The second class of ThinkHouse Fellows
is hard at work this spring mastering the art of entrepreneurship. ThinkHouse is a living community for young entrepreneurs established in 2013 by the same group who founded downtown Raleigh’s startup campus HQ Raleigh.
Last year’s ThinkHouse graduates went on to launch eight companies, create mobile apps, raise capital, partner with nonprofits—they were awarded thousands in grants. Seven of the graduates are still pursuing the entrepreneurial ventures they initially brought to ThinkHouse. This year’s class, meanwhile, is pursuing projects in robotics, music, fashion, cycling, social enterprise and mobile. They complete the program in June.
ThinkHouse is the first program of its kind in the nation and is paving the way for young people with extraordinary ideas. Its mission is “to provide recent graduates with the environment, network, resources, and skills required to build profitable and scalable companies.” And its founders hope to eventually copy the concept
in other cities and countries.
ThinkHouse runs an 11-month Venture Accelerator program for recent college graduates who live and work together in the eight-bedroom house located in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights—March 1 is the deadline for applicants to its third class, which starts in August.
Liz Tracy, the director of community outreach at HQ Raleigh, says the program is critical to the future of young companies. Beyond resources like mentorship, work space and weekly workshops, the fellows gain access to a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and have the opportunity to build valuable working relationships.
“It helps create bonds between all of them, and it’s good for the community development,” Tracy says. “You’re sharing all the information about your company, and you want people around you who are supporting your idea and to have a relationship with somebody allows for that support to happen.”
With full access to HQ, ThinkHouse Fellows are encouraged to take advantage of the shared coworking spaces and turn to other HQ members for support. The living space in Boylan Heights is designed around common areas where the Fellows can collaborate.
“We say what you put into it is what you get out of it. I think a lot of the value comes from the relationships that are formed here at HQ. The resources and all the brains in the same room,” Tracy says.
Fellow Sophia Hyder
has found direction as an entrepreneur thanks to the support of the ThinkHouse and HQ community. Hyder, who recently secured a mater's in international development policy and applied economics from Duke, has recently stepped back from her initial ThinkHouse project Evolvemint,
a social luxury traveler-inspired fashion label, in order to build Papilia
, a travel-oriented app. It helps travelers pack for trips, considering location and cultural nuances, activities, style and
length of stay. It also allows for in-app clothing and gear purchases.
The name Papilia comes from the Latin word for butterfly which Hyder feels embodies the app’s concept of taking flight.
Hyder pitched the idea for Papilia at the 2014 Triangle Startup Weekend Women
and was later approached by people dying to try it. She realized the great opportunity in the software market, but she was torn between working on the app or sticking with her path in product design.
Hyder says the ThinkHouse community helped guide her to make the switch. They encouraged her to host focus groups and find legal resources to discuss the two ideas.
“They have given me the ecosystem I need and support to know I can get this off the ground in a very thoughtful way,” Hyder says.
ThinkHouse has also provided a supportive environment for ThinkHouse Fellow Owen Jordan
to advance his company RESQD
. RESQD is a social enterprise that creates educational opportunities for orphans by designing and selling t-shirts and postcards featuring their artwork. Jordan began RESQD as an undergraduate and later joined the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Jordan says that EI taught him entrepreneurial skills at a local level, and ThinkHouse has helped him think on a global scale. Jordan spent the last week in Guatemala for a RESQD project in partnership with the Raleigh-based nonprofit Lemonade International. Jordan met the nonprofit’s CEO Bill Cummings through HQ Raleigh and was able to extend the reach of RESQD.
Although the ThinkHouse Fellows pursue projects in different niche markets, Jordan says they are united by the program and their dedication to entrepreneurship.
“We’re here doing the same thing, pursuing projects that have purpose and passion,” Jordan says. “Spending time with them challenges me and encourages me to work even harder and constantly look to learn.”
The other members of the second ThinkHouse Fellows class include:
, designer of the smart wristband called KonnectBand
targeted to elderly populations for easy communication in times of distress;
, creator of the electroluminescent performance apparel line for bikers and runners called E-MVMT
Jesse Rodar, founder of the luxury handbag and sportswear line SALVO;
Nicholas Cioffi, inventor of Bulletin Mobile, which works with NC State professors to send text messages to their students when assignments are posted or deadlines are approaching;
, co-founder of music marketing platform BoomBoxFM
and the SF Robotics team (creator of a 3D-printed robotic arm) comprised of co-founders Soroush Jamali, Alex Browne, and Fabio Berger.