Here's an interesting twist on the start-up accelerator concept... a branding focus. And where else to create an incubator that infuses entrepreneurs and their start-ups with with branding and marketing thinking than.... Cincinnati. The Brandery is the brainchild of Dave Knox, until recently a digital media expert at P&G (now CMO for Rockfish Interactive), JB Kropp, Bryan Radtke and Robert McDonald... all Cincinnati area marketing and start-up professionals.
I've signed on as one of the mentors in the Brandery and it's an interesting and exciting group of people... both the other mentors as well the enthusiastic group of entrepreneurs. In future posts, I'll talk about a few of the companies in the mix, but in this post I'd like to address the overall concept.
Incubators are nothing new and a crowded market in themselves, but the Brandery has differentiated itself and leveraging its location (not the hotbed of innovation) as a strength. Nobody can argue with the fact that Cincinnati truly is a center of excellence for marketing, with P&G, Kroger and the broad ecosystem of agencies and experts in the regions supporting these companies and more. Many of the most talented marketers from these companies have set up shop locally and are serving clients globally in branding, advertising and marketing support. So why not leverage that strength to support local entrepreneurship?
More important than the uniqueness of the concept is the importance of branding and strategic marketing thinking in the early stages of new companies. Too often the focus is an 'inside-out' mentality of first creating a cool technology-driven product and then releasing it to the waiting masses of customers waiting to buy it. No wonder more than 90% of these start-ups fail within the first year!
The Brandery is structured around a 12-week intensive mentoring and coaching process for the very lucky group of 5 companies that made it through the difficult screening and vetting process to be accepted. Each are co-located for the period in a local Cincinnati warehouse district office that looks like it could be in SOHO as much as Cincinnati. So the startup vibe is there... and on a Midwest budget.
I'm looking forward to engaging with this group and concept. In the meantime, it's existence provides an interesting example of taking a well-worn idea and re-inventing it. And dramatically improving the chances that these start-ups will thrive by helping them build their businesses on a strong foundation of marketing and branding. Innovation is alive and well.