Archive for the ‘accelerator program’ tag
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The Iron Yard has launched the Southeast’s first digital health accelerator, proving that innovation shouldn’t be confined to Silicon Valley.
The Iron Yard’s tech collective was formed by a group of locals in the small city of Greenville, South Carolina. The original idea was to inspire networking among like-minded folk, but the Iron Yard quickly spiralled into a tech accelerator, a coding academy for kids, and a coworking space.
And now, the founders are asking entrepreneurs to fix some of the biggest flaws with our current health system.
Entrepreneurs enrolled in the accelerator will receive $20,000 in seed capital funding, three months of mentorship and training, a full year of free coworking space in Spartanburg, S.C., and the opportunity to demo their product at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
Given the complexities of the space (founders will need to ensure their product is HIPPA compliant, for instance), the accelerator will provide free legal consultations.
The accelerator is looking for a wide range of ideas — fitness apps, web-based electronic medical records, “big data” analysis tools to name a few — but the program does not support medical devices at this stage, Iron Yard managing director Peter Barth said in an interview.
In the last five years, health accelerators have popped up around the country, and venture funding has drastically increased. In order to compete with established programs like HealthBox and RockHealth, the accelerator has signed up brand-name partners and mentors from JM Smith, Mayo Clinic, AbbVie (Abbott Labs), Zebra Technologies, and BMW.
For entrepreneurs who crave small town living and a break from Silicon Valley, The Iron Yard may be the best bet. “We want everyone to have the opportunity and ability to have an effect on the digital world and an effect on society,” said cofounder Eric Dodds in a recent interview.
The three-month digital health program begins on July 15. Click here to apply and learn more.
Images courtesy of the Iron Yard
Filed under: Business
OpenTable’s founder, Chuck Templeton, has launched ImpactEngine, a new Chicago-based accelerator to support for-profit businesses that aim to make a positive social or environmental impact in the world.
This week, ImpactEngine accepted its first class. These founders hope to become social business leaders, and are tackling global problems like illiteracy in emerging nations, water filtration problems, and inequities in U.S. financial services.
Impact Engine has raised a $500,000 fund to invest in the startups. Templeton and the other founders, Jamie Jones, assistant director of social enterprise at Northwestern University, and Linda Darragh, executive director of Kellogg School of Management‘s Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice, will take a small equity stake of 7%, in exchange for doling out $20,000 in funding.
“Our mission is to show investors that they can invest in social business and still make strong returns,” said Templeton, in an interview with VentureBeat. The founder of OpenTable, an online reservations service, told me that he was inspired to support social business when his daughter was born.
“I started to think about what the world might look like when she got older,” Templeton explained. “There are some deep challenges, but with those challenges are huge business opportunities.”
ImpactEngine is the first of its kind in the Midwest, and takes its cue from Hub Ventures, a Bay Area-based accelerator program for social entrepreneurs. VentureBeat covered its Demo Day this month; 7 companies attempted to build technologies to improve healthcare, education, civic engagement, and the environment.
The inaugural class will start in September with a demo day on December 5. Here is a list of the eight startups, as they would describe themselves:
Azadi - More than 300 million women living in rural India face financial, educational, and social challenges because they do not have access to hygienic menstruation products. Azadi creates biodegradable sanitary pads that are both accessible and affordable to this population.
Collaborative Group - Collaborative Group aims to provide sustainable employment to artisans in need around the globe, from Guatemala, Kenya, India, and beyond. It advocates for artisans and underserved populations by sourcing goods to socially conscious retail partners and distributors in the United States.
Effortless Energy - McKinsey estimates that cost-effective residential energy efficiency measures constitute a $230 billion market, yet adoption has been extremely low. By addressing the financial, operational, and behavioral market barriers, Effortless Energy makes home energy efficiency a snap. Customers pay a reduced monthly energy bill while Effortless Energy does the work to analyze, coordinate, and finance smart home upgrades at no cost to customers.
Ithaca Education - Ithaca Education helps teachers deliver personalized and rigorous literacy curriculum to students through its web-based platform, CERCA. This tool aligns to the new Common Core State Standards by focusing on argument-based teaching methods. CERCA lets teachers build and share lessons, track growth, collaborate with students, and create academic portfolios online.
Light Up Africa - Light Up Africa (LUA) provides renewable energy to marginalized populations in Kenya through The Zoom Box, an efficient and affordable kinetic energy storage device. The Zoom Box easily attaches to bicycles, motorbikes, livestock, and boats in order to provide electricity for small personal devices, such as cellular phones and lamps.
