More Than an Incubator: How Cie’s Venture Studio Helps Disruptive Work Thrive

Anderee Berengian saw entrepreneur after entrepreneur hitting the same roadblocks and knew he could help smooth their paths to success.

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on May. 18, 2023
More Than an Incubator: How Cie’s Venture Studio Helps Disruptive Work Thrive
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Anderee Berengian has always had a clear guiding vision for his work: “My whole purpose is to solve real problems and make the world a better place.”

Early in his career, Berengian followed that purpose into medical research as he pursued a PhD. But as he worked through tiny problem by tiny problem on the way to developing larger solutions, Berengian began to realize that incremental progress could lead to faster outcomes outside the lab.

“After talking through my plans with my advisors and friends, I ended up at an Idealab company called Overture,” Berengian said. “Through that process, I learned how to build, scale and ultimately exit a business.”

As Berengian moved into new startups, he realized his peers hadn’t always developed those same skills. “There was a deep need for guidance,” he said. “Entrepreneurs were repeating the same mistakes over and over again, and I wondered if I could find a way to reduce the amount of inefficiencies and improve outcomes to prevent companies from having the same issues and struggles.”

Cie was born.

According to Berengian, Cie’s goal is to free entrepreneurs to focus on two questions: “What are they making?” and “How are they selling it?”

“If leaders can figure out their product and sales strategies, they can find product-market fit,” he explains. “We start with Cie at the core supporting everything and getting the wheels to turn while the company focuses on product and sales.”

Cie’s expert leaders are experienced sherpas who recognize when to activate critical business functions such as product, engineering, HR, finance, and operations; contributing to the successful realization of their innovative business ideas. 

 

WHAT IS A VENTURE STUDIO?

Cie is a venture studio and accelerator that uses a “Zero to One” methodology to help startups reach key milestones while staying capital efficient. Across the landscape of accelerators and incubators, an emphasis on continual operation sets Cie’s work as a venture studio apart from its accelerator projects. “Our team rolls up their sleeves, comes to sit at the table and helps figure it out together,” Berengian said.

While an incubator may provide a grant, basic services and opportunities for collaboration and an accelerator offers funding and support in exchange for equity, the venture studio is integrated in company-building from a startup’s very first day, operating the businesses alongside entrepreneurs with a core team. The experienced team serves as a success multiplier as the company is able to avoid pitfalls and ultimately leverage that work into building successful, independent businesses outside of the venture studio.

Cie at Work

Since its inception, Cie’s venture portfolio has included everything from mobile games to digitally-powered tire replacement — and developed exit strategies through acquisition to benefit the entire team.

With access to Cie’s expertise and resources, possibilities for Cie’s ventures are expansive. “Imagine that instead of a boat with one outboard motor, you have fourteen,” Berengian said. “All of the sudden, everything is moving faster, and you’re just going.”

For Bradley Blankenship, a serial entrepreneur and tech executive, working with Cie to scale and sell Titan School Solutions allowed him to work with Berengian and his team more recently on an entirely new educational tech opportunity.

“We’re not sharing too much about Apollo yet,” Blankenship said. But what he is ready to share are insights into how working with Berengian and Cie helped him successfully develop and reach his goals with Titan and continue to support Apollo’s early growth.

After a few years building Titan, Blankenship was introduced to Berengian and partnered with Cie, which helped scale the company through to an acquisition backed by private equity. 

“I spent about six months trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, and I brought the idea for Apollo to Anderee and his team to see if this was another journey they wanted to take with me,” Blankenship said. And so, over the last year and a half of building Apollo from the ground up, Blankenship has been working with Cie the whole way through. 

For Blankenship, Cie’s strategic expertise has been key to the success of his partnership with the company.

 

“Cie brought a level of strategic insight that was instrumental in helping us scale our business quickly and efficiently.”

 

Cie’s team of subject matter experts is focused on getting start-ups to what they call ‘exit velocity’.

According to Blankenship,”Reaching ‘exit velocity’ is not just about speed, it's about having a solid foundation in place to ensure sustained success. Together, we were able to fine-tune our business strategy, optimize our product offerings, and build a high-performing team, which allowed us to focus on what we do best and catalyzed our journey to acquisition.”

Allowing leaders to do what they do best drives all of Berengian’s priorities for Cie.

“The concept is enabling people like Brad to take all their great knowledge and put it to use to accelerate growth,” he said. “We are able to bring our teams together, each with their complementary skills, to create new possibilities.”

“The concept is enabling people to take all their great knowledge and put it to use to accelerate growth.”

 

Cie’s Committed Network

Since founding Cie, Berengian has built a team of passionate and committed professionals — and the network now extends far beyond Cie’s immediate team.

“A lot of folks have brought others to the table to contribute to the work,” he said. “Each of these connections begets another, and the next thing you know, our web is very broad and connects many senior folks across the industry. And that expertise level means our reach is not only wide but also very deep.”

Beyond the opportunity to work with some of the most talented folks in the field, Cie also offers meaningful material benefits for joining the team.

“We give every employee a piece of every company we build,” Berengian said.

Cie holds equity in each of its partner companies, and with every successful exit, every employee sees a share of that payout.

“Even if you don’t touch that project, you still get a piece,” Berengian said. “So everybody has an incentive to make sure every single company is successful. That’s the key for creating mission alignment — everyone is looking at our projects and saying, ‘Okay, how do I make all of these people successful?’”

 

Cie Team
Cie Digital Labs

 

What’s Next for Cie

As Berengian’s team of engineers, recruiters, finance experts and other professionals at the top of their game continue to work together, they’ve built a rich store of institutional knowledge and the tools needed to work efficiently and effectively together.

“The purpose of the company was to become a startup factory,” he said. “The real focus has been on co-operating and co-running these businesses with their founders.”

As the team continues to help successful startups “leave the nest,” Cie is growing its startup portfolio and branching into new parts of the industry — and Blankenship’s work with Titan and Apollo serves as a model for that continued growth.

“As we grow, I love to look at the work we’ve done with Brad,” Berengian said. “By communicating and working together on the first go-round, we are ready to approach this second project even more seamlessly. I want to extend that experience further — the team and processes we’ve created — not only with Brad, but with other startups.”

What has that level of collaboration felt like for Berengian? 

“It’s like winning the Super Bowl,” he said.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images by Cie Digital Labs

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