Class: 2014 Winter Accelerator
Meetcaregivers is a unique online platform that helps families connect and find pre-screened and qualified caregivers to care for their aging parents. We are using video technology to make the process easier, safer and less expensive. Users are able to watch video profiles of pre-screened and qualified caregivers talking about their experiences, skills, personalities, backgrounds etc. Making it easier, safer and less expensive to hire the perfect caregiver.
Pitch, Pitch, Pitch
Last night’s mid-pitch was a success. The room was full of current Winter Accelerator start-up finalists, business mentors, friends, families, and the Sandbox team.
The evening started with the room set up from 4-5pm, entrepreneur meet-up from 5-6pm, and 3 minute pitches from 6-8pm. Almost all the finalists came in early to set up their display tables. Clearly some people in this Winter Accelerator Program have more decorative talents than others. I must admit that I am a bad decorator -- lucky my partner, Debbie Kenny, is much better at it!
Visitors went around the tables to hear entrepreneur finalists talk more about their businesses and innovations, from “Help Around Town” to “Delightful Surprise Sweets.” There were also some Sandbox alums that came to show support. Lydia Sisson from Mill City Grown talked about her Sandbox experience and how it helps her business move forward with the help of the Sandbox team and mentors.
What I really enjoyed the most during the 3 Minute Mid-Pitch was seeing all the progress that many finalists, including our own team, made the last 2 months. Many startups have refined their businesses, changed their customer targets or completely pivoted their start-ups. It was clear that all the start-up finalists are working very hard to take their businesses off the ground, acquire paying customers, find strategic partners and move forward.
I was very much impressed by all the efforts that all the teams put into preparing for their mid-pitches, but also by their passion. Who can forget the fashionista and fearless pitch of Valerie Leikina from Faux Pas or the very heart-warming pitch of Marieke Slovin from story to song?
What people don’t know is that we all spent days preparing and getting ready for this 3 minute pitch. Right before the evening event started, you could see different teams practicing at each corner of the room. What’s great about this group is that we all seem to get along very well, and are very supportive of each other. It‘s amazing how people can bond so quickly. I remember seeing Mickey from Catie’s Closet practice with Susu from Tomo360. Debbie and I were practicing in the kitchen when Cheryl Hajjar from The Indigo Pixies joined us.
3 minutes might seem short, but it took Meetcaregivers team time to figure out what we wanted to talk about, and make sure that we clearly talked about our business, the issue we are solving, and how we are going to succeed. I might have been the person who pitched, but it was certainly a team effort that included Meetcaregivers’s team members and all our 3 mentors.
It was a great experience for our team. Looks like all the attendees had a lot of fun, enjoyed the evening, and made good connections. See you all at the Final Pitch, I know it’s going to be epic.
Funding Funding Funding:
Looking for funding is certainly something that many startups struggle with including the startup finalists at this winter Merrimack Valley accelerator.
It’s with excitement that many of us were waiting for the funding session with Barrie Atkins, who is well known as the guru of funding around here.
This session was particularly very useful to Meetcaregivers. After spending all my savings, maxed out my credit cards and destroyed my credit score in order to at least put together a minimum viable product of Meetcaregivers. We are in a point where we need to get some type of funding in order to grow the business. Here are SOME of the options that Barrie Atkins talked about and see my comments about them.
1) Self Funding:
§ Personal savings
§ Retirement accounts
§ Home equity loans
§ Second mortgages
§ Credit cards
§ Side job / Second job
I have personally put in all my savings into Meetcaregivers and currently holding a second job to help pay the bills. However, not everyone in the team can afford to put in their savings or hold a second job due to other responsibilities and commitments.
2) Friends and families:
Unfortunately many of my friends can not afford to give away over $ 500 or more. Believe me, I asked already. However, I am very lucky for my friends and family. I know that I always have a place to sleep or food to eat over my friends. Most of them have been very supportive.
So my question here is: Do I need to start friending richer friends who can afford to invest $50,000: $100,000. Time to network
There are not many banks that loan money to startups. Actually companies such as Bank of America (my previous employer) requires that a company has been in business for over 2 years and has already a very strong, steady revenue. They almost never provide loans to start-ups.
