By: Jane Schreier Jones
“As engineers, we tend to think if we build it, they will come,” says Jason Dettbarn, founder and CEO of Addigy. “But the business world doesn’t work like that. We needed help and that’s what took us to StartUP FIU (Florida International University).”
Dettbarn had been having mild success with Addigy, a company he founded in 2014, offering cloud-based IT management platform specifically for managing apple Mac Computers. While more than 80 vendors provide this service for PCs, few companies offer the service on the Mac side, a segment of the marketplace that Dettbarn predicts will grow tremendously as more Mac-devoted millennials enter the workforce.
“We need investors to help take Addigy to the next step,” Dettbarn said. “Capital won’t be used for investigating the market or testing a product. We’re already up and selling. We need capital for marketing and advertising to really get the word out about what Addigy offers Mac users.”
Like many inventors, Dettbarn had limited knowledge about how to approach and obtain investors. “My customers are technical people and I can talk to them all day,” he says with a chuckle. “But investors are an entirely different group.”
Dettbarn, who holds bachelor’s (2001) and master’s (2002) degrees from FIU, turned to his alma mater’s new venture: StartUP FIU, a collaborative, entrepreneurship hub to help FIU students, faculty, alumni and early-stage startup entrepreneurs from the Miami community create and grow their businesses.
He became a member of Cohort 1 of The Empower Accelerator program, StartUP FIU’s comprehensive, 14-week program to develop scalable traditional and social entrepreneurship ventures. Under the direction of Director Kate Sackman, the program provides coaches, skills training, advisors, access to speakers, and cutting-edge work space. Cohort 1 concluded in December 2016, and a second cohort began their session in February of this year.
“We’re here for the South Florida community, including students and faculty at FIU,” says Emily Gresham, co-founder of StartUP FIU. “Companies or individuals selected for each cohort bear no costs for our services, including The Empower Accelerator program. Entrepreneurs retain 100 percent of the equity in their venture.”
Dettbarn likes the passion and excitement he felt as a member of the first cohort at StartUP FIU. “Just like entrepreneurs themselves, StartUP FIU is new and out to prove themselves,” he points out. “The people at StartUP FIU are more motivated than other incubator programs.”
Pitch Day brings investors to campus
Dettbarn and 13 other teams participated in the first “Pitch Day” event presented by StartUP FIU on December 2, 2016, at the Modesto Maidique campus of FIU.
“More than 30 angel investors and venture capitalists were on hand to consider the presentations from the participants in Cohort #1,” says Robert H. Hacker, co-founder and director of StartUP FIU. “The presentations were on-target, exciting, and done very well. Each entrepreneur also fielded questions from the investors.”
“Prior to this event, I had only pitched my idea to potential customers — not to investors,” reports Dettbarn. “But through the classes, I learned to keep my message simple, making sure it resonated and making sure every slide, every point, was the best it could be. I made tremendous improvements to my material and my style of presenting. When it was time to make my pitch, I was relaxed and comfortable.”
Dettbarn says the presentation he made on StartUP FIU Pitch Day was at least 80 percent better than the one he started with.
With his presentation, Dettbarn made an impression and is in continued talks with a member of the Keiretsu Forum, a global angel investor network at the event, and other investors.
“Pitch Day started a lot of conversations,” he says. “I am amazed at what I have learned since walking into the first Empower Accelerator session all the way through to Pitch Day. StartUP FIU is just what Addigy needed.”