Startup Goodness Issue 9

You might have noticed there wasn't a September issue.

As much as I love this newsletter, I've been experiencing some burnout and need a break. Which is why this is the last issue of Startup Goodness for 2021. I'll be back sometime in the spring full of startup spirit!

If you want to support this newsletter, you can buy me coffee.

It takes an average of 9 hours to write each Issue and (at a cortado an hour) I've drunk roughly 162 shots of espresso writing Startup Goodness this year so far. * jitterly types *

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Now, on to the issue!

Good News

A snapshot of the most important stories in the local startup and creative small business community

Interfaces of MotiveU on desktop, laptop and mobile

Image Credit: MotivateU

The Big Story

MotivateU has raised $61K+ to bring AI and data-driven personalization to the fitness industry starting with independent fitness trainers and gyms.

Back in August, I wrote about how MotivateU is using AI to improve the virtual fitness class experience. In the last month, they've launched a crowdfunding campaign that's raised over $61K and are an excellent case study in how to combine market forces and new tech to help an underserved audience that desperately needs a lift.

The Background

Fitness studios are primarily fixed-cost businesses, with the largest expenses being wages, equipment, and rent. The vast majority of fitness clubs are independently owned, and even household brands were in dire straits last year. Flywheel, 24 Hour Fitness, and Gold's Gym all went bankrupt. In April 2020 alone the YMCA (which is a non-profit) lost $400M in revenue and laid off 75% of its staff.

After posting record growth in 2019, the industry saw revenue plummet by 58% last year.

Switching to online classes was an obvious possible lifeline, but the way it's currently running doesn't work well.

For trainers, tiny Zoom pictures just don't cut it when you're trying to correct form and keep people engaged. For exercisers, peer pressure to improve is a huge reason people go to gym classes in the first place, and without that sense of community and incremental gains tuning into class doesn't feel worth it.

The Breakdown

MotivateU's OperantFlow software solves both of those problems. It alerts the instructor when someone's form is awry so they're not panning and scanning their screen for students in need and are free to run their class.

For students, it re-creates the in-person experience smoothly, with hybrid options, real-time progress notifications, community forums, and competition board opt-in features. Plus payment and marketing tools are already integrated so no more need for awkward Venmo requests at the end of the session.

And unlike those kettlebells that were backlogged for months, instructors don't need to worry about a hardware shortage holding them up. MotiveU runs on any device, including a phone. Students tune in to virtual classes like they normally would with a link.

Seeing such advanced technology to help small businesses from the get-go is unusual - usually enterprises get first swing - so seeing such an easy and quick deployment to solve a crushing problem is refreshing.

Personally, I'm a believer that tailored niche solutions beat everything-for-everyone options, and with the obvious issues big tech creates (ahem, Facebook Files), the future of tech will hopefully look more fragmented.

Now, * cross uppercut sidekick * to that Covid-19 weight gain.

And if you want to invest, their crowdfunding campaign is still open!

In other news...

FoodQu!rk on mobile

FoodQu!rk launched their app (iOS and Android!) to create a community for people to "eat as they are".

Based out of Norfolk, the app creates a 'food personality' akin to a Myers-Briggs and gives tailored recipes for you and your family's specific eating preferences, whether that's Paleo on Thursdays and Takeout on Tuesdays or gluten-free forever. Plus a community that's doing the same, without the ads!

With Rubin Emerge, class for the future is in session. Over 57,000 students in Virginia's largest school district (and the country's 7th largest!) will be using Rubin Emerge, a Virginia-Beach based email etiquette and networking platform, this school year.

Sqwire partnered with the U.S. Air Force to give veterans access to the startup's financial literacy tools within the military branch's Financial Literacy Curriculum Training Program.

CustomerDiscovery launched in alpha to help you test your MVP with real people before you dump money and time into a product that might be doomed to fail.

You can sign up for an early adopter or founder profile on their site, as well as provide feedback here.

Magazine Jukebox lets you scan a code to read a curated list of the best magazines, from Fast Company to Car and Driver on your phone, no pesky email sign-in needed.

If you, like me, revel at the chance to read magazines at the salon you'd never otherwise touch, now you can enjoy the feeling germ-free!

They just launched with a gorgeous video showing off the tool that features some of the best Norfolk locales.

Magazine Jukebox - Digital Magazines for Commercial Spaces

Good Cheer

Dr. Angela D. Reddix, the founder of ARDX and Envision Lead Grow, made the 2021 Ebony Magazine Power 100 list alongside such names as Jada Pinkett Smith and Marc Pritchard.

Norfolk-based ARDX is a leading healthcare management and IT consulting firm, while Envision Lead Grow is an entrepreneurship program targeting pre-teen girls.

Congratulations! 🎉

Good Money

Local opportunity deadlines and dates. Sometimes the money is from HRVA, sometimes it's for industries that have a strong presence of startups in HRVA, sometimes it's from organizations that have a strong presence in HRVA.

Either way - moolah.


👉 Education & Training Awards for Women
🗓️ Application closes 11.15.2021
💰 Individual awards of up to $1000, $3000-$5000, or $10,000.
🏢 Women motivated to achieve educational/career goals, no graduate degree enrolled in or accepted to an undergrad degree or training program

👉 Lighthouse Labs Spring 2022 Cohort applications
🗓️ 9.23.21 - 11.19.2021 (applications for Spring 2022 open in Fall 2021)
💰Networking space, intensive mentoring, and a demo day in front of Dominion Energy & potential investors
🏢 Energy and sustainability-focused startups

Good Learning

Seeing people, shaking (washed!) hands


💬 1100 Reaktions
🗓️ Thu Oct 21st, 5:30- 7pm (that’s today!)
📍 Capstan Brewery, Hampton
🎟️ free (plus your first meal and drink!), Get tickets on Eventbrite

💬 STRIVE Workshop: The power of connections by Retail Alliance
🗓️ Tues Oct 26th, 9am-10:15am
📍 Virtual
🎟️ $0-$10, Get tickets on Eventbrite

💬 757 Tech Founders Realtalk
🗓️ Fri Oct 29th, 4-5pm
📍 Virtual, Zoom
🎟️ Join from LinkTree


💬 VA Econ Dev Partnership Program Overview
🗓️ Tues Nov 9th, noon
📍 Virtual
🎟️ Free, Register on Eventbrite

💬 Info session about Lighthouse Labs Spring 2022 Cohort
🗓️ Wed Nov 10th, 12-1pm
📍 Virtual
🎟️ Free, Register on Eventbrite

💬 Critical Mass - High Tech Networking and Happy Hour
🗓️ 11.11.21 5-7pm
📍 The Vanguard, Hampton
🎟️ Free (plus your first drink free!) Register on Eventbrite

Good Job

open positions at local startups or entrepreneur-focused orgs

➡️ Checkout the Startwheel job board for more positions

Technology Mentor (Hampton Roads), George Mason University, Mason Enterprise Center Apply here

Deep Learning Engineer (Remote), Secret Chord Labs Apply Here

Sales Team Member, Sqwire Apply here

CTO (Remote), Rubin Education Apply here

Goodness Gracious Yes

Software tools and guides to change your life

Influencer creative in a click. If you run a product-based company and aren't prepping for the it, now! Billo is a solution for your ad campaign creative woes where you can "order" videos from creators for engaging content for your ads.

Create a fundraising-ready startup all in one spot with AngelList Stack

AngelList Stack will help you create a fundraising-ready startup in one spot. Have incorporation, banking, and equity management tools in a single place and stop worrying if you missed a step (or your mentor forgot to mention one).

Notion now has a credit of $500+ to any startup that wants to try it for free, irrespective of size or funding. If you're a small team, that could mean Notion for free for a year or more. I will rave about Notion until every person I know has an account.

Liquid death cans. Murder your thirst.

Good Read

Articles, books, and newsletters to check out

Product Hunt for the win. If you are launching a software product, then launching on Product Hunt is a great way to build traction and credibility - but you only have one shot per product unless you make major upgrades. Here's a guide to get it right the first time.

Facebook ads being...glitchy? It's not news that Facebook ads are often buggy and pull-your-hair-out frustrating. Here's a guide to fixing a Facebook ad that isn't giving you want you want.

Copywriting is an art form. And here is a thread on 11 frameworks to keep the sales coming (or get them going).

Liquid Death is a punk-metal canned water company with a cult following that's a masterclass in brilliant marketing. (yes, yes you read that sentence correctly).

Here's a breakdown on how to creatively market a 'boring' product from their founder - who happened to build ads for standard, normal companies like VW and Nestle before this endeavor.

This brand is becoming a close second to Warby Parker in my marketing devotion, and if you know me, you know that's a feat. WP is the reason I got into marketing.

Good Listen

How rare it is to hear the story of a black woman in business - especially one that sounds attainable. Or an entrepreneurship story that doesn't follow the "I dropped out of Stanford" path. Listening to Ava Duvernay's episode of HIBT felt like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy business story world.

Good Watch

In case you haven't heard, Email marketing is one of the top ways to keep customers engaged. But the metrics are getting pummeled by Apple's new privacy changes. Here's a 4-minute video to help you fight the data disaster.

How to Save Your Email Marketing Campaign from Apple's iOS 15

Thank you so much for reading the ninth issue of Startup Goodness!

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That's all folks, I'm already excited about the next issue (and I'll see you in the New Year).

Have a good day,
I’ll be back in your inbox soon!


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Good Beats: I've been indulging my rock cravings across all the genre versions from folk to metal, so please enjoy this compilation of headbangers (Or in my case, walk-to-yoga music).

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