ThinkHouse Fellows 2015/2016
ThinkHouse NC opens its doors to ten young entrepreneurs

ThinkHouse NC opens its doors to ten young entrepreneurs
Third-annual Accelerator Program to kick off in August


July 14, 2015: Raleigh, NC — ThinkHouse NC, a nine-month living and learning accelerator based in the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood, announces today its third class of entrepreneurial fellows. The ThinkHouse, founded in fall 2013 by HQ Raleigh co-founders Brooks Bell, Jesse Lipson, Jason Widen, and Christopher Gergen, provides high-caliber mentorship, lean-startup training, resources and workspace to recent college graduates launching their own entrepreneurial ventures.


The 2015-2016 program is the third and largest class of Fellows, with ten young entrepreneurs participating. The third class also welcomes the highest number of female participants yet, with four women-founded businesses.


2015-2016 ThinkHouse Fellows include:


  • Ryan O’Donnell – EmployUs: EmployUs builds software that helps companies win the war for top talent and helps connectors earn money by getting their friends hired.
  • Colin Reaves — LocationINT: LocationINT provides location intelligence and consumer insights to the real estate industry through the cloud.
  • Michael Pham — Insite Ventures: InSite Ventures uses a combination of spatial data, retailer data, and statistics to help retailers with their site selection when picking new locations and help commercial brokers fill vacancies.
  • David LiCause — Broke Compass: Broke Compass is an app that allows business travelers from large companies to connect with their co-workers and build their personal and professional network, while they’re on the road..
  • Kyle Sheats — Run Bucks: Run Bucks a mobile application that incentivizes exercises through redeemable activity points (Run Bucks) and can be redeemed for prizes in the Run Bucks Marketplace.
  • Kate Van Vorst — The Raleigh Arts Collective: The Raleigh Arts Collective is a cultural hub and makerspace, supporting innovative thinking and design.
  • Rebecca Holmes — Ello Raw: Ello Raw has a mission to make healthy, raw foods available for all people.
  • Jared Childs — Pitch & Primer: Pitch & Primer is a place where men can shop local and nationally made clothing and accessories, while enjoying a North Carolina craft beer.
  • Allison Fairbank — Fresh Box: Fresh Box LLC is the first home food preservation company that keeps food fresh longer by scaling down a leading industrial food preservation technology.


These nine companies will participate in the program from mid-August until the end of May 2016, at which point they will join a list of alumni including David Shaner of Offline Media, Sean Maroni of BetaVersity, Michael Hoy of BoomboxFM, Sophia Hyder of Papilia, and more.


For more information on the new fellows or on the eight entrepreneurs who graduated from the program earlier this summer, please visit http://thinkhouse.us.



About ThinkHouse NC: The ThinkHouse is a nine-month action-learning residential accelerator based out of a fully renovated house in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood. The program provides recent graduates with the environment, network, resources, and skills required to build profitable and scalable companies.




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The Poor Beggar, The Door-to-Door Salesman, and The Lonely Kid at The Dance.

Written by Current ThinkHouse Fellow & CoFounder of BoomboxFM Michael Hoy:

I recently attended a ThinkHouse Sunday dinner with K4 Connect founder, Scott Moody (also, notably of AuthenTec) and we spent a lot of time talking about demo day horror stories. Product pitches abruptly interrupted by malfunctioning systems, hardware shutting down and never rebooting….COMPLETELY absent clients (gasp). Scott’s a seasoned entrepreneur and has seemingly experienced it all. After a story about a demo beginning with his authorization system screaming “ACCESS DENIED” he mentioned “If you want to make it in start ups, you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches, take the rejection and go again.”

If you’re going to be successful you have to have the mindset of a beggar with a cardboard sign at a busy intersection, putting yourself out there for everyone to seeAnd you know what’s going to happen? A lot of people are going to look at you sideways and drive away, and some people are going to tell you fuck off. But, there will be a couple of people that help you out and you have to push through the ‘no’s’ to finally get to the ‘yes’s’ that will get you by.”

I LOVE this extended metaphor. It’s a refreshing take off of the door to door salesman cliche we hear so often (though, its a cliche for a reason…its so true). In each instance you’re being compared to a rugged, thick skinned, vagabond…impervious to the pain of rejection, CONTINUOUSLY pitching in an attempt to survive.

That sounds familiar…

Scott hits the nail on the head. The reality of being an entrepreneur has been glorified by a couple Hollywood shows and a number of big time public exits. In all actuality, its a grind, and a brutal one at that. Your idea; your baby is condemned virtually everywhere you go. The effort it takes to learn from each rejection, to iterate from each failure is hardly ever recognized. We talk about a lot about praising failure in the community, but hardly ever do we celebrate it. It’s a path that few succeed in because of it’s TAXING nature…one’s confidence can only take so much.

