The 2016 Upstate Unleashed Conference and Venture Ecosystem Awards will take place on September 16. Nominations have recently been opened. Now is the time to meet with last year’s winners and discover what they’ve been up to this year – starting with 2015 Magical Mentor winner Chuck Stormon!
Chuck Stormon has been mentoring companies for over 20 years and he has helped so far over 100 early-stage companies grow and succeed. He has been running the StartFast Venture Accelerator for 5 years. In 2015, Chuck was named Magical Mentor at the Upstate Venture Ecosystem Awards, an honor reserved for an individual who had a transformational impact on the trajectory of one or more startup companies. “I was very pleased to receive the Award. It was really touching to me to be recognized by my peers,” he said.
In the last year, he has been focusing on 3 things:
His own business, RushTera, was raising capital in 2015, which took a lot of Chuck’s time. By increasing automation and efficiency, Chuck was able to reduce expenses at RushTera allowing him to suspend fundraising for the time being so that he can devote more time to his mentorship activities. Mission accomplished! “RushTera is still growing, and we’ll eventually raise capital when market conditions are more favorable,” announced Stormon.
Chuck therefore had time to expand his activities in two other areas, trying to solve two different problems that he saw in the market and thought needed addressing.
The first was co-founding a coding bootcamp called Startfast Code.
“There are not enough professional web developers. There is a nationwide shortage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US government says that there is one million more jobs than there are web developers and this is a big problem,” said Stormon.
When benchmarking the 125 coding schools around the country, Chuck noticed that those schools required an average of nine months to one year full-time commitment at a cost of around $54,000 per student to train an entry-level full-stack web developer.
The goal of StartFast Code is to achieve the same outcome – training full-stack web developers – but in only 6 months and at a cost per student of $10,000.
“We partnered with a not-for-profit and adopted their open-source curriculum. The online course lets each student progress at her own pace,” said Stormon. “In addition, we provide classes 5 nights a week, taught by professional developers, in order to make sure that the students stay motivated and keep making progress. We use a flipped classroom model. There are no lectures and homework. Instead instructors offer mentoring, making sure that the students have help when they’re stuck on one of the projects that make up the curriculum.”
Classes are also an opportunity for employers to present their company and to come in person to meet with the students. “Our bootcamp only began a month ago, and already our students have been offered paid internships and jobs. We’re thrilled with the response of the community,” added Stormon.
Currently 13 students are enrolled in the program, and four accomplished professional web developers mentor them. “We have high hopes. We’ve gotten great support from the community and from local employers,” shared Stormon. “Depending on the outcome, this could be a breakthrough for Upstate NY. We believe that it will have a big impact on the economy!”
Chuck also stresses the importance of gender parity in the program, a goal already set for the last 3 years in the Startfast Venture Accelerator. “This year in the StartFast Venture Accelerator we have more women than men. Every single team has a woman co-founder and three out of the five CEOs are women. It’s really great. In StartFast Code, we have 13 students, five are women, which is also much better than the average for web developers. I’m very happy about that,” he said.
Over the last year, Chuck Stormon also co-founded a micro venture capital fund called Kyros, which will begin raising money this fall and will eventually lead investment rounds in accelerator graduate companies from all over the world. The purpose of this fund is to fill the lead-investor gap for start-up founders and eventually help fund companies more easily on a worldwide basis. Kyros.vc focuses on companies that graduated from one of the top accelerator programs in the world, like those belonging to the Global Accelerator Network.
Finally, Chuck Stormon stresses the importance of the collaboration between StartFast and Le Moyne College, which is not only housing the program and the participants, but also sponsoring the Demo Day. “Le Moyne’s focus on making a positive contribution to the world and putting ethics and values first is in complete sync with what we teach at StartFast,” he said. “In the future we hope to extend the benefits of the StartFast startup / business acceleration curriculum to a broader group of business students and entrepreneurs in collaboration with Keenan Center and the Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College.”
StartFast’s next big event is Demo Day, which will take place on August 16th. “It will be a celebration of the Upstate ecosystem and the accomplishments of our cohort of world-class entrepreneurs,” said Stormon.
The 5 companies in the program who come from all around the world will present their business cases and get the opportunity to meet with angel investors, venture capital firms and the Upstate community. “We’re excited to welcome our keynote speaker this year, famous entrepreneur, investor, and mentor, Paul Singh. We look forward to seeing all the leaders of the Upstate entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he added.