On an unlikely street in Philly, Southbox is building a haven for business startups. Part fund, part studio, it aims to go beyond co-working or accelerator, incubating and building new ventures in the medical, entertainment, and other tech fields.
Southbox is hosting a small preview of their activities at a meet-and-greet happy hour on May 22, 2017. To RSVP and get more information, click here.
Multi-industry entrepreneur, investor, and data scientist Jon Gosier is the driving force behind the endeavor. “The idea for Southbox came because over the years I’ve realized I’m good at connecting the dots, pulling the right individuals together to form fast-growing companies that can be successful even after I work myself out,” Gosier explains. “I’ve done this successfully more than a few times with companies that have gone on to be really successful.”
Startups often need the same things in the first few months of their existence, from an office to administrative support. Gosier knew this all too well. He had been through the startup process countless times, from multiple perspectives. “As a fund manager and VC, I started to notice that most startups spend the first 6 months to a year of their lives trying to solve for the same things: getting investors, closing customers, hiring talent, administrative staff, office space, utilities, learning best practices, lead generation etc. This is what I call the ‘trough of starting’, the lowest most painful point of a startup's life where each mistake is existential and early wins seem far between. It’s a take on the ‘trough of sorrow’ investor Fred Wilson often references.”
“Southbox companies are not always traditional tech startups. Some are focused on making money the old-fashioned way (versus raising money from VCs). As a result, we have many deal structures: equity-based, debt-based, revenue share or a combination of the three,” Gosier notes. “There is no cookie-cutter approach for us. Some of our ventures are not even located in Philly and are only using the Southbox office for an address, or are remotely using our software developers and other resources.” Some of the ventures at Southbox may also count Southbox staff as co-founders (Wounds A.I.) or advisors (Red Queen Gaming).
Southbox is launching with 8 startups in its portfolio: Wounds A.I. (which uses machine learning to improve medical imaging and chronic wound care), Garvey Labs (a political data gathering company), TimeStamp (a mobile time-tracking app for nurses), Paramount Health (a home-healthcare service from Boston expanding to Philly), Quantified Culture (A.I. assisted talent management for influencers, musicians and entertainers), PhillyNext (a location-based event and venue discovery mobile app), Red Queen Gaming (which enhances video games with automated scripts), and CrashSpot (app-based micro-rentals of residential spaces in 15 minute blocks for people who are traveling and need a place to rest, change clothes, have meetings or nap).
“My leadership style is very team centric. It has felt very intimidating and unaffordable to build a team that can help me move from concept to revenue generating business,” says CrashSpot founder Chantelle Bateman. “Southbox has become my squad! I’m learning from entrepreneurs at varying stages in their growth and having access to such well vetted resources has eased a lot of my anxiety.”
Philly has become a hotspot for tech and venture capital, especially in the medical and biotech space, notes Roshini Thinakaran of Wounds A.I., which is focusing its efforts on the global problem of wound care and patient management via new data and AI-driven tools for clinicians. Southbox’s model adds to this existing environment, creating the conditions for businesses like hers to thrive. “My background is in real estate and finance. When Jon told me about Southbox, I really understood the concept,” Thinakaran says. “It was a model that I had considered with some investors. It’s shaping up to be a supportive environment.”
In creating a supportive, welcoming environment for non-traditional entrepreneurs and seasoned startup veterans alike, Gosier thought hard about where to locate Southbox. “Initiatives here related to startup investing are usually in metropolitan areas which are unquestionably gentrified, or off in the suburbs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t help with outreach to underrepresented communities,” reflects Gosier. “We feel our location helps keep South Philly a part of Philly’s tech success story and gives difference voices the chance to get involved.”