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The Stories of 5 Startups: How the Softeq Venture Studio Helped Them Thrive

Multiple studies claim that nine out of ten startups fail. 20% of them fail in the first year, 30% in the second year. Why?

Young companies may not find their product-market fit or have the business skill, tech expertise, strong partnerships, and money to succeed. Softeq Venture Studio was created to help newbies overcome key pain points, and Softeq is often the first investor in a company. Moreover, all startup venture studio participants get access to the same consulting and development teams as technology clients from Fortune 500.

In October 2021, Softeq welcomed five early-stage startups—new players in sports tech, med-tech, and lifestyle tech. By now, all of them have already started their journey toward raising capital. What helped them evolve and succeed? In video interviews, founders told their startup stories and how they see their participation in Softeq Venture Studio as crucial. We have also prepared text versions for each video with some additional flash facts included.

FitLift: “If we had this information before, we could have gone way further”

FitLift improves strength training techniques and reduces injuries through a mobile app and wearable device that tracks precise motion and provides feedback.

Eric Atcheson, co-founder & COO of FitLift, explains how their IoT wearable device works:

 

“FitLift is a wearable device that tracks people's weight lifting form in real time, letting them know if they're doing it right or wrong. That way, they can make changes and they're not going to get hurt,” said Eric Atchison.

Here’s how it started. One day, Blaine Killen, a former software engineer lead and now co-founder of FitLift, came to Eric Atchison to solve some physics equations. They did one quick project together before Atchison came on board, “A year and a half later, we're finally done with the algorithms. We've invented so much that I didn't even know or imagine that I would be able to do with him.”

Today at FitLift, Eric Atchison, who has a manufacturing background, handles the development of the algorithms, covers manufacturing, shipping, and logistics, and makes sure “everyone's happy.”

Everyone involved in FitLift has an athletic background, “We were in a sport; we got injured. Mostly because we didn't have the information we needed to go through and not get injured. Blaine [Killen] is an amazing golfer, but he has a major wrist injury. Now, it isn't reasonable for him to be out there competing.”

“If we had this information before, we could have gone way further in our careers than we were able to get,” said Atchison.

Softeq Venture Studio helps FitLift with sales consultancy. “One of the bigger weaknesses with our team is that we're a group of engineers doing sales. We've seen that Softeq knows how to go out and generate sales for companies that have a hardware component,” said COO of FitLift.

Startups also get access to experienced development teams. “It's a great opportunity to be around people that are familiar with the hardware. Being able to speak with people that have a tailored knowledge to the thing we're building is leading us to where we need to go,” said Atchison.

Founders of FitLift Blaine Killen and Eric Atcheson shared with Chris Howard, Founder & CEO of Softeq, which sessions of the Softeq Venture Studio were the most impactful for their startup. Check here.

AtlasCoaching: “[During the program] we're solving two years of tech problems within a few days”

AtlasCoaching is a marketplace to connect female sports celebrities, pros, and coaches with fans looking to improve their game and receive digital training.

Christina Billotti, CEO of AtlasCoaching and former pro ski racer, aims to inspire and empower the next generation of females in sport:

 

“Atlas is a digital coaching app for female athletes and by female athletes,” said Christina Billotti. “Any athlete—a little girl, a little boy, or a dad—can send in their video. They'll be able to pick through a marketplace of professional female athletes and get their feedback. And some inspiration, too.”

“We hope Serena Williams one day joins our platform,” said CEO of AtlasCoaching.

Both platform founders Christina Billotti and Laura Gelabert are former pro ski racers. “It's a pain point we wanted to solve for ourselves—being able to have access to the pros and having them look at your sports video. So you can improve with short tips for digital training and also get some inspiration out of it,” said Billotti.

Atlas is supposed to help solve the huge pay gap between male and female professionals in sport. “When we think of professional male athletes, they can just be professional athletes. They don't have to think about driving an Uber or working in a coffee shop, which our female professional athletes are doing to supplement their income. They're not being paid enough,” said Billotti. The solution will allow women to “digitize a skill set they spent a lifetime building” and “keep growing their fan base.”

The tech expertise of Softeq Venture Studio already brought Atlas to the next level, “Within a few days, we're solving two years of tech problems. So we're super excited to finally have a product.”

The startup also found useful connections here, “Doors have been open to networks that we only dreamed of talking with.” Billotti sees Houston as a huge sports hub where they want to stay for a while. Startup founders are now looking for athletes and coaches to join Atlas.

Christine Bilotti discussed with Chris Howard, Founder & CEO of Softeq what technical help made the biggest difference for the company during the Softeq Venture Studio program. Watch here.

GetScouted: “There’re so many resources in there”

GetScouted aims to become a verifiable source of athletes’ performance and statistics to coaches and scouts using biometric analysis and analytics.

