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After Exits, DoApp Founder Looking to Give Back to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community

This article is the second, and final, installment telling the story of DoApp, a mobile development company and Rochester's biggest startup story that you didn't know. In part one we discussed how founders Wade Beavers, Joe Sriver, and David Borrillo launched DoApp on a whim in 2008. After spending a year with little direction, the team focused in and developed three portions of the business: a news and broadcast solution, a real estate market solution, and a healthcare solution, called mRemedy. If you missed part one, click here to catch up with the story.

DoApp founding member and CEO Wade Beavers. Photo courtesy of DoApp.

DoApp founding member and CEO Wade Beavers. Photo courtesy of DoApp.

Beavers tried to perform a complicated juggling act, functioning as CEO of both the news and real estate portion of DoApp as well as the active CEO of mRemedy, the health and wellness mobile application solution in partnership with Mayo Clinic.

None of these three were failing, or at least none were failing fast, but the company needed to focus once again to home in on their “DNA” and capitalize on their intellectual assets.

“I think all three would have gained traction, but I think there’s no way you could have focused on all three,” Beavers said.

Thankfully, fate and strategic partnerships helped just a bit.

mRemedy was gaining traction all by itself. In 2010, the care transitions provider Axial Exchange did an asset acquisition of mRemedy, obtaining the knowledge and infrastructure of that portion of the business, while allowing all the employees to remain with DoApp.

With the focus now on the news and real estate portions of the business, both started to take off. In 2012, the DoApp team was looking to exit, or sell the company. Beavers began running a dual process to sell both the news and real estate sides of DoApp to separate companies.

However, fate reared its head again. Near the very end of the due diligence process, the buyer for the news portion of DoApp backed out, while the real estate piece was successfully acquired by the property solutions provider CoreLogic. This mishap resulted in, essentially, the fragmentation of the company. But the most difficult part, Beavers said, was having to dust himself off and start running what was left of the company again.

“So, imagine you’re spending all your time prepping for that piece and now you have to pick up the pieces and go. So that was really hard,” he explained.

Now whittled down from three to just one company, DoApp doubled down on the news solution. They focused only on providing mobile applications and web solutions for broadcast, radio, and news agencies, building out an impressive portfolio. The company grew so much, Beavers said, that he started to stash away money in case the business eventually went south.

Beavers continued to grow DoApp for two full years until another potential partner came forward. In just July of last year this final portion of DoApp was successfully acquired by NEWSCYCLE Solutions, a leading tech provider for global media based in Bloomington, Minn.

As part of the acquisition deal, DoApp remained in Rochester and all the employees will stay on for at least two years after the acquisition.

“A great product goes away if great people go away,” Beavers rationalized.

Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week. November 13th-17th.

Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week. November 13th-17th.

He said there’s a lot of talent in Rochester and it was important to him to keep these jobs in the area.

“We were doing that for Rochester. …Those are average wage jobs of $90,000 or above, minimum. That’s real money,” he said.

Beavers agreed to stay on as President of Mobile at NEWSCYCLE for at least one year, with all his employees still directly reporting to him. Although that year has passed, he has given no indication of his intent to stay or leave the company. Now with a little bit more time on his hands, he’s begun investing in some other local startups.

One thing that helped Beavers succeed was a perceptive understanding of the “DNA”, or culture, of his company. And not just what he desired for the business’s “DNA”, but really comprehending what his employees valued.

“I think you have to know your character and you have to be true to yourself,” he explained. “You’ve got to be comfortable with yourself and what you are and know that that’s how you’re going to succeed or fail based on those conditions.”

Beavers knows a thing or two about fostering company culture. In his over eight years at DoApp, only one employee has left the business.

Even though the Rochester startup and entrepreneurial community has changed since 2008, Beavers said it’s still in its infancy. He thinks the community in Rochester has to be comfortable with its own “DNA” and understand that unicorns are not going to be built here. But that doesn’t mean the community is lacking in great ideas, sharp talent, or rising potential.

Beavers said while building a business you have to be laser-focused on just the business.