So, what happens if you can’t take the heat? You become the lonely kid at the formal who’s afraid to ask anyone to dance…sitting by himself by the bleachers. Forge on my friends, be resilient because in the end, we’re all just a bunch of nerds looking for the prettiest girl to share a SLOW jam with…keep asking and someone will say yes.


***Learn more about ThinkHouse Fellow Michael Hoy by following him on Twitter or keeping up with his blog

Also learn more about BoomboxFM here.***

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The ThinkHouse Helped Me Find My Inner Coach

Written by Current ThinkHouse Fellow & CoFounder of BoomboxFM Michael Hoy:

It’s amazing how positively the program has effected my business. My network has tripled in size, our core business functions have tested out, and we SAVED over 17% of our yearly budget thanks to the free office space.


However, one of the most rewarding areas of growth I’ve experienced throughout the ThinkHouse has been in my ability to coach. I’ve always been a coach at heart, but off the soccer field (and within startups) I struggled to find an area of expertise. I found a ton of value in searching for that comfort zone with my ThinkHouse fellows.

Naturally, through constant collaboration you learn that sharing experience and knowledge fosters electric brainstorming and critical thinking. During my time in the ThinkHouse I’ve coached more from experience than academic knowledge, but it’s helped guide me towards a genre of thought I truly feel I’ve mastered; Lean Startup Methods.


So far, in 2015, I’ve been able to coach four different startups, at four different stages with the principals of Lean. Thanks to my ThinkHouse experiences, I have a thriving startup of my own, and a budding consultancy on the side, to keep me sharp.

Learn more about ThinkHouse Fellow Michael Hoy by following him on Twitter or keeping up with his blog

Also learn more about BoomboxFM here.

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Help Shape the Future of Evolvemint!

Words from rising entrepreneur Sophia Hyder:

These past two years for Evolvemint have been nothing more than rewarding. I have learned so much about myself as an entrepreneur. Honestly speaking, I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur, but rather someone who is just following a passion and vision.  There are many things I wish I would have re-done in retrospect. I was so busy getting excited about my idea and my social mission while trying to understand my supply chain that I didn’t take enough time to ask my audience what they need or are looking for.

Fast forward two years, I have found a niche that I am so passionate about. I am in the process of rebranding Evolvemint as a social luxury, traveler-inspired fashion label. Let’s break that description down further.

Social = Reflects a transparent supply chain that highlights the people who make our products, while also supporting programs that encourage women’s entrepreneurship and gender equality issues on a global scale.

Luxury = Defines our timeless style. We will be using high quality fabric and finishings to ensure each product is crafted to last a lifetime and to be endured across climates and cultures

Traveler-Inspired = Practical and functional pieces for men and women who travel for business or pleasure. You want to feel stylish and stress-free when you travel, right?

This whole discovery, of finding my niche sparked after coming back to the United States from Burma.  I was in absolute awe every morning when I was there. I woke up every morning to watch the sunrise as a mist hugged the city of Yangon. Traveling allows me to make sure I don’t lose sight of the simple things that matter in life. I plan to include limited edition ‘cultural finds’ from my travels as a part of Evolvemint’s collection in the future. But this niche was also borne from not being able to find a computer bag that is stylish, travels well, and that I can take from one continent to the next in an organized and efficient way. I just can’t find the perfect one!

All this being said, I want to hear from you! Taking this survey below will help me cater to what you are looking for when you travel. If you are interested at the end of the survey you have the opportunity to be a part of our focus group as we tailor our products to your needs. For helping us shape our journey, you will privy to exclusive offers, and free products.  And as always, feel free to contact me: sophia@evolvemintfashion.com

Tell us about your travel needs by clicking on this survey below:

Click here! It’ll only take up to 3 min of your time.

Thank you,

– See more on our website.

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Jeremy Wall: A Childhood Vision Becomes A Charitable Reality

When I was 7 years old my mother dragged me to yet another “inspiring and enlightening event” as a young kid those words usually just get translated as ‘boring’. Little to my knowledge was this day going to be anything but boring and truly a life altering experience.

