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- 2014 - February - 18th -
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Jeff Charette, co-founder of Menuat, says the business has digital menus in 10 locations, including Chamblin's Bookmine in Downtown Jacksonville.

Much success for first class at KYN accelerator

By Marilyn Young, Editor

Blueberries. It all started over blueberries.

Jeff Charette was standing in line at a smoothie place trying to find a drink with blueberries in it. The menu was crowded with dozens of items, making it hard to navigate.

When Charette pulled the menu up on his cellphone, the menu was out of date.

“I thought about the headaches the restaurant owner had. Why was the menu out of date? They’re making food. They don’t have time to manage a menu,” he said.

That’s when he and his wife, Emily, began to create a better option.

She’s a designer, he’s a developer.

Together, they created Menuat, a digital menu board for restaurants and bars that can be operated from all digital devices.

Armed with an idea, they were one of the creators in last year’s One Spark crowdfunding festival.

Out of One Spark came KYN, a business accelerator that offers seed and development money and mentorship. It is financed by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

Menuat was one of the three businesses that recently completed the inaugural 16-week program at KYN, an opportunity the company almost missed.

‘A far better fit’

Charette had heard about KYN but didn’t realize One Spark participants had to apply.

When he found out otherwise, he thought he had missed the deadline. So he pitched Menuat at Techstars, where the company made the top 20 in the accelerator program but didn’t get selected.

“They loved the idea, but we didn’t have enough traction,” he said of his new business. “We didn’t have enough customers.”

Then came a big break — a spot at KYN opened up and they were invited to apply. They got in.

“It was amazing because it was a far better fit,” Charette said.

Techstars was “a little money and not a lot of guidance,” he said. And it was in Austin.

KYN offered more money and an incredible amount of mentorship, Charette said, including from KYN co-founder Elton Rivas.

A few weeks out of KYN, Charette said Rivas, who’s flush with start-up experience, was the “biggest mentor” he had.

“Elton was really the one telling us to look at the business as a whole,” he said.

Charette said he could easily get lost in working on “cool, new software things I can do.”

“But really I needed to be looking at sales,” he said of a lesson Rivas taught him. “You need to make sure people will buy before you build.”

Goals of being bigger

That’s the type of advice provided to Menuat, and the two other KYN class members: Original Fuzz, which sells custom guitar straps, cables and bags online and in 20 stores in several states, and Artific Games, which creates graphics, sounds and animations for games.

Rivas said the variety of mentors offered to the businesses helps set KYN apart from other accelerator programs.

The businesses received advice in dozens of areas, ranging from financial to sales to development.

As he looks toward the second class, Rivas said he’d like to add even more mentors.

KYN received close to 100 applications from around the country for the new class, which hasn’t been announced.

Rivas said he couldn’t be more pleased with the first class and the results that came out of it, particularly the impression the businesses made on potential investors on Demo Day.

Charette said Menuat has digital menus in 10 locations in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and he is hoping the next location is in Atlanta.

And, he said, the company is in final negotiations with a businessman for an equity investment that met on Demo Day.

“Demo Day was good end to our journey,” he said.

A journey that all began with blueberries.

myoung@baileypub.com

@editormarilyn

(904) 537-6933

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