Oak Mountain High School Alumni Wins $40,000 for Startup Company

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Courtesy of http://podcasts.shelbyed.k12.al.us/scs-news/

Cindy Warner, Shelby County Schools Public Relations Supervisor

Cole Kinchler, a 2012 graduate of Oak Mountain High School and a current senior at Auburn University, is a recent winner in a statewide competition called Alabama Launchpad. Kinchler is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for a startup company called SimplyProse, which recently was awarded $40,000 in seed grant funding for the business as one of four winners of the Alabama Launchpad competition.

Kinchler founded the company along with fellow Auburn students Jacob Wright, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Sharan Kalva, who serves as the Cheif Information Officer (CIO). The business is incubated out of Round House, a business incubator in Opelika.

SimplyProse provides users a collaborative writing environment where they can receive productive feedback and edits on their work. Additionally, SimplyProse provides a marketplace where writers can work with literary professionals (publishing houses, literary agents, illustrators, editors, voice actors, etc.) to give their book a professional touch, and allow them to publish and/or promote their work effectively.

“The types of users that SimplyProse caters to are numerous, but initially we are targeting creative writers and college students,” said Kinchler. “We know this platform will be beneficial for writers because traditionally professional editing is expensive and the ability to interact with your peers can be difficult if your network is limited. Students also are required to write a lot whether they are in high school or college, papers are always being assigned.”

Kinchler said the writing platform on the draft page of the site utilizes a document with editing and collaborative features. The most substantial benefit of the SimplyProse site is the collaborative features, which allow writers the ability to receive much-needed critique and feedback on their work, whether it is to correct grammatical errors or in regards to the storyline.

The business was just an idea last November but grown significantly due to participation in various entrepreneurship competitions. First, Kinchler and his partners entered and took the first place $5,000prize in the Tiger Cage Entrepreneurship Competition at Auburn University. Building on that momentum, the group applied to the statewide Alabama Launchpad competition, earning a $40,000 share of prize money that was split among several winners.

“We were the youngest winners of the competition so far, which has sponsored three competition cycles each year for the past eight years,” said KinchlerAdditionally, we are also Auburn University’s representatives to the SEC Entrepreneurship Conference where we will compete against other companies from the rest of the SEC schools. We are competing for $10,000 dollars.”

Kinchler said the group also applied to participate in the Tech Crunch Battlefield for a chance to win $50,000 but ultimately were not selected. However, Tech Crunch did reach out to them and invited them to demo and launch SimplyProse at their Startup Alley during the Tech Crunch Disrupt event, being held September 21-23 in San Franciso. They will be the first team to participate in Tech Crunch Disrupt, which gathers the best and brightest entrepreneurs, investors, hackers, and tech fans for various events.

Shelby County Schools recently reached out toKinchler to ask him how he felt the school district had prepared him for the journey he is now embarking on as a budding entrepreneur.

How do you feel the Shelby County School District and Oak Mountain High School prepared you for your journey after you graduated in 2012? Did you feel prepared for what awaited you as a student at Auburn University?
“The Shelby County school district helped me to receive a great education and provided me a means to further develop my character,” he said. “At OMHS, I served as a member of the Oak Mountain Masters program, a school ambassador organization. In the organization, I regularly engaged with administration, parents, and students for different school events. Participating in this organization provided a great medium to hone my people skills, develop an extroverted personality, and a better understanding on how to work effectively with others.”

“During my career at Oak Mountain High School, I procured a variety of skills beyond the traditional coursework by taking classes in BTA (Business Technology Applications), band, and broadcast journalism. These extracurricular skills served as a catalyst for my creativity. As my senior year came to an end in 2012 I focused my sights on Auburn University and as I entered as a freshman, I can confidently say that the Shelby County school district had successfully prepared me for my higher education goals.”

How did your high school preparation help you to become a young entrepreneur? Were there any necessary “soft skills” that you feel you learned first at the high school level?
“As an entrepreneur, it is a necessary that you possess a wide range of skills and abilities. While my time at OMHS primarily focused on my education, I was able to develop a variety of soft skills as well due to the number of assigned projects and students at the school,” he said. “The skills I developed include being flexible, effectively communicating, and problem-solving. I know that working in teams provided me the opportunity of learning these different soft skills. The primary drivers that have led to me starting my own business are freedom and passion; these come from the culmination of your life’s events and are not something you just learn, however, OMHS did lead me to these desires.”

What classes or activities did you participate in at OMHS that prepared you to be successful at the next level?
“At OMHS, I participated in a variety of activities that allowed me to interact with many people and gain new perspectives. I was involved in band, youth legislature, SGA, and Oak Mountain Masters. Through all of these activities, it made me that much more experienced as I went to college and later to start my business,” he said. “I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to get a job or go to college after high school to speak with as many different types of people as possible and don’t stay content within your friend group. The more connections you make and different ways you can view a situation will help you throughout the rest of your career.”