Accelerator: Second program starting - CTTEC - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, April 29, 2011

Accelerator: Second program starting

CMU’s Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship launched the program in June 2010 as a way to link graduate students at the Tepper School of Business to the broader marketplace. It helps the companies validate their products, services and business models earlier and more efficiently in a mentored environment. CMU paid the Accelerator companies a stipend that will convert to equity.

The five Accelerator companies we have followed are:

  • Black Locus — Developer of a cloud-based platform to help small- and medium-sized online retailers in real time.
  • LearnBop — Developer of technology that allows educators to create content online that adapts to what students don’t understand about a particular subject.
  • REBIScan — Developer of a hand-held vision scanner that will work toward erasing the leading causes of preventable blindness in children.
  • CommunityVibe — Developer of an affordable, centralized online tenant management portal.
  • RhoMania — Developer of a Web-based application that predicts how much consumers will enjoy a bottle of wine prior to purchase based on an individualized taste profile.

Art Boni, Jones Center executive director, said four of the five companies have already acquired customers; the exception is REBIScan, which is still in clinical testing and awaiting FDA approval. He answered questions about the program’s first year and what’s ahead.

What surprised you most about the 2010 companies?

The biggest surprise is that all of the companies have made considerable progress, have evolved their business models based on customer input, and the founding teams have attracted new members and partners. You usually expect to see a few early crash and burn. I was most pleased that all companies said that they benefitted from the experience and were more prepared to launch products and services and to begin generating investor interest, which has occurred over the academic year. In effect, all of these MBAs generated their own jobs.

What sort of response did the program receive from the investment community?

Most of these companies have already received validation from the investment community. Idea Foundry, Innovation Works/Alpha Labs, The Technology Collaborative, and angel investors have all been very supportive.

Will any of the companies be based outside Pittsburgh?

RebiScan is based in Boston and will return there upon graduation of the CEO. LearnBop is contemplating a split base between New York City and Pittsburgh based on their selection to participate in the Dreamit ventures program this summer.

Who are the 2011 participants?

This year we have selected three promising companies – Enzium, a biotech diagnostics company; HyGenyx, a medical IT company; and Global Paradigmz, a Web-based business to facilitate formation and management of global partnerships for small and medium enterprises.

What’s different?

Enzium is a company being launched by graduating MBAs that would benefit from the Accelerator since the company did not come into existence until the second year of their MBA program. Since last summer, we have entered into a partnership with Innovation Works to develop and deploy agile innovation tools and techniques that are being developed and implemented under our i6 Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. These tools and techniques are more fully developed and will also be deployed by our Accelerator teams.

Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times