Switchyards has emerged as the hub for design and consumer startups in Atlanta. Its visionaries, David Payne and Michael Tavani, serial entrepreneurs, most noted for co-founding Scoutmob, launched the renovated downtown club as a place for 100-plus resident startups to work, gain mentorship, and learn through events like The Consumer Show and On-Doers.
Now, its founders are ready to amplify the Switchyards’ mission with their latest venture — Switchyards Studios, a development studio that will transform idea-stage startups into efficient companies in 90 days.
“We’ve learned a ton now, ten months in,” says Tavani about Switchyards. “We’ve learned a lot about the missteps and mistakes that are made by the average company here. The average company at Switchyards is 2-3 people. They’re early-stage and still figuring stuff out. By doing Switchyards Studios, we can put some guardrails in place [for entrepreneurs] to produce a higher likelihood of success.”
Switchyards Studios is different than the common concepts taught at incubator or accelerator programs. The Studio aims to validate a non-technical founder’s idea and help them bring it to life, if viable, through web development, branding, coaching and business building tools. The studio will accept one B2C startup into its 90-day program each month, offering possibility from Tavani and Payne of additional funding down the line.
“Switchyards Studios is the best partner to help you build a product that customers and investors will love,” says Payne. “It is incredibly difficult to raise money for B2C startups in Atlanta. We think this is as much of a foundational problem as it is a capital problem, so combining a program and a fund is our way to begin to solve this problem. We’ll start investing in 2017.”
To help bring the studio to life and lead the charge, Tavani and Payne brought on board seasoned entrepreneur and technologist, Blake Byrnes. Byrnes has co-founded several startups and a successful mobile consulting company. He brings his vital experience in product design, technology, talent acquisition and development to the studio.
“We’re creating a program that creates urgency,” says Byrnes. “As a founder, you move through the sequential steps at a certain speed. Sometimes people leap ahead. There’s a way to move the ball forward that we think is more efficient to help maximize your chances.”
Among the program’s deliverables, the team, with their invaluable experience, hopes to help early-stage companies create a strong brand and product for their businesses. The program will go through three phases, each with an assigned mentor. Payne will be focused on validating the business model, then Tavani will work with the founder on branding, and, lastly, Byrnes will lead product development.The features don’t stop there — the program will also deliver an investor deck, a pre-launch landing page, a financial model, analytics and possible marketing channels. After applying and getting accepted, each startup entry will pay $25,000 for the program.
“I think one of the many reasons we’re excited about this is this is the first chance we’ve had since we’ve done Switchyards to really dive into specific companies,” says Tavani. If you told me about some new idea you had, in order for me to get into the head of your business, it’s hard to do in a one-hour long coffee meeting.”
Byrnes agrees. “When you take someone’s idea and break it down, then you start talking about what else is going on in the industry and how you can mix-and-match and push-and-pull and bring things together, you start to see something catch and grow. We are always excited to get to do that on a daily basis.”