Savannah startup gets first round of seed funding

Article on Business in Savannah by Julia Ritchey.

A Savannah-area tech startup has secured $100,000 in seed funding after a made-for-TV moment at The Creative Coast’s tech and interactive design conference last weekend. Ian Nott, the 23-year-old co-founder of Aetho, pitched his company in front of an audience of potential investors on Nov. 14 during an evening session of the sixth annual Geekend. Friday’s event, dubbed “Pitch Circus,” mirrored the ABC series “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs pitch their companies and field tough questions and comments from experienced investors. Aetho is developing image-stabilized handheld and headset companion products to the GoPro camera, popular among the DIY filmmaking set and extreme sports enthusiasts. “I was second to go, I got up there, did our pitch … people were definitely engaged and interested, then we got to the Q&A portion of it and had some great questions, and at one point the mic got passed to Jason Premo,” said Nott. Premo is a Greenville, S.C.-based entrepreneur and founder of Premo Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on advanced manufacturing companies. He’s also an angel investor on the side, scouting for promising early-stage companies in the Southeast. “There was a bit of a pause, the room was silent waiting to see what he was going to ask, which I assumed was a question, but rather than that, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I want to invest $50K … wait no, the full $100K in your business,’” said Nott. “And the whole place went crazy.” Nott said he was more than a little shocked, standing on stage in front of an audience of 100-plus people. Asked about that moment, Premo said he remembers exactly when he decided to invest. “Mid-pitch,” said Premo. “When I saw him present and saw the refinement of his business plan.” Premo and Nott had actually met a month earlier at StartupLounge, another Savannah-area mashup bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and the nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting early-stage companies to enable them to stay in the Coastal Empire. Premo had given Nott some notes and suggestions on things to work on and was impressed when he saw Nott had actually taken some of his advice. Premo said Nott’s second pitch was focused, practical and convinced him it was worth getting in on the ground floor. “The market space they’re targeting is very interesting, combining wearable tech and democratizing professional video making,” said Premo. Nott said what comes next is to continue hammering out their timeline and getting all their “ducks in a row” to get closer to manufacturing a product that’s ready for consumer use. The company is taking pre-orders for its GoPro Gimbal and Heads-up Display and expects to launch an official crowdfunding campaign in the first quarter of 2015. With Premo’s experience in advanced manufacturing, Nott said, he he’ll be able to guide Aetho to a finished product. “For him, personally, he gets to bring on his expertise and his passion for manufacturing and engineering, which we’re very up front about is the biggest hurdle — is putting together those pieces so we can get that manufactured product,” he said. Premo is invested in approximately a dozen early-stage companies and said he looks for startups like Aetho where he can add value. “They pivot fast,” he said. “Rather than get into analysis paralysis, they go with what they have, try it out, learn from it, try it again. That’s a real good indicator of a successful entrepreneur is someone who’s not afraid of failure.” Nott’s partner Harrison Lee is based in San Francisco and said Premo’s strategic guidance will help them grow their company. “For us it’s about being able to run faster than we already are,” said Lee. “This is our first stage to get where we need to be for the crowdfunding campaign.” He said being a bi-coastal company also has its advantages as they continue to look for more sources of funding. “There’s a lot more tech companies here, obviously … but (Aetho) fits into intersection of all these technologies,” he said. “We are building something that is standing apart from other companies out there.”
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