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COLUMBIA, Missouri — Watch out for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in this central Missouri innovation hub, said Ty Clarke amid his startup’s recent move from Canada to the United States.
“A big draw is really the ecosystem that [Equipment Share co-founders Willy and Jabbok] Schlacks have built here in Columbia and are continuing to build. It’s very exciting, and we can’t wait to keep growing our team,” shared Clarke, co-founder of the logistics startup, erly. “We’ll likely start hiring more locally, both in Missouri and more broadly within the U.S.”
Founded in April 2021, erly provides direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands access to same-day and eco-friendly delivery through a network of micro-fulfillment centers.
“The idea came to us when I was ordering shoes from a billion-dollar brand, and the fastest free shipping option was 7-to-10 days,” said Clarke, who co-founded erly with Tomi Puolakka and Sayon Bhattacharjee.
“Naturally, I went to Amazon to see if they had the shoes in stock, and at that point, I realized that these direct-to-consumer brands probably have a problem with abandoned carts — particularly around the shipping,” he continued. “That’s where erly comes in; we tie everything together through a network of micro-warehouses and different machine learning models to efficiently predict demand and then accurately distribute inventory.”
Erly already has two fulfillment centers in Vancouver and Calgary and is looking at Kansas City as a possible warehouse location, Clarke noted.
Through erly’s initial fundraising efforts, Clarke connected with Brett Calhoun, who serves as director of operations at the Scale accelerator, as well as the Schlacks brothers, founders of Scale.
“We realized that they all had a ton of value to offer,” Clarke said. “We knew that we needed to be a part of Scale.”
Scale, which officially launched Sept. 20, is a hybrid of a 12-week accelerator and venture studio, Calhoun explained. It already has welcomed six startups on the accelerator side, and two startups to its venture studio.
Click here to read more about Scale.
“The venture studio side is a bit different because we were asking, ‘Who would make an awesome, technical founder of this startup we’re going to build?’” Calhoun explained.
One of the two startups in the venture studio is goodhouse.ai, which offers home care subscriptions meant to disrupt traditional methods of home repair and maintenance for the 80 million homeowners in the U.S. The Schlacks brothers created the idea behind the startup and selected Zach Cook and Dawson Wright to lead the venture.
“The goodhouse app that we’ve rolled out is in beta phase, and we have about 45 houses on the platform right now,” noted Cook, co-founder and CEO of the Columbia-based startup. “Our current features include a messaging component for users to put in a request anytime there’s a service request at their house. There’s an inventory component as well, where we go in and document all the appliances and systems in your house, so that we can diagnose problems ahead of time.
“A lot of our homeowners have found a lot of value in being able to have that direct line of communication and ease,” he added.
With Scale’s demo day approaching in January, Cook’s goal is to have the platform live for all users, he shared.
“Scale is giving us the foundations to build a really good team, as well as crucial knowledge on how to run a successful company,” he said. “Leaving Scale, we’re still going to be local to Columbia, so it will be really advantageous for us to have those founders and resources right in our corner.”
For founders with early stage startups, or even just an idea, Cook encouraged them to apply for Scale’s second cohort.
“It’s worth it,” he shared. “There’s a ton of support from these unicorn founders, and it’s a really good opportunity to network with other early stage founders.”
Applications for Scale’s second cohort are expected to open in January.
The other 6 startups in Scale’s first cohort include:
- CapGains (New York City, New York) offers a finance software platform enabling investors and individuals to save money & time by simplifying complex tax provisions. The Company’s first product (“QSBS Expert”) empowers users to better understand their eligibility for the Qualified Small Business Stock (“QSBS”) tax incentive — which while designed to spur innovation — is complex and affects millions of investors, founders and employees.
- Design with FRANK (New York City, New York) is developing an architectural intelligence product empowering anyone to design and render homes that fit their exact requirements. FRANK enables projects to evolve from an abstract idea into comprehensive architectural plans ready for permitting and construction in just a few weeks.
- Home Kapital (Columbia, Missouri) offers creative financing solutions that align the needs of all stakeholders within the home-owning value chain through their first product, ClosingCostHelp. Home Kapital accelerates the home buying experience and access to liquidity. Starting with ClosingCostHelp, Home Kapital is creating more veteran homeowners and setting them up for long-term financial success.
- Hounddog (Columbia, Missouri) is automating insurance verification and tracking tools to boost transparency, reduce archaic processes and decrease costs of compliance. Hounddog streamlines insurance compliance, so that a one-person team can compete with a 100-person team.
- Passtur (Miami, Florida) is designed to fix today’s wasteful, costly and inefficient food factories. Passtur is working to develop a new food production system to install in food factories; this will take the existing food products and allow them to be manufactured efficiently, locally and at cost efficiencies beyond what existing production systems can achieve.
- PitaTech (Columbia, Missouri) is building an AI/ML solution that democratizes debt financing by simplifying filings, expediting legal diligence and increasing data transparency. PitaTech’s first product will be a tool to streamline legal filings, diligence and access to data for banks and attorneys. PitaTech is currently being incubated within the Scale venture studio alongside goodhouse.ai.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.