Posted on Monday, September 9, 2013 by Allison Byers
Brainstorming for the Mix & Stir Accelerator at CCA [Photo: Gary Iwatani]
For some, summer is a time for relaxation. But for the teams in the Mix & Stir Start-Up Accelerator at CCA, it is crunch time. For eight weeks, teams hoping to found new start-up ventures come together here on campus for studio space, support, and mentoring from the Mix & Stir Studio partners and an extensive network of mentors.
It’s a lot of work, but the payoff can be huge.
Starting a Start-Up to Help Start-Ups
Mix & Stir began as a collaboration between CCA Graduate Program in Design faculty member Christopher Ireland, fellow senior lecturer and brand and innovation strategist Mary Anne Masterson, and venture capitalist Hiroshi Wald.
“We wanted to create a program that would support and encourage design-driven entrepreneurs in building successful businesses,” says Masterson. “We saw a unique opportunity to combine design thinking with technology and behavioral science. CCA is in the middle of a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. A significant number of start-ups and venture funding activity has migrated from Silicon Valley to San Francisco.
“CCA is also a design authority, respected around the world for its historical and current thought leadership. Design has become increasingly attractive to entrepreneurs and investors because of its value in bridging the gap between a company and its stakeholders. It simply made sense to partner with CCA and find a way to simultaneously support and benefit from these trends.”
Giving the Accelerator a Home at CCA
The team worked closely with CCA’s administration and program chairs to develop a series of innovative, community-focused events and a summer accelerator program, to be hosted on the San Francisco campus.
It kicked off in January 2012 with multiple community events and two design thinking “Unhackathons.”. The first start-up accelerator was held in summer 2012, and then another took place this summer.
Mosey: A DMBA and Mix & Stir Success Story
One of the four teams in the first accelerator session was Mosey, a start-up founded by four MBA in Design Strategy 2012 graduates -- Eric Persha, Matthew Loyd, Andrew Deming, and Audrey Ma (together with technical cofounder Steff Eiter, who was the lead engineer).
Says Loyd: “Our concept was originally developed in Nathan Shedroff's and Maria Giudice's Experience Studio course. Our team was attempting to solve the common and frustrating request that anyone who lives in a great city must constantly field: ‘Hey, I’m coming to your city. What should I do?’
“Mosey is an ecosystem of user-generated micro-experiences that answer this question in cities all around the world. Think of it as a digital platform for friends, influencers, and brands to build the perfect four hours, anywhere anyone might want to go. Like the New York Times's 36 Hours, but more digestible and in a socially connected space of following, sharing, and experiencing.
With all of those amazing experiences captured, Mosey is a search engine for local experiences anywhere in the world.”
Following the Mosey team’s graduation in 2012, moving to the CCA-hosted Mix & Stir accelerator was a smooth transition. Says Loyd: “We already had an ‘embedded behavior’ of being on the CCA campus and working with the college’s resources. This allowed us no disruption. Only to keep cranking.”
Alumni Join Accelerator
MBA in Design Strategy graduates Adam Broidy and Juli Sherry (both 2013), founders of a new start-up, Markk, had a similar experience taking part in the accelerator immediately after graduation. “CCA’s campus is a second home to us,” says Broidy.
Sherry adds: “We started working on our final thesis project in Venture Studio back in January 2013. This might sound strange and lofty, but we truly had an interest in making people happier.”
Broidy and Sherry cycled through multiple ideas and research before their “aha” moment in the spring. “As we were taking a break during a meeting and walking the halls of CCA, we saw all the wonderful work on the walls and were reminded of our interviews with students during our research phase. They observed that much of their work didn’t ever make it into the world to be seen or sold. Then and there, it became our mission to get this great artwork seen and purchased.”
Markk’s mission is to help art lovers discover and buy contemporary art from the nation’s top up-and-coming artists. “We think of ourselves as the premier online art scout, providing direct access to the most unique new work as it becomes available.”
From the Accelerator to the Real World
The teams in the Mix & Stir Accelerator worked closely with the studio leaders, Ireland, Wald, Masterson, and Gary Iwatani (a tech entrepreneur and cofounder of Topsy, who joined the leadership team in 2013 after serving as a mentor the previous year). Mosey was also fortunate to work with mentors Tim Koogle and Pam Scott, who would become their lead investors.
“Our Mix & Stir mentors asked a lot of great questions and prepped us for the real world,” says Loyd. “Since then, the Mix & Stir team has stayed engaged in offering introductions, networking, feedback, and mentoring. They have been a wonderful asset to our team.”
The Road Ahead for Mosey and Markk
The future looks bright for start-ups Mosey and Markk. Mosey currently has about 10,000 registered members of their beta site and hundreds of thousands of views after just 18 weeks of operation. The team is currently working hard toward the iOS7 launch, with its first native app release set for Fall 2013.
Markk, having just wrapped up in the Mix & Stir Accelerator, is currently in the process of developing a minimal viable product (MVP), where it will start scouting and selling the work of up-and-coming artists. “Once the beta version of the website is live and we are interfacing more with customers and artists, we hope to learn as much as possible to further refine Markk,” says Broidy. “It will probably go through a lot of iterations.”