Pomp, Circumstance … and Pivots

Idea Accelerator Class 15 Graduates

The fifteenth class of StarterStudio’s Idea Stage Accelerator graduated recently with a bit of “pomp and circumstance.” As is tradition, the final installment of the 10-week program is a “Pitch Night,” where founders deliver a slide deck they have developed, take questions, and for the majority of participants, experience what it’s like to give a formal business presentation.

The night included live pitches from StarterStudio in downtown Orlando, remote pitches via video, and in-person and remote questions from founders in our current Build Stage Accelerator. As well as video recording of the entire event. While no diplomas were handed out, each company founder did receive a 3-D printed statue as a send-off.

As you can imagine, the staff and supporters of StarterStudio are quite proud to be marking this occasion of Class 15’s graduation. This class, in particular, reflected back to us exactly why we have this program.

We are serious about the “outcome” of each startup involved. It’s not a word we just throw around, but this program is meant to be transformational. It takes smart, diligent founders and brings them to a crescendo of sorts.

The “results” we are looking for in this transformation are:

Move forward. A founder moves through the program and finds they have a viable idea, prospective customers that will want their product or service, and they have the outlines of how to make money to sustain their business. Their move forward may mean they apply to our Build Stage accelerator.

Stop. An alternative outcome is that customer discovery and feedback, iterating on different business models, and finding a large enough market isn’t bringing up three cherries on the slot machine. They “worked” every step of the program, but the idea is not viable, for now. PS: stopping is hard.

Pivot. The original idea has morphed. A B2C approach might shift to B2B. Customer discovery revealed some insights that point things in a new angle. Not easy. A sailor would call out jibe-ho, shorthand for making sure the boom doesn’t come around and take your head off. It can be a violent maneuver.

Moment of truth. Another result? We have in nearly every cohort of this program someone who comes to a realization, a moment of truth.

In Class 15 we had a founder, Gabby Mercado of EASE, with a disruptive idea focused on women’s period products. Everyone in the cohort (including class facilitators) cheered Gabby and her ideas on.

But Gabby had shelved her passion above all passions, music education, because of COVID, saying, “I’m not sure if EASE is the right time for now but I do know I was robbed of an opportunity to pursue my passion for a whole year, and I don’t want to ever take that for granted again.”

Talk about crescendo! That is a transformational outcome we can respect.

We also see founders who pause to do a deeper dive in customer discovery and competitor research. That’s a good outcome, too. Sometimes, too, practicality rears its ugly head. Founders are often juggling a full-time career or in a demanding education program. Not so much a pause as time to get more ducks in a row.

This is what the Idea Stage Accelerator is all about. Our mantra: we can help you move further and faster than you will on your own.

Our least favorite thing to hear from a founder applying to or entering the program is something like, “we’ve already invested $60,000 of our own money in our concept, we want to be in the program to get to market faster and start getting a return on our investment.”

Oftentimes this is before adequate customer discovery or too little competitor research and other skipped steps. When the idea is solid and the founders are capable, we let them in, but we reign them in with our deliberate process before another chunk of cash is consumed.

We celebrate the hard work that these grads have put into the program, and we celebrate the transformations that have taken place. The companies that participated in Class 15 are:

AJ Marks Entertainment

Software platform for the live events industry to facilitate the use of vetted, top-notch technicians as well as logistics services in any location.


Platform focused on relieving the pains associated with finding, purchasing, and closing on a residential home.

CAMPaholics Club

Community-building app that connects lovers of camping with others interested in camping to network, start conversations, and share information.


App and biodegradable, compostable or reusable feminine hygiene products that solve the problem of period leakage, as well as reducing plastic waste.


Dedicated platform that assists For Sale by Owner transactions to connect with buyers and supplies other services to help owners to save money.

• Honorly Flower Crowns

Online fresh flower crown business that connects local artists to buyers for weddings and special occasions; dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

J Network

All-in-one platform to connect photographers and filmmakers to local actors and models and to showcase local film festivals, open mic nights, and workshops.

PACE (Parent And Child Empowerment)

A communications platform to improve parent-therapist engagement and increase parent involvement in speech-language therapy.

The Locals Mix

Multimedium community platform for creatives to highlight and support local musicians, artists, and provide fundraising opportunities for nonprofits.


Mobile app to share content and connect with credentialed thought leaders, influencers, experts, journalists, and academics on important topics.


Zero waste delivery service for local goods and produce where sustainably sourced baskets are used and reused to reduce waste in the supply chain.