Editor's Note: The Raleigh Innovators Program is a 3-month lean startup and design-thinking accelerator that aims to cultivate breakthrough mobile, cloud, and collaboration technologies. Supported by a coalition of organizations including Citrix Startup Accelerator, Red Hat, Cherokee McDonough, HQ Raleigh and the City of Raleigh, there are 12 teams participating in this year's program. Of those teams, four are "intrapreneurial" teams from Red Hat and Citrix, three are clean tech teams supported by Cherokee McDonough, and the rest are early-stage startups. This blog series will take a closer look at the 2015 cohort. First up, TaskTorch and Duvtail.
Introducing TaskTorch and Duvtail, two productivity and collaboration software startups participating in this year's Raleigh Innovators Program.
TaskTorch, led by husband and wife team Nate and Niki Kohari, is a social workflow platform that aims to make "coordinating work as easy as passing a torch." By combining ideas from social networks and project management tools, the startup is making it simple for employees across various departments, from designers, developers, product managers, and customer support staff, to connect with each other and organize any kind of work in one central place.
Nate and Niki met when they were 15 and have worked together at five companies. TaskTorch is the second company they’ve co-founded (the first was AgileZen, a visual project management tool acquired by Rally Software). After AgileZen was acquired, the two took leadership roles at Durham-based adtech startup, Adzerk, where they were often handing work from one team to another across multiple channels.
"We started thinking about ways to make those handoffs seamless," says Niki. "We knew that to do this, we had to get people using the same tool from the beginning of the product development process to the end. We used the idea of passing a torch as the inspiration for the product design, and of course, the name."
Nate serves as the company's CTO, product developer, software engineer, and graphic designer, while Niki is CEO, an industrial and organizational psychologist, teamwork expert, and professional "gap-filler." Niki handles all customer communications and business operations.
The two applied to the Raleigh Innovators Program to better connect with smart people in the Raleigh area and get feedback on TaskTorch. Adds Nate, "We're part of the broad work collaboration market, as is Citrix, so we felt like they would have interesting insights and would "get" what we are trying to do."
The app is currently in private beta, and the team is adding a couple of features before opening the beta to the public (soon!).
Duvtail, co-founded by Matt Wheeler and Geeta Vemuri, provides productivity solutions for public accountants and auditors. While working as CPAs with Big Four and Top 10 firms, Matt and Geeta became frustrated with the inefficiencies in the audit and client interaction process, but neither could find a solution on the market. After witnessing a Big Four firm lose a $1M engagement due to poor management of client requests and documents, they decided to build Duvtail. The software combines client spreadsheets, word documents, emails, and file storage portals into a simple one-page real-time app.
Matt is the front-end developer and manages the product development at Duvtail, while Geeta focuses on the vision, strategy, and business development. Both co-founders work on sales and marketing.
The team understands the challenges associated with bringing an app like Duvtail to market. According to Matt, the accounting industry "is used to outdated software, and they value name brands in the accounting space. This has helped a couple of dinosaur vendors maintain their market share." Additionally, Matt and Geeta have to deal with lengthy approval processes for their partnerships and must maintain high security standards when handling sensitive client information.
However, the pair feels ready for the challenge and excited to grow their venture during the Raleigh Innovators Program.
"We work together to solve all obstacles, and never lose confidence in ourselves to execute and get things done. We both bring different perspectives to every decision, which helps us make the right decision and not overlook anything," says Geeta.
So far in the program, they’ve learned strategies to reach their target market and obtain customer feedback, working alongside a network of mentors, entrepreneurs, and executives to build connections.
These two teams will continue to refine their products and validate their business models over the remaining two months of the program. They will both pitch at the final Demo Day in December.
This post was authored by Allyson Sutton, Director of Marketing at HQ Raleigh, with assistance from the featured teams. For more information on the Innovators Program, please visit: http://citrixstartupaccelerator.com/raleigh/.