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Rochester Century High School debate duo receives $500,000 investment for tech company

Austin McCoy and Kyle Hooten talked about starting a company together while competing as a debate pair for Century High School. Today, they run Artemis Labs with software engineer Manvir Singh and are in partnership with Y Combinator.

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Austin McCoy (Left) and Kyle Hooten (Right) at the airport flying out of Minneapolis as they moved to California to run Artemis labs in closer proximity to fellow Y Combinator companies.
Contributed / Kyle Hooten
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ROCHESTER — A former Century High School debate team got together after years of being separated for college and careers to move to San Francisco, one of the biggest cities for opportunities in the tech industry, and grow their tech company.

Austin McCoy and Kyle Hooten, along with software engineer Manvir Singh, are running Artemis Labs, a Rochester-native tech company that recently won a $500,000 investment from Y Combinator: an accelerator that helps tech startups “take off.”

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According to McCoy, Artemis began as an augmented reality company and a tool factory owners could use to make training programs for employees, but transitioned its core tech for a broader appeal.

YC partners give the admitted companies a $500,000 investment, access to their network of advisers and a suggested plan for running each phase.

In return, the companies give YC a 7% stake in the company and $350,000 worth of company shares.

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Companies that partnered with Y Combinator include DoorDash, AirBnB, Reddit and Instacart.

Before Hooten and McCoy got back together to work on Artemis, the two were on opposite sides of the county: Hooten in Washington D.C. and McCoy in Pasadena, California.

According to Kim McCoy, Austin’s mother, it was “pure luck” that Austin’s high school debate partner ended up being a future business owner.

“I think what he would tell you is that he is so lucky to have grown up in Rochester,” Kim said. “There's some unique stories there that I don't think if he had grown up in any other place he would have had.”

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Software engineer Manvir Singh, who is currently working out of Canada but plans to move to San Francisco soon to help run Artemis Labs with Kyle Hooten and Austin McCoy.
Contributed / Kyle Hooten

During the years in between, McCoy was at school, graduating from the California Institute of Technology this past spring, while Hooten was working as a speechwriter for former Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross after graduating from St. Olaf College.

According to the pair, they used to talk about starting a company together during long bus rides to debate tournaments.

After they were joined by Singh, who has a long history of working with McCoy, Artemis went on to apply for YC, which has an applicant pool of about 19,000 startups worldwide and is considered, in Kim McCoy’s words, the “Harvard of startups.”

“It’s kind of a grueling process that you go through,” Kim said. “If you're very frugal, that'll ($500,000 award) last a while, but the goal is to grow your company and get more funding.”

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According to Hooten, the group put a lot of care into their written application but it still “felt like a long shot.”

“I was thrilled when Austin called and said we were selected for an interview,” Hooten said.

The group interviewed with YC in May where they got to meet some YC group partners, and they heard back the same night that they were accepted.

Y Combinator has an acceptance rate of 1.5% to 2% and with the average age of a Y Combinator founder is 30 years old, McCoy, 22, and Hooten, 23, are on the younger side of accepted business developers.

According to Austin, getting accepted to Y Combinator is the “startup world equivalent of getting to play in the Superbowl,” and the Artemis Lab team is very grateful to have been accepted.

"Seeing Artemis validated by the Y Combinator team, some of the most knowledgeable experts in the country, was and still is deeply gratifying,” Austin said. “We've always believed in ourselves, but it doesn't hurt to have the backing of an organization you've long respected."

Bella Carpentier is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN-TC). She is currently the managing editor of the student-run paper at UMN-TC, the Minnesota Daily. While reporting for the Minnesota Daily, she covered student activism and issues affecting the university's student body. Working for the Post Bulletin, Bella hopes to build community connections and advance her reporting skills. Readers can reach Bella at bcarpentier@postbulletin.com.
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