Michael Turner, founder and CEO of GetScouted, is making it easy for sports team coaches and scouts to find recruits whose performance data have been fully verified:

 

GetScouted, a multi-tier database, aims to solve the problem of sports team coaches and scouts. Today, there is no verified performance data for amateur athletes to enter college or high school or get properly recruited. “We verify an athlete's identity and the data collected during a sports assessment,” explained Turner.

The working business idea came from professional scouts and players, whom Turner and team showed a product they had built before. They said that they spent two-thirds of the recruiting and travel budget going out and personally verifying the level of each athlete: “If you can save us that 75% of wasted time and money, then you have solved a huge problem in the sports industry.”

Softeq Venture Studio has become a springboard for GetScouted to get to market. According to Turner, it’s an opportunity for startups to have experienced personnel put the software through the paces before going live. “There are so many resources in there, including legal, marketing, product development, and business analysis,” he said. People at the studio help them make the right decisions to be successful and receive follow-on funding to scale up.

In the interview with Chris Howard, Founder & CEO of Softeq, Michael Turner shared how important it was to have a partner like Softeq and presented his elevator speech. See now.

Orcana: “I'm taking calls [from investors] back to back in 30-minute increments”

Orcana is a medical technology startup utilizing AR and AI to provide 24/7 remote support for operating rooms to reps, surgeons, and surgical teams. 

Arati Desai Wagabaza, CEO of Orcana, is developing an AR platform for remote support in the operating room:

“Orcana is an augmented reality platform for remote support in the operating room. We have a complete solution to support individuals during a procedure. It involves using augmented reality and artificial intelligence to optimize the workflow for a medical device rep and provides support during the actual procedure implantation of the device,” said Wagabaza.

 

The story of Orcana started back in 2013, when Google Glass was announced. The startup co-founder Dr. Kris Okumu, a minimally invasive spine surgeon, was excited at the idea of an augmented reality glass. He started using it in the operating room. In 2020, a mutual friend of Okumu and Wagabaza brought them together. As a result, they pivoted to “a more viable business solution.”

Softeq Venture Studio is a game-changer for Orcana. They got resources and connections to elevate their solution. “We are not just a software solution, but a hardware solution as well. And coupling those things into a product that we can take out to market requires skills beyond our own,” explained Wagabaza.

“I'm taking calls back to back in 30-minute increments,” she said about calls from three different investors within an hour and a half. “We're keeping busy with Venture Studio activities but also taking these calls. It just feels like Orcana is getting to the next level really quickly. Becoming part of this is taking us faster to where we need to be and that's exciting.”

Arati Desai Wagabaza, Co-founder & CEO of Orcana, and Kris Okumu, its Co-founder & CMO, talked about their work with Venture Studio in the fireside chat hosted by Chris Howard, Founder & CEO of Softeq. Watch at the link.

Home Outside: “The most powerful startup ideas need a technical team”

Home Outside is democratizing landscape design by making it simple, affordable, automated, easy to visualize, and integrated—all through AI and 1-click ordering.

David Rose, CTO of Home Outside, uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to show people how amazing their landscaping could look:

Home Outside is an online landscape design service that helps people create a thriving garden. According to Rose, it’s possible to see the landscaping situated within the context of the house and “how amazing their yard could look if [someone] put in shade trees and natural pollinating bushes.”

 

The story of Home Outside started when David Rose, a five-time entrepreneur, met Julie Moir Messervy, a landscape designer, at MIT. At that time, Rose was working for Warby Parker, a retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. He was building the virtual try-on app there. Messervy, in turn, was the founder and principal of an award-winning landscape architecture and design firm. Today, Messervy is also the CEO of Home Outside.

The core team came up with an idea of a try-on app for gardens. “We could have people just hold up their phones and see the new landscape in front of their house and be compelled to spend money and invest in that vision,” said Rose.

People at Home Outside are passionate about sustainability, the climate, and know plants very well.

“We have lots of designers,” said Rose. “But we don't have a development team, a team that can use Google Street View Images and Google Satellite View Images and basically create the metaverse out of all of this material. So we're using a 3D game engine called Unity and basically recreating the neighborhood and then dropping in 3D assets, allowing people to experience that.”

According to Rose, the most powerful startup ideas have an idea to change the world and a vision that involves the design and user experience. But they also need a technical team to make that vision real. “Softeq is a great partner for executing that blending, that marriage of a cross-disciplinary team,” he said.

Softeq Venture Studio kick-started Home Outside, “It allows us to take this vision that we have, apply an immediate team of talented people in order to make an MVP, show investors what we can do and what the vision is, and make it real.”

Amir Alexander Hasson, the COO of Home Outside, explained to Chris Howard, Founder & CEO of Softeq how the tech capabilities of Softeq Venture Studio have become a missing ingredient for their company success. Check now

Bottom Line

Five highly investable early-stage companies from sports tech, med-tech, and lifestyle tech are now ready to get funding and evolve. Softeq Venture Studio helped them create their tech startup success stories—vet business models, product-market fits, go-to-market plans, and build the right technology. Need help for your great business idea? Come build it with us. The application process for the spring 2022 cohort is now open.