This week Chicago’s Unbranded Designs has taken the top prize during the Lean Startup Challenge finals held at 1871. Unbranded Designs was chosen from a group of four startups that have been going through the Lean Startup Circle’s rigorous 14 week program to bring lean startup methodology into the core of their businesses.
On Wednesday, Unbranded Designs, unWined, Care Content, and Cardoona took to the stage to lay their companies bare before a panel of judges that included Kunjorn Chambundabongse of UnitedHealth Group, president and CEO of Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center Kevin Willer, and John Pytel, the founder of last year’s winning startup, GoSoapBox.
Each of the four Chicago companies were allotted ten minutes to give their presentation, followed by a brief round of questions from the audience. Prior to the finals, each of the participating startups worked closely with Excelerate Labs CEO Troy Henikoff to fine tune their pitches for the event.
Of the four startups, Unbranded Designs emerged at the top of the game, securing the $25,000 grand prize for the furniture creation community. Like a Threadless for furniture, Unbranded Designs allows a community of designers and consumers to come together to vote on user created items they’d most like to see in their own homes. Winning pieces will go into production once it has secured enough interest and can then be purchasable for a limited time by the community that created and supported it. Unbranded Designs deals in all types of furniture, from cabinets to chairs, coffee tables, chandeliers, and more.
“The Lean Startup has shaped almost every facet of our business, from identifying our designer community to validating our customer base to creating our entire manufacturing network,” said Unbranded Designs co-founder Sameer Dohadwala. “We talked to hundreds of people, which continuously allowed us to tweak and iterate on our business model. But as a more general note, the Lean Startup is great because it offers a constant pressure-test for your business, and ensures that when you are ready to scale your business, you can feel confident that you have a viable model.”
According to the co-founder, the company will use the newly-acquired funds to build out the platform, and hire more developers to help push out the next version of Unbranded Designs. “Ultimately, our community is at the core of our value as a company, so our aim is to create the best product we possibly can for our designers and consumers,” said Dohadwala.
With just over a month since its launch, the startup has seen more than 50 design submissions hit its community purely through word of mouth. Its first purchasable piece was made available to the community only two weeks ago and has generated more than $3,000 in revenue. “We expect our community to continue to grow rapidly as we offer great new features on our website and ratchet up marketing, and our revenue projections are climbing as we build great relationships with customers and partners,” Dohadwala wrote.
Visit Unbranded Designs if you’re looking to get a feel for the growing online furniture community, and be sure to check out the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge home page to learn more about each of this year’s competitors.