This Baltimore Startup Is Part of Dreamit Accelerator’s New EdTech Cohort

Entering an accelerator is helping these black founders and other startups thrive and survive longer than nonaccelerated firms

(Image: Nicole Tucker Smith)
(Image: Nicole Tucker Smith)

Entering an accelerator makes a lot of sense for startup founders.

Some studies show that the survival rates of companies that go through accelerators are three times as much that of companies that don’t. What’s more, research shows that those companies that completed an accelerator grew faster than companies that didn’t.

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One of the top business accelerators that has helped minority entrepreneurs thrive is DreamitIt has Innovation Hubs in Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, and Houston. Relocation is not required to participate. Dreamit works with early-stage entrepreneurs and provides them with resources, rock star mentors, investors, strategic partners, and, most importantly, a network of real customers looking for innovative solutions.

Pre-seed companies looking for a “hands-on” experience and seasoned entrepreneurs looking to scale their business, equally benefit from Dreamit’s immersive programs. These programs run twice a year and focus on validating your business model, acquiring early customers/users, and helping you raise capital (Seed or Series A).

For 2016, Dreamit is offering two specialized industry tracks: healthcare and education. The edtech cohort, as part of Dreamit’s new-look program, is fittingly represented by black founders in Baltimore, Nicole Tucker-Smith and Khalid Smith. Lessoncast, which focuses on professional development, is looking to connect with the accelerator’s resources to scale its sales model during the program, according to the husband-and-wife team.

Nicole serves as CEO of Lessoncast Learning, having been an assistant principal, district-level leader, professional developer, consultant, adjunct professor, supervisor of parent support services, and—most importantly—a teacher.

In founding Lessoncast, she believes the future of student learning depends on our ability to merge innovative best practices with classroom realities. As a mother of two, she holds the utmost respect for the awesome responsibility of educating someone’s child.

The company has built technology and refined its practices for teacher education; however, the company’s sales to schools and districts have mostly been person-to-person. As they scale up, the company wants to move toward SaaS sales.

That’s something that accelerators do really well, the couple told Technical.ly Baltimore.

While they are Towson University incubator members, Lessoncast hadn’t gone through an accelerator before because its founders say they haven’t found the right fit. But, Tucker-Smith and Smith say, changes in Dreamit’s model made it more appealing to apply. Dreamit now offers an option where companies do not have to give up equity, and no longer requires startups to relocate during the length of the four-month accelerator.

That’s a better fit for edtech companies, which often take longer to build and have longer sales cycles. “Dreamit did a lot of things to make accelerator process work for us,” she added.