By guest authors Irina Patterson and Praveen Karoshi
Kerry: So, if we take a company like Scvngr, which is among our alumni, when they applied [the founder] was a 17-year-old from Princeton who was a technologist, very savvy, visionary, but he really needed someone to build out more of the front-end sales and marketing operations and customer support side of the business.
So, we paired this young entrepreneur Seth with another gentleman named Michael Hagen, a 25-year-old who would at least have been out in the marketplace and could serve as his co-founder. Both Seth and Michael will tell you that that was critical to the success of Scvngr as a company. We continue to do that for our incoming companies. That is kind of like a speed dating, matching opportunities for them to add additional resources to their team.
Irina: What is your usual equity stake?
Kerry: For the entire suite of services that we provide we take a 6% equity stake in each company.
At the end of the day, I think this is all about people. You invest in a company because of the people. It is the group of people that we bring together in terms of mentors and advisors and the track record of their success. We feel like the companies that have come out of our program and the success that they are having today help us differentiate us from some of the other accelerators.
Irina: Where are your applications coming from?
Kerry: We get them from all over the world, which is exciting, and we have been doing a lot of research into visa requirements to make sure we can bring in as many international teams that are qualified as possible.
We do a number of different things to solicit applications. Some of it is just through our social media efforts. The people sign up to follow our brand whether they are on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. We have been doing articles with the media in order to draw attention to our brand.
We do on campus recruiting events. Right now, we are actively recruiting at campuses around the country, focusing a lot on the Northeast. We are going to Duke, Dartmouth, Drexel, Penn State, Harvard, MIT, Yale, NYU, and Columbia. One of my business partners was just out in California at Stanford and UC Berkeley. So, we are trying to head to some of the top schools with top engineering talent and top entrepreneurial programs because we find that there is a lot of interesting innovation happening today at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at many universities.
Irina: What is the process of your engagement with the universities?
Kerry: We go through a number of different channels. We often found success with the student club leaders. So, we would often find entrepreneurial clubs on campus both in the business schools and in the undergrad [programs]. We also try to target engineering teams, entrepreneurial engineers. We talk to student presidents, and we have also gone through the faculties and often through the entrepreneurial management faculty or even through the career office to set up events on campus. We even taught classes on innovation and the changing landscape of technological innovation at various schools.
Irina: How do you usually process of your applications?
Kerry: One of our founding partners is the founder of the company called WizeHive, which is an online collaboration tool that is built almost specifically for collecting and managing applications.
So, we take them into this application management tool, where the partners review and rate the applications. Then we often go to outside industry experts who have more detailed knowledge of a specific industry, to get their sense of the space, the market size, the opportunity. We do phone line interviews, online video interviews, and then we meet the companies in person before we extend an offer.
Irina: How many applications do you usually receive per cycle?
Kerry: It has grown each year as have we raised more awareness about our brand, I think in the spring last year we got over 300, and we are still collecting applications for this summer’s program. We have more than several hundred already.