This April, Goizueta Business School’s Startup Launch Accelerator program celebrated its sixth Demo Day. This annual pitch competition is the culmination of 10 weeks of hard work for early-stage ventures.

The event is a joint collaboration between Goizueta’s Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and The Hatchery.

This year’s Demo Day began with Dean Gareth James offering welcoming remarks. Then, the 12 participating startups took to the stage and delivered five-minute pitches to about 40 prospective investors. Emory University faculty and staff and more than 80 local community members filled the crowd.

Each year, we’ve seen the quality of startups in the cohort get better and better.

Brian Cayce, managing director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

“Demo Day was exceptional,” shares Brian Cayce, managing director of the center. “The turnout was fantastic.”

The 2024 cohort included the following startups: Excellence Box, Motian, BrICS, AskSci, Team Swift Gear, Immform, Explorify, Uppergate Bio, Direct to Camera, Por+, Xpediter, and Alabaster House.

Founders from Goizueta's 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator program pose with fellows from the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Founders from the 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator pose with fellows from the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Learning the Path to Success

The Emory Goizueta Startup Launch Accelerator is an initiative of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The program is open to anyone affiliated with Emory—from faculty and staff to students and alumni. In fact, the majority of participants over the years have come from outside of the business school.

The goal of the program is to help early-stage founders turn ideas into solid business models. This year’s participants conducted a total of 180 customer interviews to refine and sharpen their plans. All 12 startups felt confident in their pitches before Demo Day. They said they had a much more complete and thorough understanding of their business models by the end of the program.

We view this program as a service the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation provides the university.

Brian Cayce

“There are innovators across all pockets of the university, and we want to support them.” explains Cayce.

The Expert Behind the Entrepreneurs

Christy Brown, who, for the last three years has served as the lead instructor for the Startup Launch Accelerator program
Christy Brown

For the last three years, Christy Brown has been the primary accelerator instructor. Brown, the chief executive officer of Dr. Noze Best, designs the sessions and pulls from her extensive network to bring the most realistic information and lessons to the participants. Goizueta’s own mentor network also contributes to these sessions.

The 10 modules cover critical topics for early-stage ventures. These include subjects such as the business model canvas, go-to-market strategy, market entry, raising venture capital, and pitching, explains Brown.  

Participants were grateful for Brown. They praised her willingness to share her contacts, experiences, and knowledge throughout the course of the program.

One of the most rewarding aspects of participating in this program is the opportunity to share hard-earned lessons and wisdom with budding entrepreneurs.

Christy Brown, lead accelerator instructor

“Watching these founders pivot, adapt, and ultimately scale their businesses is incredibly fulfilling,” shares Brown. “Being part of their growth journey and witnessing their progress firsthand is what makes this work so gratifying for me.”

Building a Business Blueprint

Karthik Ramesh brought his software platform BriCS to the 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator program. he software platform helps doctors customize plans for brain-tumor patients.
Karthik Ramesh, BrICS

Karthik Ramesh and Hyunsuk Shim are both professors of radiation oncology at Emory University’s School of Medicine. The idea they brought to the Startup Launch Accelerator is the Brain Imaging Collaboration Suite, also known as BrICS. The software platform helps doctors customize plans for brain-tumor patients, explains Ramesh.

Ramesh’s favorite part of the experience was developing and refining BrICS’ pitch and pitch deck. In order to get there, he had to first identify and understand his ideal customers. Then, he had to figure out what the market looked like for the product, including researching any existing competitors.

This accelerator helps people turn an idea into a tangible business plan with actionable follow-ups for the future.

Karthik Ramesh, BrICS

Participants also got to meet with lawyers who specialize in startups as well as CEOs of other ventures and financial experts.

“Pitching at Demo Day truly felt like an accomplishment,” recalls Ramesh. “Every founder formed a bond with the others as we learned about and gave advice for everyone’s companies. It felt special to sit together and cheer each other on during our pitches.”

