Ideatrotter: INTERVIEW WITH TODD GOLDSTEIN AND SAM KRICHEVSKY OF LAUNCHHOUSE
Conceived by founding partners Todd Goldstein and Dar Caldwell, LaunchHouse (LH) works and invests in startups, that defy the “typical entrepreneur experience.” Silicon Valley has been off late flooded with startups that barely differentiate each other; Cleveland hopes to make an exponential difference by providing entrepreneurs with a global opportunity in their own backyard.
The LaunchHouse process has and continues to help portfolio companies succeed through seed funding, mentoring, education, business development services and a dynamic, entrepreneur-focused culture. We, at Ideatrotter, interview Todd Goldstein and Sam Krichevsky of Launch House and learn more about their mission. Below is the transcript of the interview:
1. What is Launch House?
LaunchHouse is a lean business accelerator and collaborative work space in Northeast Ohio that fosters entrepreneurial success and job creation through seed capital, education and innovation. LaunchHouse’s mission is to recruit, nurture, and grow the most promising startup companies not only through funding but also through mentorship and strategic business development resources.
2. How was it born?
LaunchHouse began in 2008 out of necessity, in Todd Goldstein and Dar Caldwell’s opinion, as they saw many of their classmates, colleagues and friends leave Cleveland for better opportunities and resources. Goldstein and Caldwell believed in the region and the possibilities that it held. Early stage companies were being somewhat neglected in the region. LaunchHouse fulfilled that need for early stage investing, mentorship and resources, which weren’t necessarily available prior.
3. Why Cleveland?
The real question is, why not Cleveland? When thinking of Cleveland, Mecca for entrepreneurship and hub for innovation don’t necessarily come to mind. What people don’t realize is that Cleveland is home to Fortune 500 companies - Sherwin-Williams, Eaton Corporation, KeyCorp, Parker Hannifin - top rated business schools, as well as an abundance of resources. Also, people don’t remember that Cleveland once was at the center of industrial development and innovation in the 1800’s.
4. How does the Launch House Accelerator Program work?
LaunchHouse will invest $25,000 in ten teams, which will participate in the 12-week accelerator program. The program is modeled after the nation’s top accelerator programs, Tech Stars and Y Combinator. LaunchHouse, however, has simply taken a different approach with the LaunchHouse Accelerator.
The immersive development experience and methodology stresses a customer-centric focus, meaning that from the very beginning our entrepreneurs are striving to understand the needs of their customers. This differs greatly from traditional accelerator models, which tend to be product/process driven. The methodology is based off of the research done to create the Nail It Then Scale It approach, popularized by Nathan Furr.
Further, it reflects tenants of Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup. To top things off- LaunchHouse has taken a grass-roots approach to developing this methodology, as it has been co-designed with entrepreneurs and academics in order to create sessions that fulfill real and evolving needs of stakeholders.
The LaunchHouse Accelerator helps entrepreneurs build skills sets in three primary areas: conceptual, technical and interpersonal. Concluding the program, team will pitch at a “Showcase Day” to top-industry professionals, venture capitalists, investors and fellow entrepreneurs, with an overall goal of achieving follow on funding.
5. What do you look for in companies you intend to accelerate? Could you provide examples of recent companies you have accelerated?
LaunchHouse launched itself as a member-based business incubator and seed capital investment fund. LaunchHouse has invested $130,000 in more than 30 portfolio companies ranging from alternative energy, technology, medical devices and urban agriculture, which have raised over $3 million in follow on funding.
However, has since changed its model to better affect the region, if not the nation’s, entrepreneurs. With the help of the Ohio Third Frontier ONEFund Accelerator Program; LaunchHouse has redefined the Cleveland-area business accelerator model and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
6. What type of mentorship would startups in your program have access to?
The mentor network currently includes individuals from over 20 industries, with a range of experience from technical experts to seasoned CEOs. The characteristics that LaunchHouse expects from its mentors include an ability to view business from a systemic perspective, an advanced technical and social understanding of the needs of entrepreneurs and a proven track record. Mentors that are selected may fulfill three types of roles for the entrepreneurs:
- Primary Mentor - Weekly 1 on 1 with teams. Commitment (1-2 hours per week)
- Business Advisor – High level consulting. Commitment (6-10 hours quarterly)
- Specialized Coach – Called upon as needed for technical advice. Commitment (6-10 hours quarterly)
7. You mentioned you intend to attract foreign talent. How do you intend to attract foreign startups to Cleveland verus Silicon Valley or New York?
The low cost of living is a benefit to entrepreneurs relocating to the region for the LaunchHouse Accelerator program, as well as for those entrepreneurs starting right out of college. Cleveland is a true melting pot of different businesses. New comers to the region are exposed to a diverse community of entrepreneurs, which is evident in the LaunchHouse portfolio. Startups have more opportunity to securing follow on funding, compared to Silicon Valley, as what people don’t realize is the benefits of big business and successful business people.
8. Do you have any events coming up that our readers should know about?
Techie UnConference - July 18
Accelerator Start Date- September 4
Showcase Day – November 28