By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
I am talking to Dave Knox, one of the co-founders of the Brandery, which is a mentorship-driven 12-week business accelerator based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 2010, they are part of TechStars Network, have similar format, and offer early stage entrepreneurs $20,000 in financing. They particularly focus on startups where design, branding, and marketing can be a serious competitive advantage.
Irina: Hi, Dave. Why don’t you start with your background?
Dave: I went to Miami University here in Ohio. I studied marketing and entrepreneurship. Coming out of undergraduate work, I started at Procter & Gamble about eight years ago, straight into a traditional management path. I originally started in P&G Beauty.
During that time, I went from working in our beauty group to our youth and teen marketing, an expertise role that got me a lot into digital and work that we doing in that space to better connect with consumers.
After that, my first brand manager role took me down to our Walmart customer team where I was leading two pieces of our business, our personal health care and our feminine care work.
It was after that role that I got called back up to corporate here in Cincinnati to be an original team member of our digital business strategy team, which was the group that was tasked with moving from a tactical approach to a digital strategic approach.
It was in that role that I had a lot of exposure to the startup and venture world, working a lot with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a lot of the emerging startups from Twitter to Get Satisfaction, etc.
I did that role for about two years, including a short stint in our P&G production groups, leading a lot of potential media properties of the company.
Then in September 2010, I left for an opportunity to become the chief marketing officer here at Rockfish, which is one of the leading digital agencies in the country. I’ve been here since September.
It was also around that time that I started the Brandery in an opportunity to cultivate more startups in Cincinnati and the Midwest, in partnership with my three co-founders, Bryan Radtke, Rob McDonald, and J.B. Kropp.
Irina: What is the the Brandery?
Dave: At its heart, the Brandery is a startup accelerator. We’re a member of the TechStars Network. We were named one of the top 10 accelerators in the country. We do a very similar format to any other accelerator out there, but we’re focused on those startups where design, branding and marketing can be a competitive advantage in distinguishing a startup from [its competitors].
Irina: How is the Brandery structured?
Dave: We’re a little bit unusual. We’re structured as a nonprofit, as a 501(c) 3. We’re structured that way with the goal of economic development for Cincinnati.
Irina: What is your industry preference?
Dave: Our focus is on consumer Internet companies, by and large. We’re specifically focused on consumer facing businesses as a core target for us and those that have an application in the world of brand marketing and consumer marketing overall.
Irina: At what stage of their development do you prefer companies apply to your accelerator?
Dave: We’re focused on early stage, seed stage, so pre-revenue, generally alpha or beta stage. For the most part, it’s before they’ve raised any significant capital.
Irina: If you could imagine the ideal company for your accelerator, what would it be?
Dave: I don’t think there is an ideal company. Each one that is coming into our upcoming class is ideal in its own way.
Ideal means either two to four co-founders starting the business, generally a business co-founder and a technical co-founder, entering a marketplace where they can make a meaningful difference in a 12-week program.
So, somebody in a bio-medical that has to go through trials and everything else, isn’t going to work.
Finally, the differentiation of consumer brand, being something that can drive their startup forward is an important aspect for us.
Irina: How many companies have graduated since you launched?
Dave: Our first class, six companies, graduated in November 2010. We’ll be accelerating nine in 2011.
Irina: When does the next class start?
Dave: The next class starts August 1, 2011. Demo Day is October 13, 2011.