Walking through Missouri State University’s 40,000 square foot eFactory, a “Technology focused business incubator, and entrepreneurial development center”, its Director, Brian Kincaid, exclaims: “One of the interesting things about an incubator environment, and working with start-up companies, is normal business hours don’t exist. Our building can be occupied just as much at 1am, as 8am.”
Brian Kincaid has served as Director of the eFactory, since it opened in March 2013. He’s been with Missouri State University for the last 6 years. The eFactory is housed within the Robert W Plaster Free Enterprise Center on north Jefferson. When it opened in 2013, it was home to 5 companies, with 15 employees. Today, the business incubator is base to over 40 companies, employing over 150 individuals.
Among the many opportunities offered at the eFactory, is The Accelerator Program. It’s designed to “Jump Start”, start-up, and emerging companies, says eFactory Director, Brian Kincaid: “It’s a 12 week, intense, business development opportunity. We put these companies through a process from start to finish to where at the end of the program; they come out as a more investable company, with a higher likelihood of follow-on financing.”
“Each week, we focused on a different aspect of running a business, so there’s a marketing week, and a legal week, and all these different week focused on different topics, so we met with tons of attorneys and accountants, and some really, really smart people”, says Chad Boschert, owner and CEO of Apt Crowd, one ten emerging companies from the 2 cohorts which completed the eFactory’s, Accelerator Program. Chad Boschert says, Apt Crowd’s innovation, is the use of computer algorithms to connect users of on-line business or engineering forums, to “Better answers, faster”. “What Apt Crowd, what we’re doing is innovative. We’re taking advanced machine learning algorithms and applying them to a problem that’s been around for years. The people who use our software, are the forum owners, and when people are asking questions in those forums, they sometimes wait hours our even days for answers, and what we do is have software developed proprietary algorithms that, when somebody asks a question on a forum, the software actually understands what they are talking about, and the algorithms connect them with other paths to
After a rigorous application process, companies are picked for participation in the Accelerator Program the Investment Committee, an arm of Innovation Inc., a 501C3 non-profit, independent of MSU, which supports the vision and mission of the eFactory, and JVIC, the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. eFactory Director Brian Kincaid says innovation catches the eye of the eye of the Investment Committee: “That’s a big part of it. There needs to be something unique, something special, something innovating enough to be first to market, or be in position to outperform its competitors in such a way as to provide a competitive advantage to scale.”
Companies participating in the Accelerator Program get a big boost right from the start with $30,000 in seed money startup capital, from Innovation Inc., in return for 8% equity. Other perks include 24/7 office access to the eFactory, its audio/visual conferencing , and its high speed internet. Brian Kincaid suggests one of the most valuable eFactory offerings to its companies, is “Access to human capital. Business consulting, networking, eFactory partners, mentors. We have a robust community of business leaders, civic leaders. So we wanted to provide an opportunity for our small businesses to plug in to those individuals. That’s where the learning aspect of this program comes in, that’s where the networking aspect begins.”
Kincaid also touts the community focus aspect of the eFactory and its Accelerator Program: “an interesting component to the Accelerator Program, is when you add capital to an opportunity, you add capital to an opportunity, you start to attract companies to your area, and we’ve seen that here. We’ve had companies relocate to Springfield for this opportunity. That’s part of the larger narrative, and we’re looking at this as a piece of a larger economic development strategy”.
The next Accelerator Program 12 week session begins in May 2018. For information, www.efactory.missouristate.edu