POMS - Approximately 80 million consumers in the United States lack access to a payment card (credit/debit) or do not have an official banking relationship. But traditional financial services for the underbanked population have limited reach and predatory fees. By integrating into existing retail terminals, POMS provides real-time payment transfer solutions to the underbanked that are significantly cheaper than today’s options.
Portapure - Portapure invents, designs, and manufactures affordable, easy-to-use water filtration products for the nearly one billion individuals who lack access to clean drinking water.
Raise5 - Raise5 (pictured, above) is a fundraising platform that lets people raise money for their favorite charities and non-profit organizations through micro-volunteering. Users can donate a small service or task—logo design help, copy editing, etc.—in exchange for $5 to the charity of their choice.
Filed under: Entrepreneur
There are all sorts of loyalty program out there, but let’s be honest — most of them are a pain in the ass to navigate. They require you to carry around a punch card, or you have to check in using some kind of mobile app, or use a specific rewards card. And each local merchant is tied to a different app or loyalty program, which means that users need to have various different apps or cards at the ready to capture rewards.
New York City-based LocalBonus differentiates itself by offering up a “universal” loyalty program that doesn’t require users to download an app, checkin to a location, or carry around a punchcard to get points. Instead, it ties LocalBonus loyalty points to purchases made with a user’s debit or credit card. Once someone has registered a card with LocalBonus, then any transaction made at participating merchants will begin automatically accruing points. Those points can then be redeemed for cash at various increments.
To improve its product and expand into other markets, LocalBonus has closed a $900,000 round of seed financing. The funding round was led by Payment Ventures, with Actinic Ventures and other angels also participating. Payment Ventures’s Tony VanBrackle, a vet with 25 years of experience in the payments industry, has also joined the board.
LocalBonus currently operates in five different markets throughout the U.S., including New York City, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento. It works with other third-party loyalty programs, and has more than 800 merchants providing loyalty rewards through its service.
The startup was founded by CEO Derek Webster, who previously worked at Oliver Wyman advising banks and payment networks on their payments strategy. Prior to that, he ran credit card product development at E*TRADE. The startup graduated from the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator program in April, and has been head-down since then signing up new businesses and seeking to expand its network of local merchants.
In the announcement press release, Scott Chase, CEO of the Startup America Partnership, notes that the fundraising can be “an extremely difficult and time-consuming process as founders are focused on running and growing their companies” and that CapLinked will allow members to “easily manage their capital raise.”
CapLinked’s platform includes private workspaces where entrepreneurs and investors can share fundraising documents and manage other transactions, as well as a network tools for connecting the two groups can meet. Now startups who are enrolled in Startup America will now get access to the company’s premium features, says CEO Eric Jackson. Those tools include workspace activity reports, multiple workspace administrators, the ability to create additional workspaces, plus more tools for networking with investors.
This isn’t the first time CapLinked has made these features to a large group of startups. Just last month, it announced the CapLinked Elite Accelerator Program, making premium accounts available to companies in programs like TechStars, Science, and 500 Startups. With more than 6,500 companies enrolled in Startup America, this partnership could potentially offer a nice boost to CapLinked’s user base, but Jackson insists that this is “not really about acquiring customers<’ but instead “helping Startup America with their mission of empowering entrepreneurs to build great companies.”
Founded in 2010, CapLinked says it has managed $37 billion worth of deals from more than 135,000 users.
The three-month long DreamIt Ventures accelerator program is landing in Austin in December, running for a full three months before unleashing the chosen startups on the crowds at SXSW in March 2013. DreamIt is also running events in Philadelphia and New York. This additional program will be run by Austinite Kerry Rupp.
Citing Texas’ “vibrant” start-up community, Rupp will help launch a portion of the 45 companies running through the DreamIt gauntlet over the next year.
“A successful startup community must cluster a variety of elements including world-class entrepreneurs, capital, professional service providers, startup leaders and mentors, universities, and a nurturing community,” said Rupp. “Austin has all these elements.”
Applications will open this summer and you must move to Austin to participate but don’t worry: not all of Texas is the way you imagine it. Austin is pretty chill.
With the mushrooming in the number of accelerator programs offered globally, there’s become a rash of ‘last chance to apply’ emails hitting our in-box of late. To be frank, we could spend a lot of time on these, but I’m sure readers would prefer some real news in their feeds. Thus, to the rescue has come f6S.com, a kind of social network for founders and startups to keep track of these programs.
Sean Kane is among those who spun the idea up and, along with friends and contacts, helped to build the platform out. Although he’s loath to act as spokesperson for the ‘community’ he says the site now lists around 400+ incubator and accelerator programs, as well as almost 200 offers for startups from software companies, that can be worth thousands of dollars, such as $24,000 of hosting free from Rackspace for startups.