My mother was part of the committee to host the 1999 Special Olympics World Games held here in North Carolina. The day she was bringing me to was the first day of opening ceremonies. The morning was filled with visiting sponsor booths, learning about the games, interacting with international visitors, and most importantly meeting and interacting with the athletes. As a 7 year old I didn’t understand the nature of the games and found myself often jealous that I couldn’t compete or be part of this incredible fan fare. However, I quickly realized that the reason I wasn’t in the games is that all the other kids were extremely talented! The aspect of special needs or handicaps wasn’t the focus and honestly wasn’t discovered until my neighbor Kelly, who was born with down syndrome, met us there and gave me her own insight into what made this opportunity so special to her.

Kelly was a few years older than I was and this was not her first Special Olympics, however, it was the first time she was able to compete in the World Games. She introduced me to her friends, some of which were athletes as well, and some were there as fans and spectators to support their friends and family. The day continued and I met more inspiring people and their families, it was a day filled with love, joy, and a positivity I had yet experienced in my short life. From that experience my outlook on life changed, these young people who had such seemingly drastic odds against them came together from all over the world to compete; not against one another but together in the spirit of fun and competition.

Now I ask each of you to consider how your time, talents, and treasures could help bring this joy into the lives of countless athletes once again. Since that initial experience I have volunteered with the North Carolina games in different facets, most recently as a judge of the tennis competition. To witness this firsthand will undoubtedly change your outlook on your personal hardships and give a renewed appreciation for each day we have.

I ask that you consider donating to my fundraising page, which I have set up through FirstGiving. I also ask that if you do not have the resources to give financially that you highly consider donating your time to this incredible event. Whether you can donate $1 or can give 1 hour it makes an impact that is farther reaching than you would know.

Below is the link to the Volunteer Page! Give it a look and see if your schedule would work with any of the multiple different ways to get involved!


Thank you for taking time to read my story and please consider the lasting impacts that you could have on these truly Special athletes.

Jeremy Wall


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ThinkHouse Fellows Show Progress, New Class to Come Soon

The inaugural ThinkHouse class has been very busy! We would like to share with you recent updates on their companies and their progress. Surely, these ThinkHouse Fellows are tasting success:

Keegan Guizard: Collegiate Skate Tour, still the national contest series and governing body for college skateboarding, has engaged in youth programs to better provide opportunity for skateboarding youth! We have pilots programs in planning for summer camps in Florida and North Carolina this year. This is a major step toward rolling out a franchise for Collegiate Skate Tour youth programs. Also on the horizon are annual contest events as well as new events, like a Pro-Am Contest in Florida!

ThinkHouse3Zach Milburn: CityWix.com launched early in April. The site currently has around 150 users, 90 services and almost $1000 in sales through the website. CityWix also made it to the semi-finalist round of NC IDEA.

David Shaner: Offline Media has doubled our user base to over 2100 members in Raleigh and served over 20,000 recommendations for amazing things to do here. We closed a funding round of 100k from area investors including the former VP of Angie’s List and are preparing to scale into Durham and Charlotte.

ThinkHouse1Sean Maroni: Since the start of ThinkHouse, BetaVersity has made substantial progress. First, we launched our new mobile learning-by-doing space product called BetaBox. Since the launch on April 15th, we have sold 3 more week-long rentals, and have started work on a second BetaBox to serve the west coast. Second, we have started vertically integrating, by white labeling our own 3D printer and becoming resellers of learning-by-doing products like Leap Motion. We won “Best Startup 2014” at the NCIIA Open Minds conference, won an NSF grant to create a web video series about “best practices” for creating learning-by-doing spaces. We’ve shored up our financial position by generating revenue from customers, and have grown our ad-hoc team to 7 people, each embodying our mission to rethink education.

We are working hard to launch our second annual ThinkHouse Program on August 1st and want to keep you updated on our progress:

•  The Program begins August 1st, 2014.

Applications are open until June 15th. Help us spread the word about this amazing program. Early bird deadline is May 15th.

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“Live-In Biz Incubator Opens” – via Raleigh Public Record

Thank you to Laura Baverman of Raleigh Public Record for the feature on the ThinkHouse! Read her full article below, or check it out here.

“Introducing the next generation business incubator, where aspiring 20-something entrepreneurs live together in a house and spend their days and nights brainstorming, building and launching new businesses. Sounds a little like reality TV, but you won’t find the ThinkHouse on MTV this spring. It’s kicking off in Boylan Heights, and there are plans to open another 49 other cities around the world.

In recent weeks, at least five aspiring young entrepreneurs have moved into a renovated boarding house on Cutler Street to be the guinea pigs for a new organization with expected international growth during the next five years.

On Jan. 1, the men and women began six months of educational curriculum and workshops. They’ve been paired with mentors and given access to a wide network of regional and national entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and potential customers. They live, work, learn and socialize together in the home, setting and meeting monthly goals related to their business ideas.

