ODON — AJ O’Reilly, founder of Adventure Field Guides and Purdue@WestGate Firestarter participant, received $2,000 in funding for a second-place finish at Bloomington Economic Development Corporation’s pre-accelerator pitch competition. Reilly was named ‘Audience Favorite’ at the event, held recently at Indiana University’s Cyberinfrastructure Building.
Bloomington Economic Development Corporation organizes B-Start, the city’s 22-week pre-accelerator program. O’Reilly has been an audience member for Demo Day since it started, but this was the first year the program was open to the community members.
“As a Bloomington resident, Indiana University undergraduate and current graduate student, I’ve been very supportive of Bloomington’s startup community,” O’Reilly said. “I happened to have an idea I wanted to test the same year they opened the program to the community.”
While O’Reilly was going through the B-Start program, he also was participating in Purdue@WestGate’s Firestarter cohort.
“It was beneficial going through Firestarter in addition to B-Start,” O’Reilly said. “I gained valuable input from the other Firestarter participants, Purdue@WestGate staff and the Drew Peyronnin, the entrepreneur-in-residence at the Purdue@WestGate site.”
Adventure Field Guides is an outdoor travel planning tool providing users with customized adventure plans. Once O’Reilly completed the startup program, he was paired with Peyronnin to receive additional assistance with his business.
Peyronnin said O’Reilly has been meeting him regularly at WestGate Academy to prepare for B-Start’s Demo Day.
“The prospects for success of an innovation-based startup is much more about the capabilities of the founder than the appeal of the idea,” Peyronnin said. “AJ is an extraordinarily smart, passionate and focused founder who also happens to be developing a very appealing concept. It is quite exciting to be involved at the birth of what could become a leader in outdoor travel planning. He deserves the success he achieved at Demo Day.”
Jason Salstrom, the director for Purdue@WestGate, said the Firestarter program and additional Purdue@WestGate resources complement the Bloomington Economic Development’s initiatives to cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem regionally.
“We’re fortunate that some of our great partners in Bloomington referred AJ to us,” Salstrom said. “It is phenomenal how the region is pulling together to ensure entrepreneurs like AJ can thrive right here in Southwest Indiana.”
O’Reilly was also a finalist out of 108 teams at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business CLAPP IDEA Competition and will also compete in the University of Southern Indiana APPCOM finals this Saturday (April 14).
Purdue@WestGate is an economic development accelerator formed by the partnership between WestGate Authority, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation. The Indiana-based collaboration combines strengths to advance educational, research and development and technology commercialization across Indiana and elsewhere. Purdue@WestGate offers tools for startups, entrepreneurial experts, programs, educational opportunities and workforce development to help southern Indiana businesses grow and thrive. For more information about the resources available to businesses, visit Purdue@WestGate.