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MU grads chosen for Capital Innovators Accelerator Program

Photo+by+Vale+Cardenas%2Fvaleria.cardenas%40marquette.edu
Photo by Vale Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Photo by Vale Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Photo by Vale Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

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A pair of Marquette College of Engineering graduates earned a spot in the Capital Innovators Accelerator Program with an app that allows users to present a PowerPoint from a smartphone on another screen.

Devin Turner and Charlie Beckwith, who started up their company FocalCast while at Marquette, put almost all of their own money into the project, but now with outside funding they are in the next step of becoming a full-fledged contributor to their market.

“Initially, it was bare bones,” Turner said. “We were eating Ramen and everything.”

The two founders will participate in the spring 2015 cohort of start-up technology companies in courses, along with receiving mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and $50,000 in seed funding. It was one of six companies chosen out of over 300 applicants.

“This is a very diverse cohort,” said Brian Dixon, the program’s director, in a news release. “We have companies that are creating solutions for huge markets and niche companies that are quickly gaining traction. All of the companies have solid teams and are poised for growth. We’re thrilled to be able to collaborate with this group of extremely bright entrepreneurs and we’re confident that they will add tremendous value in their designated fields.”

The team won many other competitions while attending Marquette, including the Rice Business Competition and Marquette Business Plan Competition. Turner and Beckwith’s experience in the Capital Innovators’ program will now provide them with more than just financial support.

“One of the benefits of being in a program like this, instead of just taking straight cash like we were offered last year, is that there are five other teams going through the same things we are and they’re all tech start-ups,” Turner said. “So they all have programming experience and developers as well, so that we can work together and leverage their experience to help each other out with … redeveloping on different platforms.”

The wireless direct technology used by the app was new when the project began around early 2013. With the development of products like Chromecast, bigger companies have joined in on the commercialization of products similar to FocalCast.

Turner and Beckwith are working to keep up with these companies. They are also working to make an iOS compatible version of the app, as well as making it cross-compatible with products such as Chromecast and Apple TV. The two are still putting every resource they have into their fledgling company.

“We’re currently sharing an apartment and still eating Ramen and living very simply, not because we can’t afford to live a little bit better, but because we really want to take all of the resources that we currently have and put them into growing the company,” Turner said.

The founders aim to create a product that can be used by people around the world, ranging from classrooms to churches to businesses. They believe their experience at Marquette helped them succeed and they encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of the resources available through the university.

“If you have an idea you’re passionate about, I think it’s important that you at least try to run with it and see where you can go,” Beckwith said. “Even if somebody’s done it before, they might not have done it as successfully as you are capable of.”

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