ThinkHouse was inspired by co-founder Jason Widen’s own experiences building a company out of college. It ultimately failed, and he said that’s because he lacked mentors and a strong network.

Widen partnered up with his three co-founders in HQ Raleigh, the startup incubator he runs near downtown Raleigh, to launch the new business. Christopher Gergen is working with him to expand the platform internationally. Jesse Lipson, founder of Citrix Sharefile, and Brooks Bell, of Brooks Bell Interactive, purchased the once-dilapidated home and rent it to ThinkHouse.

For nine months each year, college graduates eager to start companies will occupy the house. And each summer, the house will host a group of 20 to 60 college fellows from around the world—they will live on campus at N.C. State—hoping to explore what it means to be an entrepreneur. Widen expects to find local financiers such as Lipson and Bell in each city where it establishes ThinkHouses. Already interested are entrepreneurs in Portland, Atlanta, Prague and Panama, he said.”

But back to the pioneering young people in Raleigh. Meet the first five tenants of the first ThinkHouse:

Mark Delgado
Founder of Koyr, which manufactures radiation detectors and provides software to help manage workflow at power plants.
Background: N.C. State nuclear energy graduate, age 24
Why ThinkHouse? To live alongside others building companies, earn media exposure and leverage ThinkHouse’s network.

Cameron Lilly
Founder of Pop Up Training, a 20-foot by 40-foot shipping container turned group fitness facility that will pop up in downtown Raleigh, Research Triangle Park and other surprise locations to provide convenience to office workers who’d like to stay fit. He said he eventually hopes to open in office parks around the nation.
Background: Appalachian State University graduate in health promotion and entrepreneurship, age 26
Why ThinkHouse? He had friends in Chapel Hill that were starting companies under one roof, and though they were targeting separate industries, they learned from each other and shared skills. He wanted to take part in that.

Keegan Guizard
Founder of Collegiate Skate Tour, the first national contest and event series for student skateboarders to win scholarships and raise money for charities.
Background: 2012 N.C. State graduate, attributed with making skateboarding legal on campus. Founder of NC Skate charity skateboarding group.
Why ThinkHouse? To learn from others doing innovative things and take advantage of leadership and personal growth coaching.

Zack Milburn
Employee at FanVite.com, which lets fans contribute funds to bring public speakers to town and founder of HireNC.com, a not-yet-launched website that matches contractors, tutors, movers and other service providers with those seeking help throughout the state. He’s also working on global sustainable development projects with the nonprofit Together We Can.
Background: 2013 N.C. State graduate and founder of the two university classifieds websites WolfExchange.com and WolfTextbooks.com.
Why ThinkHouse? He came up with a similar concept for his senior project in college, then helped find and clean out the house with Widen. He’s looking forward to finding mentors for his businesses, and helping out with the summer fellows program.

Sean Newman-Maroni

Co-founder of BetaVersity, which creates educational makerspaces on university campuses equipped with software, manufacturing and prototyping supplies and collaborative space for students of different disciplines to come together to share and work on ideas. The first is at the University of California-Davis.
Background: N.C. State graduate. Helped establish and program the Garage makerspace at N.C. State, the model for BetaVersity.
Why ThinkHouse? He believes in the idea that “You are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with” and hopes to benefit from close proximity to other entrepreneurs.

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Keegan Guizard: Why I’m a ThinkHouser

This blog post was written by ThinkHouse Fellow, Keegan Guizard. Learn more about his story and why he got involved in the program below:


Why ThinkHouse? Why not move to San Francisco and work for a trendy company or raise money from progressive VCs for a lofty vision? Why Raleigh? Why not Boston? Austin? Berlin? Maybe, in the future, I would move to another region, but there are plenty of reasons why I have decided to be right HERE, right NOW. And it isn’t just for the great beaches, beautiful mountains, and desirable climate.

The Triangle area of North Carolina is one of the most intelligent areas in the world, based on the statistic of degree-holders per capita. The three most recognized universities that help materialize the Triangle all bring a huge wealth of knowledge and resources to the communities anywhere within or near them. People are generally nice. Especially in the entrepreneurial community, people are helpful and courteous. In New York or Los Angeles, people can often be self-interested or unhealthily busy, distracted, disorienting. North Carolina has many benefits to its business environment and, at the same time, a personality all its own that caters to a huge diversity of entrepreneurs and hustlers.

