The 2020-21 cohort of the Jones + Foster Accelerator stand as proof that with a strong foundation and committed mentors, you can overcome anything—even the world turning upside down. The seven early-stage startups (detailed below) completed six months of milestones in the University of Washington program hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. The journey lacked nothing from year’s past, despite being virtual. In fact, workshops on financials, sales, marketing combined with dedicated 1:1 work with mentors on customer discovery were just as robust—if not more so—as the in-person programming.
“It’s an understatement to say there has never been a year like we have just all experienced. But these entrepreneurs and their mentors embraced the challenges, persevered, and created a truly special and impactful experience,” said J+F Accelerator manager Sarah Studer. “Some of the entrepreneurs and investors who worked with these teams felt it was the best overall cohort they have ever seen.”
All seven startups received a full $25,000 in follow-on funding. The Accelerator has now awarded more than $1.55 million to student-created startups since its inception in 2010.
Sixty-nine startups have now completed all six months of the Accelerator. Including the 2020-21 cohort, 58 are still in business today—harnessing TikTok to build a huge base of users, improving the development of pharmaceutical drugs, working on new technology to make face masks even more protective, being named to Forbes 30 under 30 by reducing wasted medication, disrupting the knitting world, partnering with the NFL, empowering thousands of young girls, creating real-time air quality analysis, and opening a chocolate factory at Pike Place Market while lifting up the spirits of healthcare workers on the front lines.
The program is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, program incentives like the McAleer Early Start Fund, and supporters of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. A special thank you also goes out to the 45+ mentors who dedicate their valuable time to helping grow the startup ecosystem in Seattle.
We asked each of the exciting startups in the 2020-21 cohort to share some thoughts on the last six months and what lies ahead for their startup:
“ApnoMed provides patients and clinicians with a suite of FDA-cleared medical devices for those suffering with sleep apnea, a life-threatening condition where patients stop breathing while asleep. Our products allow patients to manage their snoring and sleep apnea symptoms while bypassing known side effects associated with oral sleep appliances, such as permanent tooth movement, bite change, and jaw pain. The last six months spent in the Accelerator has been a tremendous learning experience and opened many doors. We entered the program with nine providers and ended with 25 across Canada, the U.S., and Taiwan! Additionally, ApnoMed made it as a finalist in the Seattle Angel Conference. Currently, ApnoMed is exploring a pivot to a direct-to-consumer model.”
“Aquagga is a lean hardware startup that seeks to end water contamination from toxic ‘forever chemicals’, known as PFAS. Our patented systems provide end-of-life destruction of remediation byproducts and PFAS-rich wastes for environmental engineering firms, environmental site managers, and solid waste managers. During the Accelerator program, Aquagga completed their first paid feasibility study, demonstrating that their technology can destroy >99.9% of PFAS in a sample of PFAS-contaminated liquid. Aquagga was recently accepted to the inaugural cohort of the Tacoma Maritime Blue Incubator, which will provide us with lab and office space to support our first pilot system deployment in late 2021.”
“Perfect Coffee Water is on a mission to get the best water for brewing coffee into the hands of every coffee lover. At the beginning of the Jones + Foster Accelerator, two brothers with a passion for great coffee had just one beta wholesale account and a roadmap to launch an online store. (We had) a unique product in need of validation in the market. Six months later, Perfect Coffee Water is supporting an array of specialty coffee companies to help home brewers all over the United States and around the world taste better and not bitter coffee!”
“Sensol Systems is redefining the crosswalk industry with its Sensol Smartwalk. This technology automatically spotlights a pedestrian from the ground as they cross the street. The illumination visually alerts drivers to the exact location of the pedestrian. The crosswalk also tracks pedestrian and vehicle movement to inform future city planning. This winter we are developing a mobile modular scaled-down demo of the Sensol Smartwalk to deploy around (the Seattle area) for interested customers and partnerships. We have also secured our first pilot site for summer 2021 at a local high school! Two team members are also performing customer discovery as part of the winter cohort of the National Science Foundation I-Corps program (hosted by Buerk Center partner UW CoMotion). We are excited for a great year ahead!”
“The 2050 Company makes instant smoothie powders from imperfect fruits and vegetables. We make consumer’s lives easier and healthier while also reducing food waste at every level of the supply chain. After winning awards at the Fowler Global Social Innovation Competition, the Northwest Entrepreneur Competition, and the Dempsey Startup Competition last year, The 2050 Company went on to raise more than $40,000 on Kickstarter in August at the start of the Accelerator—exceeding 200% of the funding goal. Consciously future focused, the 2050 team is working to expand production capacity to get more smoothies into more hands.”
“Vignette AI provides video software services combining AI with modern compression algorithms to eliminate degradation of video quality under bandwidth constraints. For content delivery services and network providers, Vignette AI achieves 50% lower video bandwidths while maintaining visual quality, improving user experience on low-bandwidth connections, and reducing costs for video distribution. Before starting in the program, we had an innovative technology and a sense that customers might find value in it. The Accelerator helped us hone-in on our target customer, shape the technology into a product that customers want, while also developing a stronger business plan. We’re excited to start executing on this plan with Vignette AI’s pilot program this spring with a broad launch planned for later this year!”
“Votegrity delivers state of the art online election services enabling organizations to conduct their elections more efficiently and cost effectively. Our services increase voter participation, confidence, and satisfaction. Our ‘Election Success Experts’ help organizations enjoy the benefits of moving the voting process online while removing wasted paper and postage. The world-class J+F Accelerator mentors gave us the space, encouragement, and sounding board we needed to make wise choices every step of the way as we went from business idea to a fully functioning and rapidly growing C-Corp. We guarantee we would have not achieved the progress we did, in the time we did, without this amazing program! Today, we are tackling the private sector—and the public sector in the not so far off!”
Be sure to follow the journey of each of these exciting startups by visiting their websites and social media listed above.
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