NV Chats: Joel Bennett

New Ventures Chats @ Flywheel: Joel Bennett

Joel Bennett has extensive experience with startups.  Joel is a product/industrial designer, inventor, creative graphic designer and social media marketer who combines Lean Startup methodology with marketing strategy and research, visual identity, branding and presentations. He uses Design Thinking as a method of exploration and works as a group facilitator with scientists, engineers and business/financial professionals to define and develop new and innovative platforms that result in commercialization.

Joel currently leads the Flywheel New Venture Challenge and Accelerator, which is a funded 12-week startup accelerator featuring four winning teams with unique startups. Joel works with these teams on a day-to- day basis to help them develop their startup in an accelerator atmosphere in order to be prepared for Demo Day. He is responsible for community engagement and communication, program development, website design, search engine marketing, and most importantly, mentoring and helping startups find early traction and growth opportunities. His strategic consulting practice includes product planning, product design, marketing strategy, development and deployment.We asked Joel a few questions about his role with New Ventures, check out his responses here:

What is the New Ventures Challenge Accelerator and what is your role?

“The New Venture Challenge funneled the region’s most promising and innovative tech startup companies through an online competition. The competition winners were provided with cash awards and now mentorship during a 12-week startup business accelerator at Flywheel Coworking. Additional pre-seed funding (an average investment of $50k) for startups seeking equity investment is being made available – if they can meet progress milestones during the 12 weeks program. Additional investments for follow on funding are being prepared through local investment networks. The Challenge was an open competition and we had over 230 applications.

The top five Challenge winners were provided advances in funding as prize awards. The first place prize was awarded $35,000.00.

The New Venture Challenge is the first accelerator in the Triad to offer much needed pre-seed money to early startups. This is the one puzzle piece that we have needed to really fuel startup momentum in the Triad. The New Ventures Challenge Accelerator will elevate the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Triad into the same playing field as Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham. These communities have been deploying similar programs for the past three years and have seen measurable results in new business creation and capital investments. I have been invited to manage the accelerator and now lead the day-to-day program at Flywheel Coworking – it is a rigorous, intense immersive experience of working everyday at Flywheel. The cohort is currently focused on validating new product/market fit, launching pilot programs, testing value propositions and continuous customer development. All of these activities are designed to demonstrate compelling proof of market traction and recurring revenue – that is what investors are seeking in early stage startups.”

What inspired you to be a part of New Ventures?

“The Flywheel Foundation’s coffers are filled with innovators and entrepreneurs that will become the mentorship core of this program. After many years of virtually no pre-seed funding resource in the Triad, it is no surprise that a group of innovators and entrepreneurs have come together to fill the gap. Pre-seed funding is the spark that accelerates startup progress – because it gives startups a runway to take off. As the results of this program blossom, the Triad will see startup acceleration like never before.

The investment model was conceived by Flywheel and the Wake Forest Community Law and Business clinic serving in an ongoing advisory role. The sponsor of the competition and accelerator is Flywheel New Ventures 2016 LLC, an investment club composed of local entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts, who will also served as judges for the competition and mentors for the accelerator. The club is structured such that all investment decisions are actively made by a majority of members.”

When is Demo Day and what can we expect to see?

“On September 9th, we will host ‘Demo Day.’ This event will showcase each of the startups and provide an opportunity for the investment community to get a first hand look at the accomplishments the teams have made through the summer. It’s super energizing to see the progress the teams are making.  They are developing truly innovative businesses and creating value for their customers, their channel partners, the investors and our community.”

Be on the lookout for more information about the New Ventures Challenge Demo Day and the progress of each team throughout the accelerator!