Fast-Track Your Business

Boot-camp accelerator programs help entrepreneurs start and grow their enterprises

(Illustration by Richard Borge)

Jonathan Gosier, founder and product director for metaLayer, a cloud-based data visualization software company, attended the three-month Pennsylvania-based DreamIt Ventures accelerator program last year. Although metaLayer was making money and had earned more than $100,000 in revenues for 2011, the accelerator helped Gosier restructure the business and tweak his pitch to be more attractive to investors. Most importantly, it gave him access to a critical network of mentors.

“Some people have access to great networks, maybe because they went to the right schools or they live in the right city,” says the 31-year-old. “But if you’re outside those two environments, it really helps to go through a program where you’re mentored by people who have access to those networks and who can give you insight as to how investors look at companies that are trying to raise money.” Gosier and his team are now working on raising $1 million through venture capitalists and angel investors. So far they’ve secured $200,000.

DreamIt Ventures is a startup business accelerator with programs in New York, Philadelphia, and Tel-Aviv, Israel. It also has a minority startup track to provide brand building, business development, financial modeling, and customer acquisition. “We focus on working with early stage companies, and they tend to be technology oriented,” says William Crowder, a managing director at DreamIt. “In most cases we work with these companies to get them prepared to pitch to venture capitalists and angel investors.” Startups that are funneled through DreamIt receive company stipends of up to $25,000, and the accelerator takes a 6% equity stake.

Similar to a business incubator, DreamIt houses all the companies under one roof. Although both incubators and accelerators offer business support and growth services, there are differences. According to the National Business Incubation Association, an incubator’s primary objective is to help develop successful, financially independent startups by equipping them with management guidance, technical assistance, networking opportunities, and consulting services. Businesses can stay in an incubator for up to two years before graduating.

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