoo, Fanout, and Sportwip).
Seed Sumo has grown at a rapid pace
New to this year’s Seed Sumo program is additional staffing, which includes nine staff members, two “hackers” to help with all things internet/programming, dedicated mentors that have specific interest in the budding company, a twist on demo day, and more than 4,000 expert advisors are available to the accelerated companies.
The new offerings will complement the perks offered to last year’s participants, which included a dedicated space to work, countless indoor/outdoor meet-up zones scattered throughout campus with multimedia and enough whiteboard to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Not to mention a state of the art R&D lab for scientific pursuits, a full length football field and a complimentary massage once a month in the “chill room” located on campus.
Perks aside, Seed Sumo is bringing a new energy to Bryan, Texas and to the startup world. Keep your eye on the eight companies in their second accelerator class.
This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution
(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.
The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.
Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.
There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.
Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.
Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.
Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.
“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”
For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.
Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?
The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.
As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.
And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.
Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.
How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.
Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.
Unify your remote team with these important conversations
(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.
Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.
According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.
Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.
Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.
With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.
The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.
Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.
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