Tapping Into Resources

For fellow founder, Douglas Brooks II 24MBA, the confidence that the program – particularly Brown and Cayce – helped cultivate was one of his favorite parts.

“You really work on the psychology of your business and ask yourself a bunch of times throughout the workshops, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

Douglas Brooks II 24MBA, Team Swift Gear
Douglas Brooks II 24MBA, Team Swift Gear

Brooks has been working on his startup since 2019. His venture is a health tech company that aims to reduce the number of heart attacks in the U.S. each year with aquatic exercise. His father was a special education teacher and swimming coach. Together, they began to develop an apparatus that people can wear in the water to add resistance to water-based physical activity. Better yet, it does so without adding extra pressure or stress to joints or existing injuries. After watching an elderly fraternity member decline in health and disposition following an injury, Brooks wanted to bring the device that he and his father created to other people.

“We had a technology that can decrease people’s fall risk and improve cardiovascular health. I felt like there weren’t enough tools to bring people to the water for strength training. So, that’s what really made me want to go into the health space,” says Brooks, who joined Goizueta’s One-Year MBA program to learn more about raising funds after working in finance for several years.

Since launching the startup, Brooks has secured a U.S. patent, gathered dozens of testimonials from consumers and college athletic departments, established a medical advisory board, and conducted a study about the benefits and outcomes of using his device.

Goizueta's 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator program cohort
The 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator cohort

Brooks says he has grown tremendously through his experience in the Startup Launch Accelerator. He found it especially helpful to share ideas with fellow founders and learn about how someone as successful as Brown deals with challenges.

Now, Brooks is spending his summer as part of the incubator at The Hatchery.

Everyone has a greater understanding of where they want to go. You might not have the entire puzzle figured out, but we at least have the outside pieces.

Douglas Brooks II 24MBA

Experiential Learning for Students

In addition to the benefits for program participants, the accelerator also serves as a learning experience for Goizueta students. Fellows of The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation play a critical role as program managers. They act as resources for the startups and ensure that everything runs smoothly throughout the sessions.

“The program helps to move Emory-related ventures forward by leveraging the skills and competencies of Goizueta faculty and staff,” says Jill Perry-Smith, academic director of the center and professor of organization and management.

It is exciting to see students build on the knowledge they learn in our courses via the accelerator and take their enterprises to the next level.

Jill Perry-Smith, academic director and professor of organization and management

From Classroom to Crash Course

Goizueta's Qazi Haq 25MBA serves as a Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation fellow and a program manager for the 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator program.
Qazi Haq 25MBA

Qazi Haq 25MBA says his experience as a fellow at the center has supplemented what he’s learning in the classroom. Whereas course work might focus on how large companies operate, sitting in on the accelerator program sessions inadvertently taught him the ins-and-outs of running a startup. He got a crash course in the early-stage venture ecosystem, including how to raise funds, what investors look for, and startup-industry dynamics.

Haq is also involved in the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund, another program within the center. This academic year, he was an associate, but he’s now a student fund manager. Listening to the pitches allowed Haq to connect several participants to potential funds.

I love being around people trying to build new things because it’s always exciting and they have passion.

Qazi Haq 25MBA

Exploring Career Paths in Entrepreneurship

Goizueta's Molly McDonald 25EvMBA serves as a Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation fellow and a program manager for the 2024 Startup Launch Accelerator program.
Molly McDonald 25EvMBA

For Molly McDonald 25EvMBA, being involved in the accelerator is part of her job as community engagement coordinator for the program. She’s also a Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation fellow and working on her MBA through Goizueta’s evening program.

The MBA experience is a time for students to explore career paths, even those paths that involve more risk, such as entrepreneurship, she says. This program is an excellent opportunity for students with business ideas to take advantage of valuable resources like mentorship, networking, and funding.

“There is no clear or defined path to becoming an entrepreneur. However, the Startup Launch Accelerator puts a framework in place for founders to build their business model and move forward,” says McDonald. “The program also puts Emory on the map as a leader in entrepreneurship education and experiential learning opportunities for students.”

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