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90%+ of incubators are non-profit landlords leasing subsidized office space. Incubation leasing agents are pretty good at their job: keeping their space full. Graduation rates are low and the average incubation period is 2-3+ years. We think it sounds more like assisted living than incubation.
We approach the opportunity in a radically different way. Catalyst Technology Ventures is for-profit and we quickly align our interests in startups by taking equity or royalties. We have no incentive to keep you around, in fact, it’s the opposite: we want to see you out on your own after a year or so. But during that time we provide all the services and support you need to ensure your success — not just fax and copy machines.
No, we accept (and encourage!) applications from all over the world.
We do. We’ve assembled a group of follow-on investors interested in companies that come out of Catalyst Technology Ventures. As much as we like these angels and VCs, our goal is to give you as much leverage as possible in a potential next round. We turn the paradigm upside down. Instead of ramping up expenses and de-emphasizing revenue with your initial funding, companies leaving Catalyst Technology Ventures have very little recurring expense, and a clear revenue stream. The goal is to get you to the point where fundraising isn’t needed to keep the doors open. You can raise additional capital to speed growth, or grow organically. We put your fate in your hands.
We don’t share applications outside Catalyst Technology Ventures, and our selection committee. Because we see stacks of often similar proposals, it’s not possible to handle the legal overhead of signing NDAs. The clearer you are about your idea, the better the likelihood it has of being chosen. However, if you don’t feel comfortable including something in your application, don’t. More than likely, what you consider secret isn’t going to be the secret to your success. Instead, it will be your team’s tireless focus on execution. That’s why we believe ideas are less important than the entrepreneurs that have them.
Absolutely. Established companies often struggle with rounding out their team with quality developers and business experts — just like startups. A number of companies have approached us with a secondary product they have developed internally, but can’t shift focus entirely to launch it. It may be a well-developed system that just needs customer self-service and signup along with an initial marketing push. Apply and we’ll take a look.
Maybe. The services we provide are definitely geared toward software products. If you have a great idea for a medical device, there are probably better options for you. We are interested in areas where we can create value. This could be through devices with an online component, mobile and desktop software, or possibly other ideas we haven’t considered.
Catalyst Technology Ventures is in the unique position of being able to provide a great deal of value to a non-technical entrepreneur. If you possess a remarkable marketing mind and great connections — but need help getting something built— we may be a good fit for you.
Our ideal applicants would be a 2 person team: 1 ‘business’ person and 1 ‘technical’ person, who recognize that it would take forever to build their idea alone. A technical founder is also preferred to help direct our team and continue development after launch. However, if you have a great idea and zero technical people on your team, don’t let that stop you from applying!
Catalyst Technology Ventures is an idea-stage investment company. With that being said, the more clearly developed the idea, the more likely it is to be chosen. When applying, be prepared to answer several questions regarding revenue model, financial projections, entrepreneur background and market research. A business plan document isn’t required, but a plan for your business is. By presenting initial screenshots/mockups of your concept, we gain a better understanding of it. It also doesn’t hurt to have a link to a live or marketing site.
Development vs. Mentor focus
Our focus isn’t centered exclusively on advice. Catalyst Technology Ventures is about tangible product development and business services. We offer a dedicated mentor for each company, as well as one-on-one lunches with successful business minds. Unlike mentor-driven programs, mentoring is just one of the many services we provide to get you where you want to be.
Many seed stage companies employ the ‘spray and pray’ method — investing in 20-60 different companies and hoping a handful survive. While our projections include a failure rate, our operations don’t. We pride ourselves on being choosy and thereby more invested in each company’s success.
We tend to have a stronger focus on revenue than other seed stage firms. Many firms advise startups not to worry about initial profit. In their model, companies often are expected to find additional funding or risk failure. Catalyst Technology Ventures focuses on getting companies ‘Revenue Ready’ — a clear revenue model is both a selection criteria and goal. If a startup seeks additional funding for marketing or product enhancement, it will be to grow, not simply to survive.
Midwest Location and Mindset
Catalyst Technology Ventures is one of the premier Midwestern companies of its kind. We do welcome entrepreneurs from all over the country, but the Midwest is in desperate need of ways to cultivate emerging talent. Plus, it’s a great place to start a web-based company— its pragmatic sensibilities can shelter companies from the many pitfalls of a struggling economy.
Absolutely. Omaha has some incredible advantages for startups: low rent and living expenses, lots of talented developers exiting the University, creative and cultural diversity, and a thriving tech scene. As a cultural Mecca in the Midwest, it’s the perfect place to find focus, fun, and tranquility as you build something great. While many companies dropped like flies during the dot-com bust, the Catalyst Technology Ventures founders built and fostered their company here, with Omaha being a critical component of their success.
No. We value building companies wherever you call home. Obviously, we love the Omaha tech scene. Most of us came here for work or school and loved it so much we never left! We’re convinced you’ll love it, too. Still, once the first version of your product is up and running, the decision about your company’s next step is entirely yours. We may offer some incentives to encourage sticking around in Omaha, but we leave the verdict up to you.
Yes, at least for a while. We recommend around a 12 month period in Omaha, but it’s only essential to be here for our 6 month-long intensive development phase. The process here is enjoyable; we boast a collaborative workspace and style. If you’re as dedicated to the success of your company as we are, you’ll want to be here.
We employ a full-time team of around 50 software developers, creatives, and business experts. Along with our network of partners — and your direction — we provide the services needed to take your company from an idea to a revenue-generating reality. In many cases, we utilize pre-built tools (like our billing tool, or stock legal documents) to speed up the process. Here is just a few of the services we offer:
- Software Development
- Marketing Services
- Mentoring and Advice
- Administrative/Business Support
- HR & Employee Benefits
- Accounting Services
- Use of Furnished Office Space
- Access to Hardware and Software
- Entity Formation/Legal Documentation
We offer several investment models including equity and royalties depending on which program you are entering: accelerator or incubator.
Looking to join our accelerator? You’ll find our 5% equity stake one of the lowest out there! Why? We believe in giving back to the startup community and enjoy the energy and fresh thinking that having startups in house brings to our team.
Participants in our incubator enjoy our services for royalties model. Ultimately, we want your company to remain just that — your company. This innovative investment model protects both you and us and frees each of us to do what we do best. You can focus on building a great company. We’ll focus on developing great software. Together, we profit.
Let us help you get to a point where you can operate on your own, or to give you leverage with investors in your next round.
We’re big fans of simple, focused, web-based applications that operate on subscription revenue models. That’s not to say we aren’t interested in other ideas — these types of businesses just tend to line up well with our investment criteria.
We look for applicants that have the following characteristics:
- Low overhead
- Broad, easy to reach market
- Predictable recurring revenue
- Manageable development scope
- Dedicated, quality founder(s)
- Appeal as an acquisition target