“You have to put everything away and get the thing to the finish line,” he advised.

Now that his own exits are complete, Beavers is looking to give more of his time to the Rochester entrepreneurial community and offer up his advice and unique experience as guidance.

As part of these efforts, the DoApp founding team of Beavers, Joe Sriver, and David Borrillo as well as other key service providers in the community will host an event during Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week to candidly talk about fundraising, acquisitions, pivots, and everything else you want to know about startups but are afraid to ask.

Link up with the team and hear their first-hand account of how they built a startup in Rochester on Wednesday November 15th at 6PM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen. Click here for more information and to register.

One of the Biggest Rochester Startup Stories that You Don't Know: Meet DoApp

DoApp Founders (from left to right): Wade Beavers, Joe Sriver, and David Borrillo. Photo courtesy of DoApp.

DoApp Founders (from left to right): Wade Beavers, Joe Sriver, and David Borrillo. Photo courtesy of DoApp.

Serial entrepreneur Wade Beavers has built his companies. Now, this tech executive is ready to give back to the Rochester entrepreneurial community. After launching the mobile application development startup DoApp Inc. in 2008, Beavers and his leadership team sold the business off as three separate companies from 2012 to 2016. Beavers believes the Rochester community is ripe for growth and wants to share his unique experience and expertise with the startup culture emerging in this city.

While others in Rochester have certainly exited companies, and exited them successfully, the story of DoApp is truly unique and authentically Minnesotan.

Beavers himself began his tech career right at IBM in Rochester, working as a user experience architect in 1998. During his time with that company, he met visual designer Joe Sriver; the pair’s fate have been tightly linked ever since.

Beavers said that he and Sriver hatched several ideas during their early days at IBM, “but we had no idea of business. That wasn’t even on our radar. It was more of the creative juices kind of flowing,” he explained.

Searching for something a bit more, Sriver left IBM for a position with Google in 2001, at a time when the now tech behemoth was a relative unknown, becoming the company’s very first user experience designer. Google, of course, takes off; Sriver continued with the company until after they went public. He then moved back to the Midwest with his family, searching for the next challenge.

Cue old friend Beavers.

“We basically decided on a whim that we’re going to start a company,” Beavers explained.

With no real plan, except for the nagging idea that mobile technology was going to be the next big thing, Sriver, Beavers, and fellow IBM-er David Borrillo launched DoApp in 2008. From his success with Google, Sriver single-handedly funded the startup, preventing the team from bootstrapping or seeking outside funding. From the start, they focused on product development and growth.

“The idea of starting a startup in 2008, specifically in Rochester, the ‘DNA’ of that option was pretty limited,” Beavers explained.

He found few avenues for business assistance in Rochester, especially for a tech startup. It was also extremely difficult to convince potential employees to leave positions at established companies such as IBM.

“Most of my employees that we had during this time were engineers that had five years at a big company, at least. And wanted more. Wanted independence,” Beavers said.

Like every other tech business in the spring of 2008, the freshly formed team applied to become an Apple developer for the launch of the company’s brand new App Store later that year. Apple was only accepting 500 apps from 2500 companies. DoApp had absolutely no reason to succeed.

But they had not just one, but three apps chosen for the App Store’s opening in July 2008.

After that initial success, Beavers said the team was just burning through cash, trying to figure things out. “Figuring things out” included completing some demo work for Purina, landing a seven-app deal with Sony BMG, and creating an app for American Idol winner David Cook.

“We didn’t know what we were really doing,” Beavers laughed. “We just did it to keep paying the bills.”

To put a cork in the cash hemorrhage, they needed to focus on their core strengths, their “DNA”, and develop some sort of profitable business plan. Beavers had a hunch- which turned out to be remarkably accurate- that with the advancement of tech capabilities, consumers were going to want to perform the same activities on their mobile phones as they could on their computers using the web.

He thought these basic activities would include: transactions, entertainment, education, and added utility.

At the time, the software as a service (SaaS) model, where software is licensed as a subscription service, was not as ubiquitous as it is today.  After surviving for one year, the team committed to SaaS and began developing mobile solutions for the news and broadcast industry, landing their first client in WCCO-TV.

