After more than a year of planning, pivots, and fine tuning, we are excited to unveil the Mind to Market initiative, a focused effort in our region to commercialize viable and scalable ideas.  Mind to Market (M2M) is a collaboration between Startup Spokane, Mind to Market, LLC (a pre-seed investment fund), and a myriad of community stakeholders.

M2M has three major components – 1) Rapid Commercialization Program; 2) M2M pre-seed investment fund; and 3) Operations Phase.  The graphic (see left) illustrates the framework of the program, so please refer to it as this article guides you through the program.

Ideas or Startup – Ideas come from a multitude of sources, including colleges, universities, business & industry, ideation events such as Startup Weekend Spokane, business plan competitions, and the community at large.  Spokane’s vast network of community partners, each of whom serve entrepreneurs, are also feeders for ideas and startups to recommend to the M2M program.  Startup Spokane will vet all ideas to ensure the idea has a champion (someone passionate and obsessed) who is coachable, that the idea solves a problem and/or tension, has a potential market, and is scalable.

Rapid Commercialization Program – Unlike other accelerator models, the Rapid Commercialization Program (RCP) is a one-on-one intensive two-week process (on average) where an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) works with the entrepreneur to achieve specific outcomes, which include completing the Business Model Canvas, market research and validation, 3-year financial proforma, and a pitch deck for possible pre-seed investment.  M2M has a pool of EIR’s to draw from based on the alignment of their expertise and availability.  The EIR assigned to each entrepreneur will leverage subject matter experts, and will hold the entrepreneur accountable throughout every stage of the process.  Different than a cohort model, entrepreneurs will be invited to participate on a continuous basis.  The success, pivot or fail fast approach significantly reduces the amount of time the entrepreneur will spend validating their business model.  The RCP was piloted in July 2017 with six companies, all of whom greatly benefited from the program and several of which are ready for pre-seed funding.

M2M Pre-Seed Investment Fund – Entrepreneurs who successfully complete the RCP will have the opportunity to pitch their idea/startup to the M2M, LLC investors.  The $825,000 fund is poised to make earliest stage equity investments.  This capital fills a gap that exists in our current funding landscape.  Many entrepreneurs can use $10,000-$75,000 to create a minimum viable product, which is what most Seed investors will expect before making larger equity investments.  And unlike Seattle, Spokane does not have as much “friends and family” capital for entrepreneurs to access.  Not all entrepreneurs will need access to the pre-seed investment fund, so it’s possible for an entrepreneur who already has capital to bypass the M2M pre-seed fund.

Operations Phase – Many accelerators struggle with helping entrepreneurs to be successful beyond training and funding.  M2M has identified the critical elements necessary for success to include team formation, mentors and advisors, go-to-market planning, developing a prototype and Minimum Viable Product (MVP), customer traction and revenue generation.  The length of the operations phase is only limited by the amount of capital, and the startup’s cash runway (burn rate).  Many entrepreneurs have expertise with their product and/or service but may not have the knowledge or experience to manage other aspects of the business.  To that end, M2M will facilitate introductions to subject matter experts, mentors and advisors.  Subject Matter Experts (i.e. attorneys, CPA’s, marketers, etc.) will generally charge for their services.  Mentors, who have specific expertise, will be expected to give of their time, to a point, to assist the startup.  M2M has partnered with University of Washington CoMotion Labs to leverage their statewide network of 150+ mentors, who will provide in-depth knowledge that will augment what currently exists in our local geography.  And advisors, who may be experts or generalists, generally become part of the startup’s advisory board.  The specific expectations of the relationships are negotiable between the startup and the SME, mentor, or advisor.

Startups successfully completing the Operations phase will likely be positioned for Seed funding, which may include equity investments or debt financing.  These startups may also be candidates for Ignite NW, an accelerator program for established companies in the growth stage.  While there is no fee to participate in the M2M program, once a startup enters the Operations phase, they will be required to join Startup Spokane as a member, and subscribe to LivePlan for business planning and reporting.  The majority of their capital should be reserved for getting to MVP.

M2M anticipates working, on average, with 3 entrepreneurs per month.  Over the next 18 months, the program strives to fund 14 ideas with pre-seed investment capital, and get several startups to the Seed round.

If you or someone you know has a viable and scalable idea, and are interested in participating in the M2M program as an entrepreneur, subject matter expert, mentor or advisor, please contact Megan Hulsey at startup@greaterspokane.org.