On a cold Tuesday in November, entrepreneurs from all corners of the state gathered on Zoom for a gBETA “investor swarm.”
Leaders from five participating startups selected for the gBETA fall cohort either pitched their ideas to investors, or waited in a Zoom room for their turn to promote their business or product. The event, designed as an opportunity for participating Wyoming entrepreneurs to pitch to angel investors, venture capitalists and accelerators in their market both locally and nationally, was just one part of a seven-week training.
Veronica Donahue, gBETA Wyoming director, explained that hers is a “pre-accelerator program” run by gener8tor, a venture capital company and American startup accelerator.
“We have other programs that exist in other places, and gener8tor invests money in the companies that participate. Those are called equity accelerators. But there is a big threshold between when you start your company and when you would be a great candidate for venture capital or that accelerator program,” she said.
Companies first need to establish themselves, connecting with customers and developing the product or service they offer, she said.
“We realized that there were a lot of people who were not ready for (equity accelerators), but still had plans for really promising companies,” Donahue said. “gener8tor came up with this gBETA program, which we call a pre-accelerator program. It is supposed to get you from that early-stage idea to feeling really confident, and having goals and metrics out there to show that excitement factor.”
Offered twice a year, the gBETA Wyoming program includes seven weeks of intensive and individualized coaching, as well as access to gener8tor’s national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners and investors.
“This is the fifth cohort of gBETA Wyoming since launching in 2020,” said Donahue. “Since then, the program has supported 25 Wyoming startups who have raised more than $7 million in growth capital and created more than 77 jobs.”
The five participating startups in the fall 2022 Wyoming cohort include:
CLIMALYTIX, which improves efficiency and profit for the beef supply chain while also improving the climate;
EvelynElaine, a Casper-based health-tech training platform that enables professional health care providers to improve patient outcomes without adding staff;
Mr. Joe Foods in Green River, which manufactures gourmet Caribbean-style hot sauces made from fresh peppers and flavor-packed spices;
MusicLessons.com, a company based in Jackson that makes teaching and learning music easy and fun through a learning-management platform; and
TruckCoinSwap, a solution for truckers and third-party logistics companies to get paid faster through a mobile and web app, as well as a digital token.
“gBETA Wyoming is bringing critical diversity to Wyoming’s economy by supporting the development of fresh ideas in the state,’’ gBETA managing director Baylie Evans said, adding that gBETA can provide “meaningful connections for its participants, both within Wyoming and across the nation to stimulate and build investment potential.”
Chad McNutt, CEO of CLIMALYTIX, said that while the gBETA program may seem simple in concept, it is challenging and thorough.
“We didn’t know going into gBETA what it would be,” he said. “We knew that it was an accelerator, and they would challenge us in a lot of ways, but I don’t think we knew how comprehensive it was. We really appreciate all the steps, and the way that gBETA is designed to walk you through this process, thinking through your company and developing your pitch and executive summary.”
CLIMALYTIX, he said, uses a “new breed of analytics for the beef industry,” focusing on predictive analytics that merge weather and climate trends with the cattle market and performance data. The resulting insights highlight market trends, and will help producers bring cattle up to sell weight faster, thus improving profitability and minimizing the impact on the planet, he said.
“We’re taking a different approach, using weather and climate data and integrating that with industry data around cattle performance,” McNutt said. “We’re trying to produce new insights that not only improve the beef industry, but also increase sustainability and reduce things like the amount of carbon emitted.”
CLIMALYTIX is currently working with select early adopters to test and deploy their analytics. Sara and Phil Lawler, also with CLIMALYTIX, said they’ve had a positive experience in the accelerator.
“Something I find really exciting about gBETA is that I’m able to recognize empty spaces, and nail down things beforehand. It’s been a really great experience,” Sara Lawler said.
Phil Lawler said he grew up in the agriculture industry, working with crops and livestock, and in animal health.
“When Chad and I started talking, we realized there was this gaping hole in the tools, the data that livestock producers were using to gain insight and gain a competitive edge,” he said, adding that they began working together on their business plan, building it from the ground up.
“gBETA has a great roadmap they lay out for startups, and they hold their feet to the fire to get all those steps done. We’re going to come out of this much stronger,” Phil Lawler said.
In Wyoming, gBETA’s sponsor is Microsoft and CAC Advisors.
“The idea is that we want to strengthen our economy here in Wyoming,” Donahue said. “We want to make sure that in 30 years, there are jobs and places for people to work that are interesting, diverse companies to work for.”
When it comes to starting a business, Donahue first recommends solving a problem.
“The big first validator that a company would want to do is identify a problem people are willing to pay to fix, and make sure whatever problem they are thinking of, that their solution actually solves the problem for the customer,” she said. “The next step would be figuring out who those customers are, and ensuring that the product fits the market, or those customers.”
The final step is to figure out how you are going to scale that product or company.
“What is the best delivery method, or the best sales strategy, to really grow the business? That scale term is really important,” she said.
gBETA’s goal at the end of the seven weeks is to continue supporting participating startups, and within six months of completing the program, that those startups either raise $50,000 or they get into an equity accelerator.
“Everyone is very lucky here in Wyoming because there are so many resources, and they are all so complementary to each other. gBETA is unique in that it is connected to this broader network called gener8tor,” she said.
Applications for the next gBETA Wyoming cohort will be due in March.