“You have to have a business model in place. We didn’t initially. But then I realized, here’s how we’re going to make our money. It was all about software as a service,” Beavers explained.

This is where the story starts to get even more…intense.

As DoApp was building this first product for WCCO-TV, another portion of the team also began creating a mobile solution to tap into the enormous real estate market. The goal, Beavers explained, was to provide a SaaS product for every Multiple Listing Service (MLS) association.

They didn’t end up replacing MLS, but at its height DoApp’s real estate solution provided MLS subscription members with data-rich listings right on their mobile devices in ten of the top twenty real estate markets in the United States.

Then in 2009, Do App formed a partnership with Mayo Clinic and Dr. Amit Sood to launch an app teaching relaxation and breathing techniques. After completion of this product build, DoApp and Mayo continued the partnership to create additional health and wellness-focused mobile applications.

“So basically, I’ve built three companies, thinking one of these three is going to take off. In their own weird way, they were all surviving,” Beavers explained.

Check back in on Thursday for the second part of this story where Wade talks about successfully exiting all three companies that were built within DoApp and gives his insight on the Rochester entrepreneurial community.

Rochester Teen Startup Moves on to Final Round of Minnesota Cup

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Five Rochester teens will represent the city as one of only twenty-four startups remaining in the Minnesota Cup venture competition.  This team of all female students is developing an app, called Via, that limits distracted driving. They are the only startup from Olmsted County left standing in the seven-month long competition.

Minnesota Cup, the largest state-wide startup competition in the United States, is in its thirteenth year of operation. Since its inception, this annual event has supported over 13K Minnesotan entrepreneurs across ninety-three percent of all Minnesota counties, awarding over $2M in seed capital. Minnesota Cup finalists have gone on to raise over $300M to create jobs within the state.

The Minnesota Cup competition begins in late March, where startups with less than $1M in annual revenue can enter one of eight different categories: Energy/CleanTech/Water, Food/Ag/Beverage, General, HighTech, Impact Ventures, Life Science/HealthIT, Student, and Youth Divisions.

Division semifinalists are announced in late May; finalists in each division are revealed at the end of August.

This year, 520 startups entered Minnesota Cup, competing for over $450K in seed money. In addition to capital, participating startups also received business plan feedback, networking opportunities, and mentorship from leaders within their industry.

The Rochester team “SKeMAs” is one of three startups remaining in the Youth Division. The women of “SKeMAs”-Sophia Fulton, Stela Baltic, Anushri Walimbe, Maurine Macharia, and Keerthi Manikonda- are developing a mobile app called Via to mitigate distracted driving among their peers. They hope to add additional layers of complexity as the product matures.

Green Garden Bakery and Peacebunny Island are the two additional finalists in the Youth Division. Green Garden Bakery grows urban vegetables and prepares them into healthy desserts for their community. Peacebunny Island is creating a rabbit sanctuary for Angoras and other rare breeds used in the fur industry. The rabbits are given gentle haircuts four times a year and the fur is spun into “HEARTfelt” humane, eco-friendly yarn.

This year’s Minnesota Cup will culminate in a free, inclusive event on October 9th at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis where the overall Grand Prize winner will be announced.

Last year, the Life Science/Health IT startup Stemonix won the entire competition. Stemonix creates physiologically relevant plates of microtissue for drug discovery and development, including a micoBrain and microHeart platform. 

Dessa- a rapper, poet, and member of the Minneapolis based hip-hop group Doomtree- will emcee the Minnesota Cup Grand Prize Ceremony this October.

Five Rochester Teens Hoping to Advance Through Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup

SKeMAs team. From left to right: Stela Baltic, Sophia Fulton, Anushri Walimbe, Maurine Macharia, and Keerthi Manikonda.

SKeMAs team. From left to right: Stela Baltic, Sophia Fulton, Anushri Walimbe, Maurine Macharia, and Keerthi Manikonda.

