Entrepreneurs came from as far as Ghana and Mexico to Durham last week to gather with a cohort of eight early-stage North Carolina startups for intense training, mentorship and business development from The Startup Factory (TSF)

Over the course of three days, TSF’s Lizzy Hazeltine, Chris Heivly, and Dave Neal led 17 startup founders through a rigorous bootcamp based on “lean canvas” theories. It was the third such bootcamp held in North Carolina in the last nine months, and an effort The Startup Factory plans to continue.

The goal is two-fold. First, TSF hopes to impart knowledge and expertise to North Carolina startups at an earlier stage than those that traditionally went through its accelerator program—the aim is to help new founders increase customer traction and better understand their markets earlier in their startup journey. TSF also hopes to broaden its reach and network to both create a stronger pipeline of new startups and add to the state’s startup ecosystem.

Or as Hazeltine puts it, “we’ve seen an opportunity in these companies—if we get a hold of these companies sooner, then they can build better, faster, more, and we have a relationship with them and have armed them with some tools.”

Free of charge, the Durham bootcamp was popular enough it attracted what Hazeltine calls “a healthy applicant pool” of startups, more than TSF was able to enroll.

Bootcamper Renán Ugalde traveled from Mexico to join his cofounder Ivan Barajas Vargas of UGetDeal—an online marketplace that matches grocery stores with unsold perishable goods with buyers. The bootcamp is designed for early-stage ventures like UGetDeal that are at the beginning stage of acquiring customers. But the definition of “early stage” among the bootcamp companies ranged from ideation to significant market traction. Riivet, for example, had over $600,000 in revenue last year. But regardless of stage, the bootcamp helps startups make a lot of progress over the next 30 to 60 days.

The previous two bootcamps were held in Winston-Salem and Greensboro last August and December. While the core of curriculum remains the same as when we first reported on it last fall, the TSF team has tweaked and improved the structure and content after each bootcamp.


Finding a podcast featuring your favorite journalist, actor or comedian can be difficult because existing marketplaces lack what most other media search sites have—metadata. PodRef co-founders Steph Garrett and Greg Urquhart of Richmond, Va. have extensive experience using metadata to organize mass quantities of information and hope to apply that experience to help consumers make sense of the exploding podcast economy. PodRef will be positioned as a metadata repository for podcasts.

Ms. Computer Teacher 

A Raleigh middle school technology teacher, Toni Shellady has created free, project-based technology lessons that teachers can seamlessly integrate into their daily curriculum. Ms. Computer Teacher has already developed and posted 50 tutorial videos to a YouTube channel and has over two million subscribers. Shellady is looking for resources and ways to scale a business to meet demand.