I was originally drawn to this area by the engineering academic program at North Carolina State University. I thought that’s what I wanted when I was eighteen years old, and for good reason. NC State’s engineering school provides a quality education and promising employment opportunity. I personally decided that engineering was not my calling, but many of my friends continued to pursue that path and have had great success thus far. I decided to study business and continue to study the Spanish language, which gave me the opportunity to travel. Still finding my passion as it could relate to a “career”, I continued running the skateboarding organization that I had started with my peers during my first year at NCSU.

The skateboarding club became a club sport, where the university was funding our travel, training equipment, and merchandise for representation of the club. We also hosted public contest events that raised money for skateboarding related charities, such as A Skate, Boards for Bros, Grind for Life, etc. The more we did, the more the university wanted to fund us. As travel became more frequent and experiences added up, we met some other clubs that were doing similar things at their respective universities.

By January of 2012, I started to see graduation on the horizon and realized that I would have to make the decision soon if I really wanted to pursue this “entrepreneur thing” over an employment opportunity with a larger company. Not only did I enjoy hosting these contest events I had been doing for local skaters; I was getting really good at it. I talked with one person, then another, then the next, and I came up with the idea for Collegiate Skate Tour. My entrepreneurship professor at the time, Lewis Sheats, really inspired me to push onward and seriously pursue Collegiate Skate Tour. Now, I’m glad that he did.

Collegiate Skate Tour is a national contest series for student skateboarders that provides an incentive for skateboarding youth to pursue higher education. The Tour has grown to hosting contest events in FL and NY in the year 2013, and 2014 holds plans for greater expansion, a new incentives program for school skate organizations, and a scholarship fund for student skateboarders.

Any entrepreneur who pursues something new and innovative – like any of the ventures being pursued at the ThinkHouse – needs an “it has to be done” mindset. While that mindset helps to make any venture a success, the resources at HQ Raleigh, and now Thinkhouse Raleigh, have been a huge proponent in my ability to continue pursuing this venture regardless of early cash flows (or lack thereof) in a physical niche start-up. I’m grateful for my acceptance into this new program and incredibly excited to see what will come of it, for myself and my new roommates and community members.

Surrounding myself with a nuclear engineer, maker space expert, travel guru, and master designer, not to mention all of the more experienced mentors and resources made available to us, will be invaluable to me as I iterate my model. I believe the same is true for all those people as well. To bring this full-circle, this is a huge reason for me personally why I will be staying in the Triangle. ThinkHouse Raleigh is one example of the many opportunities to be had right here in our region of NC, and I’m confident that Innovate Raleigh’s mission to “make our region one of the top five centers of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country” will remain valid and within reach, giving all of our area’s  (and implanted) innovators a very bright future.


The application deadline for the ThinkHouse has been extended to December 15th,APPLY! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Young Entrepreneurs Find a Home in Raleigh

Forward Impact is excited to announce the launch of their newest initiative, the ThinkHouse. Located in Downtown Raleigh, the ThinkHouse is a living and learning community geared towards students and recent graduates exploring their own entrepreneurial ventures.

The ThinkHouse will be home to a group of “Entrepreneurs in Residence” accepted through a competitive process. Over the course of their 6-month residence, ThinkHouse entrepreneurs will gain exceptional professional development experience through leadership training, mentorship by a Sponsoring Partner, and feedback from a peer advisory board as well as participate in volunteer initiatives throughout the community. The program seeks to accelerate the residents’ entrepreneurial growth, enhance their professional and personal networks, and contribute to our region’s innovative economy.

Co-Founders Jason Widen and Christopher Gergen plan to open a network of ThinkHouses in entrepreneurial hotspots globally.  The first location in Raleigh is made possible through the support of Brooks Bell and Jesse Lipson, who will also serve as mentors within the space, and through a partnership with local entrepreneurial space, HQ Raleigh. Says Bell, “The ThinkHouse is another step towards creating the supportive ecosystem for college graduates and young founders to stay in the area and build their companies – helping make this region one of the top five entrepreneurial communities in the country.”

“We are excited to provide emerging high-impact entrepreneurs and recent graduates with a springboard to explore their entrepreneurial passions and ideas,” says Co-Founder, Jason Widen. “This is a great opportunity for these young innovators to get the community support they need to turn their ideas into reality.”

For more information or to apply to be an Entrepreneur in Residence, visit http://thinkhouse.us/.

About Forward Impact

With a focus on unleashing the potential of next generation entrepreneurial leaders, Forward Impact helps create transformative educational experiences and environments. Current initiatives include HQ Raleigh, Bull City Forward, Queen City Forward, Leadership exCHANGE, Life Entrepreneurs, and the National Learning Collaborative. For more information visithttp://www.forwardimpact.info/.

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