“The tools aspect f6S.com makes people lives a lot easier tracking all these. Its seems to be delivering good value and there’s a pretty big community now,” he tells me.
It does appear to be pretty useful and – to be frank – if TechCrunch writers don’t have to spend their days writing about closing dates for accelerator program then frankly we think that’s a “good thing.”
(Updated with quotes from Raj Kapoor)
Raj Kapoor, Mayfield Fund‘s managing director, will leave the Menlo Park venture capital firm as a full-time partner after seven years, to develop a new accelerator program for early-stage startups.
Hours after the firm announced its new $365 million fund — Mayfield 14 – Kapoor wrote on his personal blog that he would be launching a new “co-founder model” that would capitalize on his experience as a venture capitalist and a founder. He said he would be spending far more quality time with entrepreneurs than a typical investor.
Prior to Mayfield, Kapoor was the co-founder and CEO of Snapfish. He joined the firm in 2005 shortly after orchestrating a $300 million sale to Hewlett Packard.
Kapoor emphasized in an interview the new accelerator is not a venture capital firm that is competing with Mayfield. He will not launch the program until early next year, and will maintain close ties with the firm as a board member.
“The new model is about institutionalizing the cofounder role across several founding (pre-seed) stage startups – spending the equivalent of roughly a day a week at each startup and having a minority share of the founding equity,” Kapoor explained.
Kapoor will invite no more than four or five companies to join the fund at a time, unlike traditional seed funds who invest in over 100 startups. ”I am a minority cofounder working alongside the CEO to make them successful,” he told me. “I want to institutionalize a brand around this new model.”
That Kapoor, one of the Valley’s most enigmatic and well-known investors, is no longer a partner in Mayfield 14, is no doubt a significant blow to the firm. However, Chadda, the firm’s managing director, said this news is no surprise to the limited partners. They have privately known for several months that Kapoor will not be involved with Mayfield 14. Kapoor’s LinkedIn profile has not yet been updated to reflect the transition.
On his blog, Kapoor hinted further at his reasons for departing the firm as its full-time managing director. He wrote that the model for his new fund does not fit with Mayfield’s existing investment structure.
“I believe there is a market need to provide entrepreneurs with deeper, higher frequency ongoing help at the earliest stage that sits in the white space between angels, accelerators, and VCs,” he wrote.
Kapoor currently serves on the board of the firm’s most notable e-commerce and digital media portfolio companies, including Zimride and Tagged. He will continue to be actively involved with previous Mayfield funds — 12 and 13.
The news was buried in last week’s announcement that Mayfield had raised $365 million for its latest early stage technology fund, led by Chaddha, along with directors Tim Chang, who joined last year, Robin Vasan, Rajeev Batra and James Beck. Chaddha hinted at Kapoor’s imminent departure in an interview with Dow Jones’ Russ Garland, when he said that the managing director’s fate is “undecided.”
Mayfield is one of the oldest venture capital firms, with nearly $3 billion under management. The firm has been relegated to mid-tier status in recent years, displaced by the likes of Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, but has been clawing its way back to its former glory with profitable investments in promising consumer-tech startups like Fixya, Poshmark and HealthTap.
Click here for our executive editor’s take on Mayfield’s new fund, raised in just under 13 weeks.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, got off to a slow start when it launched in early 2010. It’s clearly gaining momentum now, though. According to Microsoft’s own data, Azure’s storage service, which competes directly with Amazon’s S3, now stores over 4 trillion objects. That’s a big number, but what’s even more impressive is that this is a 4x increase compared to just 12 months ago. Windows Azure Storage, says Microsoft, currently processes an average of 270,000 requests per second, with peaks of around 880,000 requests per second.
According to Microsoft’s Brad Calder, the company expects this growth rate to continue, especially given that the Azure team significantly lowered the cost of Azure Storage transactions last month.
Just over the last few weeks, Microsoft also added a number of new features to Azure, including Locally Redundant Storage and Geo Redundant Storage, as well as its Azure Virtual Machines that are stored as objects in Azure Storage. These virtual machines can run Windows Server and a number of Linux distributions.
As our own Sarah Perez reported in April, Amazon currently says that it hosts about one trillion objects. Back then, Amazon reported that it processed about 650,000 requests per minute. It’s worth noting that Microsoft defines “objects” somewhat differently, which explains the difference in numbers. As Microsoft itself notes, its service “uses a unique approach of storing different object types (Blobs, Disks/Drives, Tables, Queues) in the same store.” It is, of course, also possible that the number is inflated by Microsoft’s own internal use of the service for some of its other products. The fact that Amazon handles more requests than Azure, however, clearly indicates that its S3 service is still comfortably ahead of Azure.
