EDF works with CoBuilders to launch 21-company cohort in Mississippi

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Startup companies from around the state convened in Jackson May 3 to swear in the inaugural cohort of CoBuilders, powered by Microsoft.

CoBuilders is Mississippi’s first statewide startup accelerator with seven regional partners working together to identify new startup companies and ideas around the state and accelerate their success. Companies offering products ranging from medical devices, food, and even technology to track dirt, were selected from regional pitch events that took place all across the state. Three were chosen to represent each region (Clarksdale, The Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Oxford, Starkville and Vicksburg), bringing the cohort to a total of 21 companies.

Arnold Houston’s You Are Valued Everyday (YAVE), LLC., Houston Hoskins’ POMster and Shovel Solutions, co-founded by Ben Street and AJ Davidson, were chosen to represent Oxford.

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YAVE, LLC. is a telecom company that specializes in tracking devices for family protection using the most advanced wearable technology. Their devices monitor location, alert on anomalies and communicate using cell phone technology.

Hoskins founded POMster, a program that helps early-stage startups demonstrate proof of market and customer interest prior to Letter Of Intent execution. POMster seeks to improve startup survival rates as well as broaden resource distribution from the capital-providing community.

Shovel Solutions, LLC. uses its own software named Shovel to offer digital commerce and logistics Software as a Service (SaaS) for the pre-construction/mineral foundation industry. Shovel triangulates the business activity between the three user-ecosystems that facilitate the industry process, a process that is a prerequisite to any further construction occurring.

All participating companies will take part in a 12-week startup accelerator program, with a special statewide pitch showcase to investors at the end of the program.

All CoBuilders cohort companies are eligible for a minimum of $7,650 in non-dilutive grant funding provided throughout the program, and eligible companies can apply to the Mississippi Seed Fund for an initial proof-of-concept award.

The ultimate prize, of course, would be seed or angel funding from investors that they’re able to wow with the pitch that they give to prospective investors—and the general public—at the end of the 12-week accelerator.

“This is the first accelerator program that covers the entire state – and working with regional partners provides us the bandwidth to make that possible,” said Innovate Mississippi CEO Tony Jeff. “Not only does it benefit the individual founders and their companies, but it shines a spotlight on how much potential there is for entrepreneurial growth in Mississippi.”

“Inclusive economic growth can only happen when we work together with business, nonprofit, entrepreneurial, and community groups,” said Microsoft TechSpark Manager J.J. Townsend. “By collaborating with Innovate Mississippi, we can create an environment where more people and businesses have a chance to thrive. We see this as just the start of a broader commitment to bridge technology gaps and foster lasting regional innovation.”

Twenty-one founders and members of their startup teams will tackle topics designed to help them prove the commercial viability of their product and the effectiveness of the marketing and financial plans.

Innovate Mississippi will walk the CoBuilders companies through a curriculum including tasks such as market-fit analysis, customer interviews and pricing. Along the way, mentors and guest speakers will offer advice on avoiding pitfalls, honing the solution they’re offering and making sales.

“Entrepreneurs will walk through a development model that addresses technology, market, and financial risk in each stage of development,” said Tasha Bibb, director of entrepreneurial development at Innovate Mississippi. “This process will help them understand how to mitigate risk in those areas to become an investor-ready deal.” 

CoBuilders is a regional partnership convened by Innovate Mississippi working together with Mississippi State University, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation/The University of Mississippi, Higher Purpose Co, Jackson State University/The Beanpath, The Mississippi Polymer Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi, The Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College in Vicksburg and The Meeting Place at the Gulf Coast.

The partners hope that bringing all of these stakeholders together on the state level will “raise all boats” in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Having a statewide business accelerator is something desperately needed – CoBuilders will not only benefit the companies going through the program significantly but also communities as we strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem to encourage companies to stay and grow in Mississippi,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County EDF. “We had a strong pool of applicants and while it was difficult to narrow it down, we are proud of the cohort we selected and their opportunity to develop and flourish in Oxford, which has become a hotbed of entrepreneurial energy.”

EDF Vice President Allen Kurr said they are excited to be a part of the program and to promote the good work of Innovate Mississippi. It allows them to be a part of a special

CoBuilders launched an in-person meeting on May 3 at Coalesce located at 109 North State St. in downtown Jackson. Subsequent training sessions will be held virtually, with the final cohort-wide “Pitch Day” taking place on Thursday, July 28. Investors, stakeholders and the general public will be invited to see each company’s “shark tank”-style pitch and presentation.