4) Strategic partnership:
This is something that we are currently working on. We are looking to partner with companies who understand the innovation that we are building and can benefit from what Meetcaregivers is providing. Vice versa. This can potentially be a good source of funding for us.
5) Angels and Venture Capital
Working on Meetcaregivers and getting ready to start a powerful pitch to Angels and venture capital groups.Come back soon for more updates on Funding Meetcaregivers.
Meetcaregivers at The innovation Health mixer at Lauren Hospital
The innovation health mixer at Lauren Hospital was a success. Besides the 1 hour and half hour traffic it took me to get there. Lawrence General is located few minutes away from Exit 45 off Route 495.
When I got to the event at 6.10pm, the room was already packed and most of the startup innovators already set up their tables, and were talking to the attendees.
I set my table right next to Katie’s closet and Drainage wear Teams. I put out a computer, Meetcaregivers brochures, business cards, and a big box of Snickers. I got the idea to bring snacks from an e-mail that Lester Sydney (Sandbox's operations Manager) sent out. That was a success because at the end of the event, half of the chocolate was gone; you can never go wrong with chocolate. I got to talk to everyone who stopped at my table to either grab a chocolate, or find out more about Meetcaregivers. I also walked around to chat with other entrepreneurs who were displaying their innovations.
At 7 pm, the following speakers started their speeches.
-Lee B. Kane, EcoCzar of Whole Foods Market (North Atlantic Region)
-Thomas Bean, Co-Founder of SPARK Academy
-Nicholas S. Zaharias, Vice President for Advancement at Lawrence General Hospital
The speakers talked about how excited they were to see startups bringing innovation. They also worked hard at making sure that the big corporations they represent continue to encourage and welcome new ideas.
It was a success; I got to talk to representatives from Lowell Hospital, and Lawrence Hospital (Nicolas Zaharia). He recommended that we get in contact with the Lawrence hospital care management department and figure out how we can make it possible for families who are caring for their aging parents in the Lawrence, Merrimack Valley area to know about Meetcaregivers.
I’m looking forward to staying in touch with everyone I met at the event!
Our Sandbox experience so far
The past three weeks at Sandbox have been a great and unique experience for Meetcaregivers.
For over a year, I have been working on the idea of building a platform that uses video technology to help families connect and find qualified caregivers. During that time, I pitched the idea to different investors and accelerator programs without success. Since this is my first start-up, I really didn’t know where to start, or who to connect with; many people didn’t take me seriously I thought.
Receiving an email from Sandbox saying that Meetcaregivers was selected to be among the 2014 finalists for the Winter program was validation that I, along with the other team members, are working on something that is needed in the market. Sometimes, being an entrepreneur, you hear so many Nos that you start doubting that your idea can come into fruition and grow.
The past 3 weeks at Sandbox have been eye opening, in regards to just how much needs to be done to grow our business. It’s very exciting to be among other entrepreneurs working so passionately on their own unique innovations. I love being around other entrepreneurs. It’s great to see their courage and audacity. It makes me think,
“Wow, I guess I am not that crazy since there are 17 other people just like me, working on their ideas to make it successful and taking risks.”
Our team is looking forward to the next nine weeks and seeing where we are going to be at the end of the program. We’re very excited that we now have our three mentors:
1) Richard Juknavorian
2) Georges Peter
3) Martin Kane
It’s been really fun “dating” mentors; talking to them about our business, what we looking to accomplish, and seeing if they believed in what we are working on.
When asked what the most important characteristics in a mentor were for us, we focused on the answers to these questions
1) Does this person believe in what we are working on, or believe in us?
2) Do they understand the issue we are solving?
3) Is there a connection, can we work together?
4) Their backgrounds, (Do they have strengths or qualifications that we are missing in the team)
5) Will they go the extra mile for our business?
Now that the dating period has ended, we are looking forward to working with our three mentors, being fully involved with the program, and making Meetcaregivers a success story.