Today in Mountain View, Calif., Dave McClure’s 500 Startups unveiled the latest class of companies to participate in its Accelerator program. This batch had startups addressing an incredibly wide variety of spaces — from kids’ computer games, to necktie shopping, to tktk, and beyond. Founding partner Dave McClure said during today’s program that with this batch of companies, 500 Startups aimed for one unifying thread: “Hopefully, these pitches make sense and solve problems that matter,” he said, whether those problems affect consumers, parents, or small business owners.
All the pitches were compelling, but we picked out seven that seemed especially interesting. Here are the top seven startups from the class, in no particular order:
Chalkable – Rather than using the same old musty text books year after year, Chalkable hopes to bring classrooms into the 21st Century. It plans to do that by providing schools with a unified app store that curates all the best digital teaching aids, along with tools to manage budgets and track student performance. The platform includes a feed of classroom activities, as well as a gradebook and analytics for students. Frankly, it’s the kind of school experience I wish had been available to me when I grew up. Chalkable plans to charge schools $10 per student, of which $5 will be available for purchasing school aids. Despite just launching in the spring, the startup has already piloted its platform in three public and private schools, and will be expanding to more than 50 schools in the fall.
Tuckernuck – This startup is focused on providing an e-commerce platform that curates clothing from thousands of small fashion brands, all of which are focused on serving the $18 billion “American lifestyle” market. Think that classic, preppy whitebread style. It’s not just about aggregating different brands all under one roof — there’s also a community aspect, where customers can upload pictures of themselves in certain styles that others can purchase as well, leading to a sort of virtuous cycle of sharing and shopping. The founders come from fashion backgrounds, and so have gotten their partners to take care of shipping for them — meaning no inventory risk and better margins. In just eight weeks, Tuckernuck has topped $60,000 in sales, with an average shopping cart of $125. Tuckernuck sees a huge opportunity to go beyond everyday apparel and to also introduce offerings in verticals like Home, Tots, Pets, and Weddings. So its clothes might not be for everyone, but for the market it’s focusing on, Tuckernuck seems to have built something pretty cool. And I mean, how can you go wrong marketing to rich white people?
Wanderable – Why would anyone want to crowdfund a honeymoon? For one thing, not everyone wants to collect more *stuff* as part of a wedding registry. Plus, not only are honeymoons expensive, but a lot of times, the friends and family of a married couple don’t get to share in the experience. Now Wanderable has created a platform that allows a couple to grab funding from friends and family, and in return provide content back to the people who have contributed to the campaign. It’s like a wedding registry specifically for experiences. Wanderable is focused on honeymoons, but it’s collecting data which could be used to expand into other types of live events.
Ingresse – Event organizers in Brazil don’t have a lot of the same tools that we do in the U.S. There’s no Ticketmaster there — the site was shut down not long ago — and no one like Eventbrite has really rolled in to take over the market. Ingresse wants to provide that platform for the Brazilian market. Not only is Ingresse focused on ticket sales and integrated with payment processors, but it also wants to provide a platform for discovery of local events. By integrating with services like Facebook and Last.fm, it can tell you when your favorite artists or other events are happening nearby, as well as telling you which events your friends are going to. It’s hosted more than 400 events in Brazil so far and made more than $200,000 in revenue. With another $1.2 million in financing already raised, it’s looking to grow even faster.
TenderTree – How many people here have parents? Most all of us do, right? And so at some point, inevitably, most people have to think about elderly care for their family. TenderTree is a marketplace to connect families and caregivers, by allowing families to see reviews, background, and interests of those nearby. TenderTree has launched in the San Francisco Bay Area and has done $40,000 worth of revenue since it rolled out there, with half of that coming in the last month. There’s already a waiting list of 2,000 users signed up, so it shouldn’t have any problem reaching that demand.
Monogram – What is it about these fashion startups? Maybe it’s that shopping online sucks, and yet, it’s something we all do. Anyway, Monogram has released an app which it positions as your “personal shopper on the iPad.” The app works by essentially aggregating clothing from multiple different sources, doing away with the need to browse and shop various different e-commerce and deals sites to find clothes on sale and in your personal style. It remembers your clothing preferences, and autofilters for size, along with using a professional stylist to curate individual looks for users. The startup claims that about 87 percent of iPad owners shop on the device, and they spend an average of 30 percent more than the average web shopper. So why not make it easier, you know, and more personal, seamless and frictionless to spend your hard-earned cash on your favorite fashions? Looks like that’s what Monogram is trying to enable — and largely succeeding at it.
