A History of CodeLaunch - Looking Back at 2018 Finalist: KidStrong
The annual CodeLaunch Startup Competition has given many companies a head start on the journey of entrepreneurship. And for the select few who have won at CodeLaunch, their victory can be a tremendous catalyst for growth and progress.
We recently caught up with Matt and Megin Sharp, owners of KidStrong — and winners of CodeLaunch VI in 2018 — to talk about their own journey. From their beginnings before CodeLaunch through the event experience and moving forward, the Sharp family’s story is inspiring and motivational.
The Company’s Beginnings
KidStrong began in 2015 as a self-funded prototype store in Lexington, Kentucky. The “10-second pitch” is that KidStrong is a training program designed to develop mental, physical and character skills in kids from 15 months to 13 years old — using curriculum that’s “built by science and taught by pros,” according to Matt.
It quickly gained popularity in the community, attracting interest from investors. The idea came about to build a second model store and a corporate headquarters in a family-oriented city with great growth potential. After visiting Frisco, Texas — one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. — the Sharps had found their new home and HQ. They sold their house and car, donated half their belongings, packed up their three small children and headed to Frisco.
“Frisco is like Silicon Valley for a family business like KidStrong,” said Matt. “It’s an amazing confluence of family demographics and entrepreneurial energy and ecosystem.”
Having just moved to Frisco and opened up shop, the KidStrong team was focused on creating successful locations with amazing classes. Around that time, Matt and Megin saw Code Authority President Jason W. Taylor being interviewed on a podcast, talking about the CodeLaunch competition.
They had always wanted to have an online version of their concept, but figured they were probably a year away at least from starting their online business. But then they realized that CodeLaunch could be an opportunity to fast-track their dream of getting KidStrong into millions of homes.
The Sharps knew it would be a longshot, but they felt like KidStrong had a really solid foundation and just needed help with the technology side. Hoping that CodeLaunch would be an opportunity to kick their online efforts into high gear, they decided to enter the competition.
“We said to ourselves, let’s test it and see if anyone else thinks this is a good idea,” said Matt. “And if it works, it forces us to think through this roadmap a lot faster — which is usually a healthy exercise.”
The Sharps decided to apply and even landed a meeting with Taylor. What was supposed to be a five-to-ten-minute meeting turned into 45 minutes in which everyone realized that the Sharp family was “all in” for CodeLaunch.
An “Awesome Experience” at CodeLaunch VI
So it was on Wednesday, August 1, at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco that CodeLaunch took place. Megin and Matt practiced their big pitch a lot, and when they took the stage, they were able to get the crowd on their side with their authenticity. “We don’t try to be anything we’re not,” said Megin. “We were just being ourselves.”
They still thought they were a long shot. But after their lively, engaging pitch to the judges, they felt good. And when the two winners were announced, KidStrong was called back to the stage as the first CodeLaunch winner from Frisco.
They had been just happy to be there, and the Sharps say that it was surreal to have won — it didn’t sink in for a while.
“It was an amazing experience to be a part of CodeLaunch, and even more amazing to be a winner,” said Matt. “Megin and I had an awesome experience — it was really cool from start to finish.”
Megin added: “It’s all about creating the most impact. Whatever’s best for the kids, that’s where we focus our attention. And winning CodeLaunch — an amazing experience from start to finish — means we’ll be further along towards our goal of helping kids on a larger scale.”
The Hackathon (and its results)
Each CodeLaunch winner is rewarded with a three-day hackathon with a five-person team of Code Authority’s expert architects, designers, and coders. The goal is to give the recipient a huge push forward in developing their business.
The KidStrong team was excited to spend time with the team — taking the ideas they’d had for a long time and actually put some code behind it.
Working closely together, they were able to get to an MVP very soon. In fact, the overall solution came together so quickly, the team cut the scope to a two-day deliverable — and provided the Sharps and the KidStrong team just what they needed.
“It was a great experience, and the team was awesome,” says Megin. “They were able to get a tremendous amount of work done in a short time!”
Matt agrees: “It’s a big chunk of what we need to really launch KidStrong to the next level, and it’s led to a whole host of other opportunities for us.”
Their CodeLaunch win earned the Sharps tremendous exposure, especially throughout the DFW Metroplex. They’ve been asked to serve as guest speakers, they’ve attracted a lot of people who want to work for KidStrong, and they’ve spoke with a lot of potential investors.
There’s a bunch of good news for KidStrong:
- They opened a new location inside Fieldhouse USA at Grapevine Mills Mall in Grapevine, Texas. It’s the third KidStrong facility, joining Lexington and Frisco.
- They signed a development deal for another state, and have another one in the works.
- An investor/partner leveraged their contacts in the gaming industry to build out a robust MVP, currently being tested. (It should be fully up and running before the end of 2019.)
The future is bright for KidStrong, and their goals are tantalizing. Matt and Megin are looking to open as many locations as possible — as long as they maintain the same quality and standards — while also growing the online side with a successful app launch.
“It might sound crazy,” said Matt, “but we’d love to reach a million families at some point in the future. We think there’s a real need for this. There are a lot of parents looking online for solutions — and we want to be the place they go to find them.”
Advice for Entrepreneurs Applying to CodeLaunch
The Sharps are happy to share their thoughts with anyone thinking they might want to participate in CodeLaunch. Their top tips:
- You have to be working on something that you're obsessed with
- You have to be obsessed with creating a solution to a problem
- You need to be able to build a massive business on top of that solution
And they preach the “Hedgehog Concept” from author Jim Collins espoused in author Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” — that success is found at the intersection of three circles:
- What you’re deeply passionate about
- What you can be the best in the world at
- What best drives your economic or resource engine
“If you’re missing one of those, it’s not a business,” said Matt. “You have to have those items figure out. Nail those three, and you’ll be in a great position.”
The Sharps know that the last few years have been “a wild ride,” but they understand that the next few years will be even wilder.
“We have a lot of really cool stuff in the pipeline,” said Megin. “And we’re obsessed with helping kids. Because of CodeLaunch, we’re on our way to doing that on a greater level than we ever thought possible!”
About Code Launch VII
CodeLaunch is an annual seed accelerator competition between individuals and groups who have software technology startup ideas. The event was founded by Code Authority, a software development company in Frisco, TX in 2012.
Since its inception, CodeLaunch has accelerated numerous startup companies and has curated over 1,000 applications from all across the United States and Worldwide. The purpose of the competition is to accelerate the best startups with mission-critical seed services provided by sponsors. There’s no cost nor surrendered equity to participate in the competition and all ideas are protected under an NDA.
CodeLaunch VII will take place Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the Comerica Center in Frisco, TX. In addition to the entrepreneur competition, CodeLaunch features a Startup Expo trade show that is beneficial for other startups who can meet up, network, and connect with interested supporters and investors.
Click here to learn more about what’s new for CodeLaunch VII or RSVP to the CodeLaunch event on July 31st!