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Expands Update Night to Include Second Step Investment Updates

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., November 21, 2013 -- Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects individual ideas each week for investments, and opportunities for further investment, tonight held their monthly Update Night at 50 Louis St. Among the four companies vying for the next level of investment, the Start Garden team chose Appraisal150, an online home appraisal service, and Elf Factory, a holiday school program specializing in handmade gifts for parents, to receive $20,000 in additional funding.

In addition to its $5,000 investments, Start Garden invited entrepreneurs funded at $20,000 or greater to present on the status of their projects before a live audience. Sitting in a Tree, started by Laura Vaughn, which creates custom wedding websites, and Break Away Coupling, a fishing lure that is designed to break at a specific rate of tension designed by Miles Smith.

Social accountability is essential to the Start Garden program. Entrepreneurs are required by Start Garden to present their experiment during a monthly Update Night. Teams that received a $5,000 discuss their key learnings and prove whether it was viable, desirable and feasible. Teams that received $20,000 explain where they are after nearly a year in the Start Garden ecosystem.

During Update Night, teams have three minutes to present before a live audience and explain how the money was used to complete an experiment that proved their idea is desirable, feasible or viable. Following the presentations, a panel of advisors discusses each project and announces which projects Start Garden will continue to invest in.

Appraisal150, created by Scott Packer, is an online network of independent licensed appraisers. Coordinating through its website, the appraisal process—ordering, delivery and scheduling—is automated, reducing the time and cutting overhead costs by more than 50 percent. Furthermore, the homeowner is in charge throughout the process.

“The appraisal industry hasn’t been rethought in a long time and often when an entrepreneur rethinks an entrenched market or process and finds they are on to something, it can draw some opposition. Appraisal150 seems to have lit a fire in the industry,” said Kim Pasquino, portfolio relations for Start Garden. “We see the biggest challenge with Appraisal150 is scaling this project quickly. We have confidence in Scott, based on his execution so far, to make it happen and we are please to provide further funding.”

Elf Factory, created by Kirsten Morian Field, is a turnkey program that is designed to replace a school’s holiday gift program, which often includes inexpensive items that children often feel compelled to purchase. Under the Elf Factory model, children make their gifts versus buying them.

“This problem was identified from Kirsten’s personal experience with her children’s schools. It’s an idea that is definitely under the radar, but the experiment showed that the idea can grow,” said Rick DeVos, CEO of Start Garden. “The Elf Factory model appears replicable, but it needs to extend beyond the founder’s involvement. We are eager to see if this will happen, so it is a yes for additional funding.”

Two additional entrepreneurs presented during Start Garden’s November Update Night, but did not proceed to the next level of investment. These include:

EV Anywhere, an electric vehicle charging infrastructure provider
J Fitzgerald, creator of leather accessories

The Start Garden management team accepts ideas with potential to become businesses through Each week the Start Garden team selects an idea and the broader community on the website endorses another idea to receive $5,000. Start Garden can continue to invest up to $500,000 in a single idea. Learn more about submission criteria at

The next Start Garden Update Night will take place Thursday, December 19. Learn more about Start Garden events at

About Start Garden
Start Garden is an unconventional venture capital fund that invests in more than a hundred ideas a year in small increments. The program brings financial, intellectual and social capital to ideas at the earliest stage by connecting them to the resources of an entire region. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is founded by Rick DeVos who’s past projects included ArtPrize, 5x5 Night, Momentum and

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Brian Burch
Start Garden

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