Startup accelerators aren’t new, but ThinkHouse gives new meaning to “entrepreneurial environment.” The inaugural living-learning-company building program hosted eight entrepreneurs in a renovated house in Boylan Heights since last December. Yesterday, we recapped the experience and talked to the ThinkHouse founders about the future of the program in cities around the world. Today, we highlight the five promising businesses either born or further developed during an intensive six-months of ThinkHouse residence. The fellows pitched their businesses at a Demo Day at HQ Raleigh last night, and ExitEvent sat in to get their take on a first-of-its-kind experience in the Triangle. So here you go, the stories behind five startups we’ll be watching in weeks and months to follow.


Zack Milburn wants to make shopping for services as easy as shopping for products online. He founded CityWix to be that solution for customers. Services such as cleaning, babysitting and tech support are showcased in a highly visual, straight-forward format on the CityWix website. All services are offered at an advertised fee with no “quotes, bids, or bargaining,” says Milburn. According to him, this is the main differentiating factor between CityWix and other sites like Angie’s List and Craigslist.

But the concept is the same: users can either post their services or buy services from others. CityWix is the platform for the transactions, and takes 15% of the payment plus a 50-cent service fee.

CityWix hasn’t raised any funds yet. It mainly lists services located in the Triangle, but plans to expand to new markets.


According to Jay Dawkins (pictured above), founder of Cityzen, the gap between Millennials and older generations is sorely apparent in the realm of Shaner explains how searching for things to do in a city usually involves the frustrating process of visiting websites that “look like they were made in the 90s,” and scouring events sections in local papers. His solution is to modernize the process using the current behavior of photo sharing.

Offline is a website (with a mobile app coming soon) where users can view a stream of other users’ local experiences. They can also receive personalized suggestions for places and events in their area, as well as “check off” their participation. Users are incentivized to be active, Shaner says. Offline gives out awards to the most active users during the month.

Offline wants to focus on underserved mid-market U.S. cities, says Shaner. So far, he’s raised $100,000 (including $50K from his participation last year in the Startup Factory) and secured financial support from Angie’s List Vice President Michael Holt. The site has over 4,000 users in the Triangle.

Offline’s next move is to launch the mobile app, which Shaner believes will help him reach many more people and expand to other cities.

“We spent the time getting it right with our website,” Shaner says. “You measure twice and cut once.” 


During the social hour after the pitches ended, I asked the startups about the greatest benefit of ThinkHouse. One theme seemed to be clear: peer support and involvement.

“The people and support at ThinkHouse was the best,” says Dawkins of Cityzen. Working alongside so many people going through the same entrepreneurial struggles helped ease the stress of developing his business.

Shaner echoed this sentiment. It’s less about the leadership growth and speakers who came in intermittently, he says.

“There was no specific person I can think of [that influenced me the most],” says Shaner. “In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s about diversity. There was so much input from so many different areas. It was amazing—all the inspiration from others.”