Announcing Switchyards Studios (Part 2)

Note: This is the second in a 3-part blog post series about Switchyards Studios. The first post answered the question “What is Switchyards Studios?” This post will answer the question “Why did we decide to launch a program like this?” And lastly, the third post will answer the question “Who is the ideal candidate for the program?” All Studios content (blog posts, inspirations, photos from the program, etc) can be found at Founder Happy Place.

Two weeks ago we officially launched our Switchyards Studios program at Switchyards Downtown Club. We’ve been planning this program for about a year, so we decided to explain our thinking in a series of three blog posts.

Our first blog post was designed to explain the basics of the program. Idea-stage. Non-technical founder. Consumer startup. 90-day program that’s somewhere between a development/design agency and an accelerator/incubator.

The goal of this post is to dive into “why?”

Of all the things that we could have done to help create more B2C winners in Atlanta (e.g. a simple B2C investment fund, the tried-and-true accelerator model, a huge party for no particular reason), why did we decide on a program like this?

Here are some things that molded our thinking about this topic…

  1. Location. With the singular Switchyards goal of “creating more B2C winners,” you can’t ignore the fact that we are located in Atlanta. This matters because the startup community in Atlanta doesn’t have enough history and experience with consumer startups. Without lots of founders, employees, investors & advisors who have had previous success with consumer-startups, the basic foundation is missing to build upon. We launched a building/community to start to correct this problem, but the overall inexperience of Atlanta in B2C startups means that only accelerating/incubating (the goal of accelerators and incubators) or just starting with an investment fund (just to write checks to B2C startups seeing traction) wasn’t the right place to start. There just aren’t enough B2C startups with traction to make these kinds of things viable right now in Atlanta.
  2. Talent. While Atlanta lacks a long history of B2C startup success, we have a city full of creative and technology talent. Atlanta has a long history of small and large development and design agencies, but their customers are large companies, so — while they can produce technology products and brands — they aren’t in a good position to educate, guide and mentor consumer startup founders. Said another way, the raw talent is here, but it lacks experience with consumer efforts that aren’t at scale. And there’s a very big difference between doing a brand project, for example, for a large (existing) brand and crafting a brand for a new consumer startup.
  3. Playbook. The SDC team has been heavily involved in the local startup scene for over a decade. And now we meet two new founders every day and work in a community of hundreds. This has given us a very unique vantage point. Today there is a clear playbook for validating, branding and building consumer startups, but the vast majority of consumer-focused startup founders in town aren’t aware of it, so they continue to fall into very common (and avoidable) traps. Just one example is building an initial technology product. Some founders go the agency route. This typically results in overpaying and overbuilding. Other founders (who have smaller budgets) either find freelancers to work for equity, a small cash budget or a combination of cash and equity. This arrangement almost always takes much longer than the founder anticipates and the founder isn’t happy with the results. These exact same dynamics happen with branding and marketing — the next two important areas of focus for B2C founders — and then again in dozens of other ways along the path to creating a successful B2C startup.
  4. Funding. A program without funding is only part of the answer. Once B2C winners start to emerge, they need to have funding at-the-ready to write that first check so that the founders can spend their time on the business instead of fund-raising. This is a very important part of what separates mature startup cities from immature ones, so our plans had to include funding the startups that generate early demand.

Ever since we had the idea for Switchyards, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to support and accelerate the process of creating great B2C startups in Atlanta. This has caused us to think about the most common steps that consumer-focused founders make in Atlanta and what we can do to help.

The combination of all of this is what caused us to launch Switchyards Studios. We not only build your initial brand and product, but also run you through a program that mimics how the best founders in the world create new consumer startups.

Switchyards Studios is a room filled with some of the best B2C founders and resources in the city. All of us rolling up our sleeves trying to create something that customers love.

Something with soul.