DreamIt Ventures, the startup incubator with programs in place in New York, Philadelphia, and, most recently, Israel, is announcing a year-long minority accelerator program called DreamIt Access. The program, launched with Comcast Ventures as its first investor, plans to launch 15 minority-led startups over the course of the next 12 months, starting with five companies participating in DreamIt NYC during summer 2012.
Like most startup accelerators, DreamIt Access is about providing expertise, mentorship, office space, community, access to investors, and various discounted and/or free services that help startups get off the ground. But unlike NewME, the minority-focused accelerator based in Silicon Valley, DreamIt Access participants will receive funding thanks to Comcast’s investment. Companies will receive up to $25,000 – that’s $5,000 for the startup, plus $5,000 for each founder up to four.
DreamIt previously had a relationship with Comcast Ventures on minority-led funding initiatives. Through Comcast’s Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP), the first effort from the $20 million fund created by Comcast as a part of the acquisition of NBC Universal, the company invested in five minority-led companies in DreamIt’s Philly 2011 class. These included ElectNext, Kwelia, MetaLayer, ThaTrunk and Qwite, whose founders are African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian.
In fact, the founders’ ethnicities represent another difference between NewME and DreamIt Access. NewME began by focusing on African-Americans, and has now opened up to Latinos and females as a part of its goal to help under-represented groups get a chance at entrepreneurship. DreamIt, on the other hand, seems to define “minority” more traditionally. Asians, for example, are considered a minority in DreamIt Access, even though one could argue they’re not a minority when it comes to building Silicon Valley startups.
But DreamIt Access isn’t in Silicon Valley – it’s taking place in New York City, starting this summer. According to William Crowder, Managing Director of DreamIt, the key difference about this program, and that of NewME’s, is that the minority-focused program exists within the broader DreamIt experience.
“One of the most beneficial qualities of the DreamIt experience is the opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest minds in the startup world,” he says. “We believe when you bring together a collection of diverse talents, backgrounds, experiences, and networks, there is tremendous opportunity for major breakthroughs to occur. Our New York class will benefit from having minority-led companies, Israel-based startups, along with other startups from the U.S. and abroad.”
NewME, for what’s it’s worth, doesn’t have any qualms about a competing, minority-focused accelerator. Rather, they welcome them to the scene.
“As the first accelerator for minorities, NewME is excited that DreamIt has decided to further their commitment by launching its DreamItAccess program,” NewME co-founder Wayne Sutton tells us. “It’s an exciting time for the technology ecosystem as programs like NewME and DreamIt actively diversify it.”
Interested applicants can apply at the DreamIt website here: www.dreamitventures.com/apply. While nothing is certain, the plan is to continue the program, if possible, beyond 2012.