I have a soft spot for organizations with a double bottom line-- i.e., those that aim to make money while doing good. Even though we are dyed-in-the-wool capitalists, it's something we aspire to here at Foundersuite.
I'm also a firm believer that entrepreneurship can solve many or even all of the world's most challenging problems.This week's Accelerator of the Week takes that ethos and puts it into action in a really inspiring way. We are pleased to bring you Accelerator #7, Tumml.
In just one sentence, what is your accelerator and what do you do?
Tumml is an urban ventures accelerator with a mission to empower entrepreneurs to solve urban problems.
What makes your program different or unique? What’s your primary value-add?
From growing obesity levels to a less competitive education system, our generation has a huge number of challenges to overcome. And, in the current economic climate, we cannot rely on government alone to tackle these problems. 81% of Americans live in and around cities and we believe entrepreneurs have a unique role to play in solving urban problems.
Tumml provides entrepreneurs with the tools to help scale their impact and enhance quality of life in cities everywhere. We bridge an important gap in funding and mentorship so that entrepreneurs can play an active role in urban innovation. The application process is pretty rigorous, and we end up accepting less than 5% of the applicant pool. Through a four-month program, Tumml invites early stage startups to work from its offices and receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make a significant impact on their communities.
We’ve found that startups working on urban issues face a unique set of challenges – they need to connect with civic and government leaders in order to be successful, even if they are not looking to be hired by government. With this in mind, cohort companies work closely with Tumml’s volunteer Mentorship Board through one-on-one office hours and group lectures to develop strategies and perspective to engage productively with civic and government partners. The Mentorship Board is comprised of national leaders from municipal government, urban innovation, and finance, such as the Director of Public Policy at Airbnb, a VC from Version One Ventures, and the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
Tumml proactively cultivates and supports founders who are making a positive impact in their communities. By priming the pump with new urban impact startup founders, Tumml is building an ecosystem of socially responsible startup leaders.
What do you love the most about working with startups?
The people! Every day we get to interact with passionate entrepreneurs who are taking a huge personal risk to grow an idea that they believe in. This inspires us and, as we spend time working directly with the founding team members, we have the opportunity to watch brainstorming sessions turn into product ideas, which get tested and iterated to become exciting new businesses. Seeing these startups make meaningful impact on the lives of citizens in cities around the globe is incredibly rewarding, and motivates us to continue hunting for new and innovative startup ideas for cities.
What is the hardest or most surprising part of working with startups?
Funny enough, the hardest part is probably the same answer as above – the people!
What we have learned since starting Tumml is that you can have an “A” idea with a “B” team and it likely won’t succeed. The founding team members really need to understand each other and, most importantly, need to be able to communicate well enough during good times and bad times without wanting to throw in the towel. As a startup, there are a lot of ups and downs – whether it be the fundraising or user testing or employees coming and going – and, in order to thrive, a startup’s leadership must be able to resolve issues as a team, and communicate with employees about what is going on.
Do you have a success story to share? Who are the most notable or interesting companies to go through your program?
Obviously we are biased, so we think that all of our companies are notable and interesting – and you can check out our portfolio here! We are incredibly lucky to have worked with 17 of the most exciting startups in urban innovation, and are thrilled to announce the new Winter 2015 Cohort companies.
Here are some examples of interesting Tumml companies:
In September of 2014, Tumml alumni Hitch – a real-time, on-demand, multi-pickup ridesharing solution that matches cars with multiple riders – was acquired by Lyft. Launched in 2013 by Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro, Hitch made carpooling in cities easier by allowing drivers to offer all available seats in their vehicle to passengers heading in the same direction, not only reducing carbon emissions but also creating a more social transit experience.
Another Tumml alumni, HandUp, is a crowdfunding platform for the homeless and other neighbors in need – individuals can post photos/videos, tell their story, and request donations for useful items like medical expenses or housing. This past Summer, HandUp closed an $850,000 seed round from investors such as Marc Benioff, Eric Ries, Jason Calacanis’ Launch Fund and Version One Ventures.
How, if in any way, has Foundersuite helped your company?
Foundersuite has served as an important resource for many of our startups – in particular the Investor CRM, which has helped our teams stay focused and efficient with their investor and VC outreach.
Finally, what is your best tip for running a startup?
Running a startup is not for the faint of heart – it is an absolutely grueling, and often times thankless job. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and that is why the best tip we have for entrepreneurs who want to build a startup is that you need to have the tenacity, the courage, and the willingness to keep pushing, despite the set backs and rejection (because you will have them). There will be lots of ups and downs, but knowing that you are pursuing something that you truly believe in will hold you in good stead.
Finally, surround yourself with people that you trust and who you can count on. This means your founding partners, advisors, business partners, and employees. No matter who they are, make sure that you have an open mind to listen and communicate with one another.
Big thanks to our friends at Tumml! You truly are making a difference. Keep up the good work.