Last Thursday night marked the conclusion of our run with the Cherokee Challenge, a Raleigh-based fund accelerator targeting green tech startups with sustainable products (and business models).
We joined the esteemed company of LYF Shoes, Sanitation Creations, SafeTNA, and Granular Systems in the advisory process starting back in May. Over the summer and into the fall, we met regularly with Cherokee advisors on crafting our pitch, appealing to investors, and honing our features.
All of this culminated at the final event on September 20. Each team was given 8 minutes of presentation followed by 4 minutes of Q & A to pitch their stories to a packed house audience of investors and press from around the Triangle (and state). Held in the Warehouse District at Vintage21, the night was hosted by JT Vaughn of Cherokee, who was instrumental throughout the entire Challenge duration in facilitating smooth feedback from the advisors on each iteration of presentations and pitches.
The night kicked off with an on-stage conversation with renowned designer Bill McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle, and Cherokee CEO Tom Darden. Great advice all around and it became clear very early that Bill is a master of the sustainability pull quote, including:
“If you’re doing the wrong thing perfectly, you’re perfectly wrong.”
“Knowing better is better than not knowing.”
“Zero emissions as a goal? Don’t be stupid. Look at trees: if they didn’t emit, we’d all be dead.”
After great presentations by our peers, JouleBug was up 4th and Grant Williard, our president, delivered on a beautifully crafted script and slide deck. We had a chance to meet a lot of the attendees one-on-one in a tradeshow setup before and after the event and we padded our pockets thick with business cards and new opportunities.
Perhaps the greatest experience we gained from the Challenge was how to talk the business of investing. Our chief sustainable energy engineer, Joe Elliott, remarked that “We learned what the start-up conversation looks like to people outside of our comfort zone, and the advisors gave us valuable insight into addressing multiple needs for multiple audiences.”
Grant was already steeped in this world from his previous experience with selling software to Adobe, but the rest of us developers, designers, engineers and writers got to try on the Biz Dev hat to wear for a while. Thanks to Cherokee Funds, the hat fit (though a bit too loose for most of us) and we came out of the experience with more knowledge, more momentum, and more assurance that JouleBug is indeed a worthwhile product.