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Bringing your Business Idea to Life at the eFactory

Have an idea for creating an app? The journey from concept to commercialization can bring challenges and uncertainties. According to Sandra Smart, Technology and Commercialization Specialist for the Missouri SBDC at MSU – part of efactory, that’s a good thing.

She has worked with many entrepreneurs in the process of bringing their technology to market. However, she often sees individuals getting excited about an idea and developing it without doing the fundamental pre-work.
“Make sure that there is a problem or need that is being addressed,” Smart said.

At the core of any successful app lies an understanding of customer needs and pain points. Before diving into development, it is important to conduct thorough customer discovery. This includes identifying a pressing problem or need within a target market and ensuring there is sufficient demand for a solution.

Smart cautions against talking into an echo chamber or asking only your friends and family about your idea.
“The biggest struggle I see is entrepreneurs aren’t talking to potential users,” Smart said.

How do you find your perfect target market? She suggests identifying your top two or three segments and actively engaging with individuals who fit the profile. Conducting interviews and gathering feedback from these audiences can provide valuable insights.

Conversation and collaboration
No two entrepreneurial journeys are alike, and neither are the solutions they require. At efactory, it all starts with a consultation.

“I’m curious to learn what stage they are at and making sure they have done their customer discovery. Then, it becomes a deeper conversation into what resources they need and how I can connect them to those,” Smart said.
These discussions offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to engage in open dialogue with consultants and receive professional advice on the necessary steps forward. Our collaborative partnership with Codefi allows tech entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in tech-focused startup programs.

Kickstarting a company
Over the years, the lack of early-stage capital has prevented many potential high-growth companies from getting off the ground. That’s why we’ve partnered with Codefi to put together Innovate SOMO Funds.

It combines nonprofit charitable contributions with investments from for-profit partners to make equity and revenue-based investments. Through Innovate SOMO Funds, the network will fuel even more startups across the southernmost 47 counties in Missouri.

Fueling tech innovation in Missouri
Innovate SOMO was designed with the belief that Missourians are strong, smart, savvy and have the keys to change the world – and that Missourians can do it without leaving the place they call home.

“Tech ecosystems beyond the major financial centers are often starved for the type of early-stage, risk-tolerant capital and comprehensive support required to translate great ideas into sustainable, job-creating enterprises,” said Dr. James Stapleton, Codefi’s President and CEO. “These funds are specifically designed to catalyze opportunity in these overlooked geographies, where there is tremendous philanthropy and interest in economic diversity and growth.”

Building Innovate SOMO Funds
Innovate SOMO Funds has received $700,000 in commitments already, including an initial investment by the Hatch Foundation, located in Springfield, Missouri, and an anonymous donor from Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

“Our Foundation is pleased to invest in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs and the companies they inspire, that will create more high-quality occupations for the people living in our communities,” said Erin Danastasio, Executive Director of the Hatch Foundation. “We also think it’s important this is a broad regional effort and invite others across southern Missouri to join us in supporting it.”

The Bank of Missouri, founded in Perryville, Missouri and an efactory Corporate Partner, has also committed $100,000 to assist with administrative and management costs of the funds for the first two years.

“We’re really excited to launch Innovate SOMO Funds, to expand upon the work we began nearly 10 years ago,” said Allen Kunkel, Associate Vice President for Economic Development at Missouri State University. “We appreciate the support of the donors who allowed us to launch our accelerator program, the region’s first program of its type, and those investors supporting the new funds.”

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