Fontacto – Business telecom in Mexico and Latin America sucks. So says Fontacto founder Ricardo Cacique. Companies have to pay as much as $5,000 in U.S. dollars just to get set up with phone service, mainly due to a highly regulated market place. What Fontacto is trying to build is a virtual telco service for businesses, targeting the 5 million small and medium-sized businesses in those markets. It’s gotten a license to operate telco services in Mexico, which has a commercial value of about $1 million there. It’s also rolled out its own proprietary infrastructure, which allows it to offer phone service at about 84 percent cheaper than traditional commercial phone services.
We’ll have video interviews with these folks coming up soon, as well as an interview with the man himself, Dave McClure.
(Additional reporting by Colleen Taylor, the most awesome TechCrunchTV talking head ever. Photo by George Kellerman)
APIs are marching into education, and it’s about time. Education is rife with legacy infrastructure, with one of the primary offenders being Student Information Systems (SIS). Schools use these systems to store huge amounts of sensitive student information (class lists, attendance, grades and allergies, etc.), but they differ widely from school to school, which, among other things, forces developers to manually integrate with each unique system, making it difficult for their cool educational software or apps to achieve any kind of scale.
LearnSprout, a recent graduate of the education-focused startup accelerator Imagine K12 wants to help both schools and developers unleash those opaque educational data silos with the help of a few clean, standardizing APIs. While the recently-launched startup is not alone — Y Combinator-backed Clever launched a similar platform last month — LearnSprout now has the benefit of some notable investors to help fuel its fires.
The startup is in the process of closing its first round of funding with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Formation 8 (a new VC fund headed by Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale), Benjamin Ling, Philip Fung and Luke Shepard — to name a few. LearnSprout is in the process of adding a few more investors and is hoping to cap the round at around $1 million.
LearnSprout is also one of eight companies (and the only education startup) to be accepted into the inaugural cohort of Code For America’s accelerator program, which provides early-stage businesses with a grant, mentoring, and introductions to tech-savvy decision makers in local and federal government in an effort to help them grow civically-minded businesses.
Founded in January this year by Franklyn Chien, Anthony Wu, and Joe Woo, veterans of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft respectively, today LearnSprout is already working with 40+ schools and another 200+ schools are in the pipeline, and it’s begun to generate revenue to boot. All in all, not bad progress for six months.
But, as it so often goes, this isn’t where the team initially planned to end up. Chien tells us that, going into Imagine K12, LearnSprout had begun to build a modern learning management system-student information system hybrid that was intended to be v2.0 of Blackboard — something not too dissimilar from Instructure’s Canvas. But, it wasn’t long before the founders came to the realization that getting schools to dump their existing systems was basically a fool’s errand.
Rather than shell out money for new systems or software, schools tend to make due with what they have, adding ad hoc fixes as they go. There are over 100 student information systems in operation today, each of them built in Frankenstein ways to save costs. Teachers end up having to manually enter data themselves, making transferring, aggregating, and gaining insight into these data silos a nightmare.
Because schools aren’t eager to budge, the best fix is to give them (and developers) one set of APIs that allows them to keep their systems in place while making their data portable and fluent in a universal language. The startup’s APIs essentially create a secure channel through which developers and schools can transfer the sensitive information from their student information systems.
LearnSprout removes the pain for developers of having to manage CSV files, exports and FTP servers, and removes manual data entry. As extra incentive for schools, LearnSprout handles all data integration with the student information systems itself, whether it’s CSV or direct database connection. The team is also providing schools with two applications that come on top of its APIs and work right out of the box — one of them being a school-wide emergency notification system, for example. The purpose of including these apps, Chien says, is to showcase the power of the platform, give schools a way to get used to the new system, while giving developers an archetype with which to work.
LearnSprout also handles data duplication, serving developers and schools with only the most up-to-date information. What’s more, for schools, it’s all free. LearnSprout offers them one-click install to get them started, charging developers either with a flat fee or offering a revenue share based on the number of integrations. If they bring a new school to LearnSprout, however, integration is free. Right now, Chien says that the startup is already working with about 70 percent of the SIS in operation in the U.S. and is hard at work on covering the remainder.
In terms of its plan going forward, the team is already thinking beyond the U.S., eyeing tons of potential abroad and plans to leverage contacts from Andreessen and Formation 8 to begin taking international steps.
You can find LearnSprout at home here, or check out their pitch at Imagine K12′s Demo Day below: