Catapult’s first four companies graduate with $15 million raised, over 50 hired

Posted on November 21, 2013


catapult-chicagoCHICAGO (Built In) — Catapult Chicago, a 12,000 square foot, non-profit space that’s home to an intimate group of startups, graduated four startups last night, marking Catapult’s first graduating class since the space was founded more than a year ago.

 Together, the graduating startups raised $15 million in funding and hired 50 new employees, Catapult reported. But each team also had individual measures of success:

Shiftgig, a job matching site for the service and hospitality industries, has grown it userbase from 1,000 to over 15,000 businesses, which puts the site at about 600,000 users. The company has raised $3 million while at Catapult.

BucketFeet, which sells artist designed footwear, has raised $5 million in the last year, hired eight new people and will hit 20 major international markets. They also struck a deal with Nordstrom to launch nationally, to appear in 48 Nordstrom stores including on Michigan Ave.

TempoDB, a time series database service that stores information from energy and infrastructure patterns, to sensor and temperature pressure readings, to media monitoring. The team has raised two rounds of funding: $750,000 in seed funding and $3.2 million in Series A. Their databases are functioning in six continents, and they have users in every country, said CEO Andrew Cronk.

BidMed, a bidding site for buying and selling medical equipment, has recently expanded from a 50,000 square foot warehouse facility to a 750,000 square foot one. They’ve raised $1.5 million in revenue over the last year, and grew from two to nine employees. In May, BidMed reached profitability, which their Joanne Frogge, chief operating officer, said was a true turning point for the company. Now, upon Catapult graduation, it’s moving into a new space in Fulton Market and will be receiving a Small Business Administration loan.

“I had no idea that our sales would be what they were,” Frogge said. While she said she knew the company would meet its goals, it has far exceeded them.

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Because of Catapult’s community atmosphere, TempoDB was able to help out other current Catapult teams like Mentormob, which seeks digital solutions to learning, when MentorMob took a break from Catapult this summer to participate in edtech accelerator Kaplan Techstars in New York City. Kristen Demidovich, part of the MentorMob team, said learning from TempoDB helped MentorMob make the most out of their experience because TempoDB is also a TechStars grad.

Ryan Leavitt, a Catapult cofounder, said that it’s relationships like the one between BidMed and MentorMob that make the experience unique: “Catapult is all about community,” said Leavitt.

Shiftgig CEO Eddie Luo said in his speech to the Catapult community Wednesday night at Rockit Bar & Grille that besides the community, Catapult’s great location in the heart of River North and its access to investors are huge pluses: “We’re proud to be a part of the fam,” he said.

“I really hope sky’s the limit,” said April Lane, executive director of Catapult, noting that the companies launched from Catapult will be the next big ones in Chicago.

Member companies, which are typically at a later stage, are selected by peer companies in the space before being welcomed to the environment to “catapult” their growth.

“We’ve made a lot of introductions for the companies,” Leavitt said, but the first time he saw them make introductions for each other is the pivotal moment that he said he knew these companies were really “catapulting.”


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