A year ago, founders Jason Widen and Christopher Gergen of HQ Raleigh realized there was a lack of support for young entrepreneurs, especially in the Triangle Area. As a result, they set off to create ThinkHouse, a six-month learning and living accelerator for recent graduates. Eight inaugural Fellows participated in the program in hopes to successfully expand their businesses and develop themselves into exceptional leaders and entrepreneurs. By using tools of collaboration, mentorship, networking and entrepreneurial education, the Fellows were able to build a solid foundation to support the future growth of their ventures. Since their graduation on June 12th, seven of the eight ThinkHouse Fellows have continued their entrepreneurial ventures. Co-Director of the program, Liz Tracy, says, “It’s exciting to see the Fellows succeed after graduation. Their success reflects the success of the ThinkHouse program, showing that our efforts really do support the advancement of young entrepreneurs.” We followed up with several graduates to get updates on their progress since leaving the ThinkHouse.
Fellow Sean Maroni, of BetaVersity, is working to upgrade his Betabox to a new design that will be used at UNC, St. Timothy’s Primary School, and Duke University in the upcoming months. He has also been commissioned to build a custom Betabox for St. Louis University. These Betaboxes are redesigned shipping containers that contain a multitude of technologies and hands-on learning tools to stimulate learning by application. He is hopeful to include his prototype for a new software integration program in his Betaboxes soon. Sean emphasized, “I think the real value of ThinkHouse is measured in intangibles. You pick up small things like how to talk to reporters, how to operate in meetings, and how to leverage the resources in your community. As an entrepreneur, you are always on display to investors, customers, employees, and other entrepreneurs. ThinkHouse helps you learn to succeed in that lifestyle. I highly recommend this program to any first time entrepreneur or CEO.” The ThinkHouse is extremely proud of Sean and excited to see which campus a BetaBox will show up on next.
Additionally, Fellow Keegan Guizard, founder of Collegiate Skate Tour, has celebrated a successful summer with the first collegiate skate camp held at Delicious Skateshop and The Factory Skateboard Park. Keegan says, “The camps have been really rewarding for me both as a business owner and a skateboarding fanatic.” After the summer, Keegan will evaluate the camps and edit the program in order to replicate the experience nationally. Collegiate Skate Tour contests continue to expand across the U.S. through a number of national participants, sponsors and partnerships. Keegan stressed that the ThinkHouse “provided a place (both physically and emotionally) where we could feel like a part of something supportive. Living amongst hustlers brings out the hustler in you, so it was easy to stay focused and moving forward in our ventures. Financially, socially, and intellectually, ThinkHouse made it easier for us all to do what we were doing, and I think that was the intended purpose of it as a project in and of itself.”
Fellow David Shaner, CEO of Offline Media, had a similar attraction towards the co-living saying, “The thing I appreciated about the ThinkHouse most was the authenticity. If you spend a lot of time in the startup culture, it’s easy to develop a worldview where you label another person based on the project they’re working on instead of seeing them for who they are as a person. The ThinkHouse program and the co-living arrangement do a great job of breaking down those walls and allowing you to get to know a group of super-talented, complex people. I think that’s an incredible achievement.” Since graduating, he has has acquired an additional 1,500 users of his web platform bringing the total to over 5,200 in Raleigh and Durham. He has also expanded his company, adding 5 new part-time employees and is currently looking for an iOS developer.
Fellow Saul Flores and his business partner Edwin Estrada have been busy rebranding Pixbit and are planning to debut their new identity on July 23rd as a design services and product firm. He learned in the ThinkHouse that “there’s a big difference between growing and scaling a company. ThinkHouse made sure we took a strategic approach as we set a course for our company’s future.” This lesson has helped them in the rebranding process. Also, Bridge, a personalized news aggregator is expected to enter beta testing this October as an extension of Pixbit. Additionally, the two co-founders have launched their passion project Dale Lari on Kickstarter, which has raised nearly $22,000.
Finally, an important initiative of the ThinkHouse is to continue an individual’s development after college and provide them a space to explore the possibility of being an entrepreneur. Jay Dawkins can contest to this saying, “ThinkHouse was easily the most immersive learning and creative experience since college, and that’s the beauty of the concept – why stop pushing yourself at graduation?” Dawkins has been busy forming a partnership with the City of Raleigh to help gain community support for a citywide initiative. Cityzen has also been working with a national publishing company to provide embedded polls for their online news sites. Lastly, he has also hired a seasoned software developer, Mike Bloise, as Chief Technology Officer, which expanded Cityzen to a four-person team. He plans on announcing his company’s achievements and future plans soon at cityzenapp.us.
Due to the proven success of the initial fellows, the ThinkHouse founders have chosen a second class, which will be announced on Friday, July 25th. Included in the new class are two female entrepreneurs, a company focused on robotics, and several fashion designers. It is exciting to witness the evolution and ongoing success of ThinkHouse as it actively grows the number of young entrepreneurs in the Triangle Area.