October 22, 2015 | Written by: Scott Simons
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Imagine a college senior returning from a barbeque where beer was served. As he is driving, the lights flash behind his car and he is pulled over by the police. Two strikes against the college senior-one, he is young in a college town and two, it is nighttime and he is driving. Automatic checkpoint – and he is looking at a DUI. So what does a college student do, without much money and a long way from home…not a good situation.
This was the dilemma faced by Willy Ogorzaly – the CEO and founder of Congo. Willy knew he needed legal advice and representation but at a cost effective point – and not being charged by the half hour to simply determine his options. And thus the idea for Congo was born. Congo mission is to create an online free market for legal advice. By bringing the entire attorney-client relationship online, Congo will decrease inefficiencies in the legal industry and increase access to legal services for the underserved. Very cool and relevant idea … and if you want to see Congo in action go to https://congo.io.
But how does an innovator like Congo get traction and sound advice to move forward with a brilliant idea?
One way is to attend an IBM SmartCamps where startups can get mentoring and insight to drive growth and innovation. IBM SmartCamp teamed with LAUNCH Co. and angel investor Jason Calacanis to provide a jump-start for startups. There are SmartCamps held around the world.
This year IBM and Galvanize sponsored the SmartCamp in Boulder where Willy came to accelerate his dream of for Congo. And I was lucky to be one of the mentors to work with them on their business and technical approach.
During the SmartCamp, IBM and Galvanize worked with the selected start-ups including Congo, focusing on three questions:
- What have are you doing/what have you done?
- Where are the gaps in your approach – e.g. business/technical/etc?
- How can we help you in the success of your business?
Following a set of succinct presentations to a team of Venture Capital experts from the Boulder community (sort of a geek-ish Shark Tank), Congo was selected as the finalist from the Boulder SmartCamp. And they won out over some very cool companies with an impressive business model and go-to-market approach.
The value of SmartCamp can best be summed up by Tyler Cox – co-founder and COO for Congo – “SmartCamp was awesome. All of the mentors who were there were passionate about trying to find ways to improve or assist our business with IBM’s vast ecosystem.” Impressive statement indeed!
Congo’s story just gets more interesting. Following Boulder, Congo attended the LAUNCH Scale event in San Francisco and was selected as one of the finalists at the IBM SmartCamp Pavilion at LAUNCH Festival and now they go on to the final where the winner will be accepted into the LAUNCH Incubator with $25,000 investment prize, and become IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year. I will be pulling for Congo – what a great idea!!
So – do you have a cool idea – do you want to make it “real” – then SmartCamp may be the ticket. We are planning now for the SmartCamp 2016 events around the world. If you want to make your dream come to life – it might just be the answer. If you want more information – please visit — http://www.SmartCamp2015.com/.