11 Entrepreneurs Graduate from Eugene Regional Accelerator Cohort

Eleven entrepreneurs recently graduated from the latest Eugene Regional Accelerator business cohort.

The accelerator is an intensive four-month collaborative process that provides training and mentoring for early-growth stage companies. Founders work together to gain inspiration and support one another by tackling problems together. The entrepreneurs are also assigned experienced mentors who help guide them towards their goals. The cohort studies curriculum in relevant areas, such as marketing, startup accounting, product design, user testing, law and more. Then they test out their ideas with potential customers and meet with investors.

The recent cohort comprised a wide range of business ideas.

Among the graduates are two former University of Oregon students who are developing a phone app called Averto that allows citizens living in areas of ongoing conflict to post safety reports. Also represented is a marketing professional who is creating a digital meal plan company named Lady Bug Family Foods, which provides subscribers with weekly menus, shopping lists and preparation instructions. Another graduate is a project designer for Solar Energy Design, an electrical contracting company that specializes in renewable energy systems.

Another graduate, Will Shortt, is the co-founder of Ksana Health, an app that is working to improve mental health outcomes by changing how patients and therapists interact.

The Android and IOS apps use technology created by Nick Allen, director for the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregon and cofounder of Ksana Health. The apps collect user data that is correlated with mental health, including sleep, activity, mood, social interaction and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) surveys. The founders are currently designing the practitioner dashboard, which will let the therapist view this information and develop a therapy plan with “nudges” that will remind the patient of their homework and keep them engaged daily with their treatment plan.

“We’ve already built the apps to retrieve data, and so far they have been used for research purposes,” Shortt said. “We plan to take this out of academia and to the market to help people.”

“We have this incredible platform we carry around in our pockets everyday that can collect data,” he added. “Right now this data is only being used to market to us, but we can turn it around to improve health.”

Though Shortt has previously been involved in startup companies, including a solar monitoring program, he said the discipline and structure of the accelerator was helpful to him, especially the customer discovery process.

“It was very fun to be part of a mixed-age group that provided different ideas and being able to chime in with suggestions that could help their business model as well as getting suggestions of our own,” Shortt said.

“It’s challenging, highly collaborative and the time really flew by,” he added.

He said the accelerator provided useful, practical information.

“I wouldn’t think of it as a class as much as a collective strategy board,” Shortt said. “There’s some topic, some reading background, some assignment, and we all share that with each other to challenge each other and force us to think through various pieces of the overall startup and planning it out.”

Another graduate of the cohort, Zahra Alsuliman, is a University of Oregon student from Saudi Arabia who came to the United States in 2013 to learn English and earn a bachelor’s degree. She is working to establish a martial arts club in Saudi Arabia for women of all ages to learn Taekwondo, Karate, archery, and fencing.

Last year, Alsuliman start taking martial arts classes and posted on her social media accounts about her practice.

“My Saudi friends texted me saying, ‘You’re lucky you can practice this type of sport while we cannot,’” Alsuliman said. “Several months later, I got a message from a well-known artist in the Arab countries encouraging me to continue learning martial arts and to come back to the country and open a school to teach Saudi women martial arts. I started thinking about opening this business after I saw the reactions of people in social media about me taking martial arts classes.”

She said the business accelerator helped her learn about the regulations in Saudi Arabia regarding sports businesses for women and how to get a license, as well as the requirements for getting grants. She also learned about her customers and their needs and how to serve them.

“Since I have been away from home for six years, I did not know the new regulations, changes in the community and the country,” Alsuliman said. “This course actually helped me know the changes in the country and how the community thinks about sports and martial arts for women.”

Alsuliman’s next step is to obtain her certificate in martial arts at a school in the United States. Then she plans to return to Saudi Arabia to work on acquiring a grant, preparing the studio, hiring trainers and launching the club.

Also represented in the cohort were:

  • Oregon MBA student Christine Scafa founded Beyond the Plate food tours to provide incremental, affordable food tours throughout Eugene.
  • Cassie Meyers is the founder of Aloha Mana. Her company is developing an application designed for hairstylists and salon owners to come together to book appointments and stations in salons.
  • Tryst is an app that will provide upcoming social events open to the public or exclusive to just friends founded by U of O student Kyan Louie.
  • DudeCoin is a social networking platform that aims to be a place online where community members can get rewarded for the content they post. Founder Mike Platis is another one of our entrepreneurs who is a student at the University of Oregon.
  • Tina Calvin is an Oregon MBA student who has founded a lithium-ion battery recycling company.