Economic Development and Small Business & Startups

Start Garden downshifts from two weekly startup investments

September 9, 2013
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Live Video: Start Garden-backed ideas present at April Update Night
Start Garden’s downtown Grand Rapids space fills up each month for its Update Night event. Photo via fb.com

Start Garden is re-calibrating the number of startup ideas it invests in each week.

Since Start Garden’s beginning in April 2012, Rick DeVos’ $15 million seed fund has chose two new startup ideas every week each receive an initial $5,000 investment from the fund.

One idea has been chosen by the Start Garden team, and one idea has been chosen by the Start Garden community.

But now, Start Garden said that it’s cutting back its weekly investments and will only be choosing one idea per week for a $5,000 investment.

“Hybrid” selections

The process of choosing who receives initial funding moving forward will be made through a “hybrid process” that considers both public endorsement and the Start Garden team’s choice.

Investment volume spread across funding levels

Start Garden said the move is due to the fund now having enough developing businesses being funded at its second and third levels of funding.

The number of investments Start Garden has today between $25,000-$99,000 is “way more than we anticipated,” according to a Start Garden announcement.

Start Garden said it will “keep the door open for new experiments, but we see the volume of activity spreading out across funding levels now.”

Although weekly investments are being cut in half, the overall Start Garden process will still remain the same, with the change expected to have little to no affect on Start Garden’s monthly Update Night or funded ideas.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is strong here,” DeVos said. “If this region can become as good at helping entrepreneurs get started as we are at philanthropy, there's no telling what this city could look like in 10 years."

Breakdown of Start Garden investments, as of August 30, 2013

$5,000 into 136 ideas

$25,000-$99,000 into 39 projects

$100,000-$500,000 into 10 startups

The last pair

The last two ideas to be selected together for weekly funding were FlipsiBottle and The Elf Factory.

The Elf Factory

The Elf Factory, selected by the Start Garden community, is an idea for a holiday school program, where students would pre-order gifts to make for their families.

The Elf Factory would provide the craft materials and training for the program.

“There are 67,000 schools in the U.S. that are waiting for a vendor like The Elf Factory to replace their current holiday program,” writes idea creator Kirsten Morian Field on her Start Garden page. “We are the only company in the school gift shop industry that provides a turnkey program, where children can make their gifts versus buying them. Another stark difference is that our company provides a free gift for all students to create and proudly share with their family.”

FlipsiBottle

FlipsiBottle, selected by the Start Garden team, is an idea for a reusable drinking bottle, designed for owners to easily clean.

The patent-pending product uses reversible silicone that allows owners to flip its inside out and clean it.

“This is done through our patent pending reversible silicone base, our integrated seals and by removing all deep internal ridges that could otherwise trap liquid and grow mold,” writes idea creator Jeff Plott on his Start Garden page.

“Upon a successful launch of our FlipsiSPORT bottle, we intend on expanding our product line, first to baby bottles (prototype already developed), and then onto additional reusable drinking bottle market segments, such as an insulated bottle, sippy cups for kids, fruit squeezes, running gels, etc.”  

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