A Startup to Help Startups

Randy Micheletti spent close to a decade as a very successful corporate lawyer employed by a large law firm where he represented huge deep-pocketed clients. The legal services provided by large law firms are not cheap. Often such services are more than a blossoming startup can afford. Yet, startup companies are the ones need legal services just as sophisticated and timely as the largest corporations. Micheletti recognized this as an opportunity to create a startup of his own—a startup that provides legal guidance throughout the tremendously daunting journey of starting a company from the ground up.

Micheletti’s vision and goal is to work with companies young and old on a more personal level. His startup, Incubate IP, is a law firm that specializes in catering to the needs of startup companies. Turning an idea into a company requires a lot of legal work and guidance. Knowing this, Incubate IP strives to help startups with a variety of tasks from setting goals and assessing challenges to protecting intellectual rights with patents, trademarks, copyrights and licensing. Most entrepreneurs deal with some or even all of these topics very early in their life cycles. Incubate IP aims to provide those critical services to startups for which the large corporate law firms are out of reach.

Legal Services for Startups Start for Free

When Micheletti begins working with a new client, the first step is an assessment of the entrepreneur’s entire legal needs—which he provides for free, unlike most large law firms. This free initial counseling is just one way in which Micheletti makes his law firm friendly to those with startup-sized budgets. It also allows him to work with his clients personally so he can understand their goals and vision to better counsel them. Because Micheletti’s company is also a startup, he can truly relate to what his clients are experiencing, which is a unique perspective, and it enables him to provide the kind of service a startup would never receive from a large law firm.

Already Incubate IP has helped companies from all over the United States, from the East Coast to California—and even overseas—although most of its clients are based in the Chicagoland area. Micheletti has found no shortage of entrepreneurs in need of Incubate IP’s services.

Landing at Innovation DuPage

Innovation DuPage was a perfect landing spot for Micheletti and Incubate IP. Micheletti said that Innovation DuPage provided him with the resources to grow his brand and the connections to expand his clientele. Several Incubate IP clients are members of Innovation DuPage already, and more and more are recognizing the tremendous value of the entrepreneurial community thriving at Innovation DuPage. The conference rooms that Innovation DuPage offers have proven to be a huge help, considering Micheletti runs Incubate IP from his home in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Micheletti said being able to work with and around such a diverse group of entrepreneurs has helped tremendously in the growth of Incubate IP. And, likewise, Incubate IP has helped the many startups working at Innovation DuPage.

A Man of Many Talents

But Micheletti’s deep legal experience isn’t the only service he offers his fellow startups. With a BS in chemistry and an MS in organic chemistry, it’s safe to say Micheletti is a man of many talents. He is also an adjunct professor at IIT’s Chicago Kent School of Law and, in his free time, he plays the trumpet for multiple musical groups in Chicago. What can’t he do? A lawyer, chemist and musician who traded in his corporate law job to create a startup of his own, Micheletti is thrilled to work with young entrepreneurs trying to build companies, just as he is himself.

How Dots Make a Difference

When Tim Fates’ mother passed away from cancer a short time after a nephew contracted a rare genetic disease, a realization hit him. There was an opportunity to create a new product to support the causes he cared about that were so badly in need of awareness and funds. Tim, a designer and Glen Ellyn resident, is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the founder of dotUP, the manufacturer of “dots,” the newest way to support organizations and causes.

Shortly after launching dotUP, Tim negotiated his first fundraising and awareness campaign

When first beginning his startup, Tim examined the Livestrong movement of the early 2000s. The yellow Livestrong bracelets seemed to be on everyone’s wrists, and wristbands in the colors of many other causes and organizations were soon to follow. By raising money and awareness, this simple product made a big impact. Tim has the same goal with dots and dotUP.

A Better Way: dotUp

Tim created dots, a simple yet bold product with the potential to make powerful social change. Dots are colorful wearable accessories that show one’s support for a cause. They can be worn on garments, bags, and accessories, either indefinitely or for a day or event.
Dots can be affixed in two ways. By clipping onto garments and accessories,  dots can be worn without damaging the material to which they are attached. Dots also come with a simple and intuitive cord mechanism that allows them to be securely attached to the straps and handles of bags and used as zipper pulls on bags and garments. With the near endless possibilities of ways to accessorize with dots, the product makes it fun and easy to express one’s individuality and support. Like the Livestrong and other silicone wristbands, Tim imagines individuals collecting dots from their favorite causes and organizations.

