Hayneedle co-founder to launch ecommerce, SaaS startup accelerator

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Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013 12:00 am

Startup accelerator Straight Shot is set to open in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Scott Technology Center. 

A little more than 10 years ago, Mark Hasebroock teamed up with two other Omaha entrepreneurs to buy and turn Hammocks.com into a viable business. Today, that company is known as Hayneedle, and it's one of the internet's largest retailers.

Hasebroock (left), who now manages a venture capital fund, has a new goal in the ecommerce world, but this time it isn't to build just one business, it's to build 100.

"Our vision is in 10 years we want to create 100 companies," Hasebroock said last week of his new endeavour, Straight Shot, a startup accelerator focused on assisting ecommerce and SaaS model startups.

No other accelerator is specilizing in ecommerce, he said, "we're the only ones doing it."

Straight Shot, which will operate out of a 3,000-square-foot space in the Scott Technology Center, is accepting applications from those with a "back of the envelope idea" to revenue-generating companies in order to fill up to six spots, Hasebroock said. Startups that enroll in Straight Shot's three-month curriculum—set to kick off in July—will receive $15,000-$20,000 in funding, discounted living arrangements nearby, access to service providers and interaction with a roster of more than 70 mentors. Companies that participate give up a 6 percent equity stake to Dundee Venture Capital, Hasebroock's firm.

"Now there's dozens of accelerators around the country, so why would we do one here?" said Hasebroock, who's served as a mentor in three accelerators—the Brandery and TechStars Boulder and Chicago—over the past two years.

"The impact those programs have had on their community has been pretty astounding," he said. "So is it great for the companies? Absolutely … but what's really interesting is just seeing the impact that it's had on Boulder, on Chicago, on Cincinnati to bring mentors, investors, media together all for one purpose, and that is (Straight Shot)."

That coagulation, as he called it, also will create streams of new investment opportunities for Dundee, he said, noting his firm isn't seeing a lot of "great investment opportunities" in Omaha.

"At the end of the day you hope what you have is a series of companies that are going to be successful and prepared for success, for funding, for growth, what have you," Hasebroock said.

Faith Larson (right), who joined Straight Shot in February as its managing director, said the accelerator has already received 15 applications though its posting on f6s, a startup networking site. "We've had (applications) from San Francisco and Seattle to Louisville, Ken.; they're all over the place," Larson said.

Straight Shot anticipates closing its application in May and kicking off its first class two months later. During its three-month program, it will hold a regular speaker series that will be open to the public, as well. For those events, along with parts of the program's curriculum, the accelerator has teamed up with Omaha tech advocacy organization AIM Institute.

"It's a great opportunity for AIM to get into the startup scene," Larson said. Other in-kind and monetary sponsors of Straight Shot include Scott Technology CenterFirst National Bank, Broadmoor Apartment Communities and Kooley Jessen.

Hasebroock, who's also behind the idea incubator Drop Kick Ventures, wasn't able to say how many hours he'd personally invest in the accelerator each week, though he said he's ready to put in whatever it takes.

"It's absolutely going to succeed so I'm going to make sure I spend whatever time necessary to make it happen," Hasebroock said. "Plus, it's just so exciting."

The program, which expects to host one class per year, wraps up in October with a demo day.

 

Credits: Scott Technology Center photo courtesy of Straight Shot. Mark Hasebroock photo by Danny Schreiber. Faith Larson photo from LinkedIn.

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