“SKeMAs”- a team of five Rochester-area students- are developing an app, called Via, to limit distracted driving among teens. This group of young women advanced all the way to the semifinal round of the global tech competition Technovation a few months ago. Now, they are working their way through the Youth Division of Minnesota Cup, making the roads safer one driver at a time.

Stela Baltic, Sophia Fulton, Maurine Macharia, Keerthi Manikonda, and Anushri Walimbe saw a problem affecting their peers and everyone around them. The girls originally designed an app, called Via, to log hours while training for a driving permit. However, they soon recognized a larger problem than missed driving hours: teenage distracted driving.

“We’re all teens ourselves and we all run these super busy lives, where we’re constantly communicating with different people,” Fulton explained. “It’s so easy to get caught up and start texting while you’re driving or even looking at your messages while you’re driving.”

To combat this issue, the team expanded the functionality of their mobile app Via to lower distracted driving rates among teens, and adults, to make the roads a little bit safer.

Once installed, Via reminds users to mute all notifications while driving. The app sends automated replies to anyone texting the user while they are driving and can even notify the text-er once the car has reached its destination.

Now, the girls are beefing up some features of Via to enable multiple user accounts and other capabilities. They hope to ultimately link the app to the on-board diagnostic system of the car.

“If we can get the phone on the same level as the car itself, that can allow parents to monitor driving habits as well,” explained Manikonda.

Such a connection could enable speed threshold monitoring, where parents could be alerted when their teen accelerates over a set speed limit. It could also allow for supervision of braking and reckless driving behaviors.

The team began building the app last summer and homed in their concept during the twelve-week long Technovation Challenge. This international competition encourages teams of four to five girls create, design, and build mobile apps to solve real world problems to inspire technology, entrepreneurship, and STEM careers in young women.

Since 2010, ten thousand girls from seventy-eight countries have participated in the tech challenge.

The Minnesota branch of the program, Technovation[MN], culminated in a state-wide pitch event, called Appaplooza, on May 7th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This year, approximately two hundred fifty girls participated.

Two high school and six middle school teams advanced from Appaplooza to the semifinal round of the global Technovation competition, including the SKeMAs team. In the end, SKeMAs finished as runners up in the world for their category in this round.

Although the five girls on SKeMAs got to Technovation through different paths, it was clear that the experience was unforgettable to them all. Some, like Fulton, were always interested in entrepreneurship and saw the competition as an opportunity. Others, like Manikonda, were coerced into it.

However, “Technovation,” Baltic explained, “is all about expanding your horizons.”

As part of the competition, the girls learned to communicate and function as a team. Some learned how to code. And some learned about business development. They also connected with and got input from leaders in the community, including Techstars Product Manager Rachelle Oribio.

They also, most importantly, learned how to support other young women, friend or foe.

“You see all these unique, brilliant ideas coming from girls your age. And it just reminds you that we’re just as capable as boys of helping to change the world,” summed up Baltic.

Now, the team is in the middle of the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup- the largest statewide startup competition in the United States. They’re working to make Via just a little bit better than it was during Technovation.

“For Technovation, they were really big on idea. Are you actually helping the community and are you using your…coding skills to do that?” Manikonda explained. “Minnesota Cup is all about the actual entrepreneurship.”

She said the team is a bit inexperienced in navigating the business side of things, whereas some of their competitors already have a viable product with sales.

Plus, they’ve run into a major competitor along the way: Apple. In June, a beta version of iOS 11 launched with a “Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode” to block texts, incoming calls, and notifications while the car is in motion.

However, the team doesn’t seem to be all that discouraged.

“One of our mentors, Rachelle [Oribio] spoke to us about this,” Walimbe said. She told the girls they just had to be better and one step closer than the competition to succeed.

Manikonda said the team is expanding some capabilities of the app that Apple doesn’t have yet and believes that integrating changes into the actual phone operating system itself is limiting.

“As app developers, I feel that we can take in feedback and get new updates out on the app quicker than software updates could do the job,” she explained.

With Apple looming on the horizon, the team is laser focused on Minnesota Cup and seeing where that experience can take them. They’ll learn if they advance to the final round this Friday.