The spark for dotUP occurred when Tim’s nephew was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, a rare genetic disease that can often be fatal. Tim saw the need for a new product to support charitable organizations with fundraising and awareness and began designing and prototyping. When Tim’s mother passed away from breast cancer, he knew the need was profound, and he founded dotUP. Shortly after launching dotUP, Tim negotiated his first fundraising and awareness campaign with Bright Pink, a Chicago-based national non-profit organization with an innovative approach to preventing breast and ovarian cancer. dotUP created a custom design and hashtag for the campaign and encouraged supporters to have fun and creatively share their dots online.

3D Printing and Dots

Dots are currently manufactured utilizing 3D printing technology. 3D printing makes dots highly customizable and makes smaller production runs of custom product cost-effective. Dots can be produced in many colors and decorated with any message or logo. When the production of dots is scaled up, Tim intends to utilize the most sustainable materials and production methods possible, ideally manufacturing dots from fully renewable and biodegradable materials.

Innovation DuPage Doing Its Part for Dots

When Tim joined Innovation DuPage he found it a challenge to identify the proper business model for his startup and to keep up with marketing initiatives. With any startup, it can be difficult properly position the product against competitors and gain traction in the marketplace.

Since working with Innovation DuPage, Tim has been able to effectively map out his business strategy and pursue introducing dotUP to local communities. dotUP has also improved its social media presence thanks to the marketing efforts of Innovation Dupage. In addition, Innovation DuPage has provided Tim with a positive workspace where he can collaborate with other entrepreneurs and receive valuable business guidance.

In the near future Tim hopes to partner with major national non-profit organizations and smaller organizations alike, eventually leading to the distribution of millions of dots, and making positive social change at the largest scale possible. These little dots will have a big impact!     
Justin Mayer of Encube

How Serendipity Led to Encube’s Founding

Justin Mayer, a cofounder and chief marketing officer of Encube, was working in product management for a manufacturer when he realized there was a gap in IT project management platforms in the marketplace that opened an opportunity for a new solution.

After developing his own prototype for a solution, Mayer met with venture capital firm Symphony Alpha Ventures. Symphony Alpha was already working with another company tackling a similar problem in the Agile development space and connected them with Mayer. Mayer, Symphony Alpha and two Atlanta-based developers—who called their collaboration Encube—met to explore the possibilities of working together.

They found alignment in their goals and values as well as complementary skill sets: They needed each other to achieve success.

They found alignment in their goals and values as well as complementary skill sets: They needed each other to achieve success. From that serendipitous meeting, a reformation of Encube resulted with Justin taking the lead on marketing, sales and business development.

Encube and AI = Solutions

Together, the trio knew that managing the user stories, tasks and subtasks of a software development team can be a daunting task. Also, they were aware that a lack of unbiased data regarding each developer’s specific technological skills and knowledge resulted in a gap that hindered the management of an ideal software development team. And, while there are many project management tools on the market, these systemic gaps prevent organizations from leveraging the data of the vast amount of project tasks they’ve already completed, limiting their ability to make the most efficient use of their available talent pool.

The Atlanta team had been working on a need for a quicker, more efficient and cost-effective way to manage IT tasks among teams, especially among Agile software development teams.
Encube’s founders also knew how to put artificial intelligence to work in project management. With the goal of revolutionizing an industry, these efforts are at the core of the launch of Encube’s technology. By incorporating the use of a proprietary artificial intelligence engine, Mayer and his team created a tool that can dynamically mine data to create an evidence-based body of knowledge to help large project managers maximize their talent pool and complete more projects, more efficiently.

Making Task-Oriented Decisions
As well as making task-oriented decisions based on experience and knowledge, Encube can also calculate the appropriate replacement of a developer and help estimate the number of IT projects that can be handled at one time before more staff is needed. Encube provides the answers at a users’ fingertips.

Encube’s artificial intelligence saves time and money by referring to evidence-based knowledge demonstrated by its generated resource graph, another Encube breakthrough. The resource graph creates a better way of workforce planning by suggesting the proper expertise for specific tasks that maximizes the efficiency of an IT team. Encube strives to take the tedium out of managing IT teams.

How ID Played a Role
Mayer saw a need for office space and a network of knowledge and resources to help him grow the business. He turned to Innovation DuPage. Innovation DuPage has provided Encube with the resources and an ecosystem that enables Mayer and his growing team to more quickly expand its business. Innovation DuPage is a space where Mayer thrives and collaborates with other entrepreneurs. The story of Encube is still unfolding as the trial version is now online and accepting customers. The future looks promising. Venture capital is in place. A new website effectively communicates the benefits and clearly defines the market. Stay tuned as we report on Encube’s success and provide updates in the months ahead.

By Jack Dore