DC-based Enterprise Startup Incubator ‘Acceleprise’ Launches
Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) —
A new startup incubator focusing on companies creating enterprise technology has launched in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Founded by three locals – Sean Glass (who will act as managing partner), Collin Gutman, and Allen Gannett (the latter two, partners) – Acceleprise is the first independent accelerator in the U.S. focused solely on enterprise technology. Over the next three years they plan to invest in over 60 new ventures which are each building software to solve the problems of large enterprises like public corporations and Federal government agencies.
Acceleprise will not only invest capital in these companies, but will also provide shared workspace and mentorship. An impressive list of mentors, including Katherine Weymouth, the CEO of Washington Post Media, Scott Case, the CEO of Startup America, and Maria Thomas,the former CEO of online retail site Etsy,will speak to groups of people at the incubator and provide private advice to member companies. (A bit further down the list is yours truly.)
From their website:
Acceleprise is the preeminent community for enterprise technologists. From enterprise tech focused VCs, to customers, and mentors, the accelerator is a hub for enterprise technology activity. Each portfolio company will have access to Acceleprise’s “customer panel” program. These panels are comprised of large enterprises that have agreed to take sales meetings with each of the portfolio companies and work with them as they develop their products. Customer panel members include Microsoft, The Washington Post, and others. Additionally, we offer our companies access to funding, our alumni network, our mentorship team, and networks of early adopters.
Why Washington, DC as a home for Acceleprise?
Washington has unique benefits for enterprise technology companies… As Mayor Vince Gray put it, “With over 2,000 technology companies, world-class universities, and a growing number of accelerators and incubators, Washington DC is bursting with entrepreneurial activity. As an international center for governments, non-profits, and associations, the District is a particularly attractive place for the enterprise software entrepreneurs that Acceleprise will assist.”
DC is home to thousands of organizations and potential enterprise customers including the largest of them all, the federal government. Additionally, there are nearly 2,000 trade associations headquartered in the city, providing a distribution network for innovative products. We connect our companies with these resources through our partnerships and mentor group, helping companies build sustainable communities around their products.
While the incubator is DC-based, from what Acceleprise partner Allen Gannett tells me, they are not just focusing on companies doing work relevant to DC-area enterprises like the Army and Marriott. While DC is home to many large enterprises, Acceleprise is looking for the best enterprise-focused startups – period – in the U.S. to come to DC, incubate, be mentored, and innovate, and then move to the best place for them to take their company to the next level.
Microsoft has been interested in Acceleprise for some time, as many of our customers (like, say, Cola-Cola, Boeing, and the U.S. Army) are large enterprises, and many of our worldwide network of partners serve enterprises as well. In addition, Acceleprise-backed startups will have access to some free software and cloud resources through Microsoft’s Bizspark program.
I talked to Allen Gannett today after the launch of Acceleprise went public, and here’s how he described the incubator’s origins:
Acceleprise grew out of the gap between where enterprise tech is now because of the rise of consumerization of IT and the decreased costs of cloud distribution versus the dearth of early stage financing for enterprise tech. Sean Glass had started seeing this opportunity in his angel investing and realized that it would make sense to to build a program to help these enterprise tech companies, especially now with the decreased costs of building for the enterprise.
But why hasn’t there been an enterprise-focused startup incubator until now? There’s no one simple answer, but the partners offered some clues in an interview with TechCrunch:
“Enterprise tech entrepreneurs don’t want to be part of a GE internal accelerator,” says Gannett, “so why isn’t there a 500 Startups for enterprise technology? And it’s especially weird because the majority of software IPOs are enterprise software…there’s this huge pent-up demand.”
He notes that a lot of the regional efforts are focused on what’s in the news. “Consumer web is sexy, everyone wants to talk about it. Everyone wants to build the next Facebook.”
Adds Gutman, “it’s also about patient capital. A lot of the people who are doing accelerators are doing it because they’re seeing the technology that can produce a $100 billion company like Facebook, and they can take off in six months. Whereas with enterprise software, it takes a few years to build the business,” he says. ”It’s less sexy, less quick to explode.”
“A lot of investing in consumer web is the idea that somewhere in your portfolio is a lottery ticket, and when you do have the lottery ticket, you produce phenomenal returns,” Glass explains. “Part of it is that we’re all individuals in addition to being entrepreneurs and investors, there’s a natural inclination in wanting to see your company featured on CNN or the front page…if you’re solving a problem for a Fortune 5000 CIO, there’s a much more limited audience for hearing that story.”
Each class of companies are incubated for four months (i.e., there are three cohorts a year), with the first class beginning on July 15, 2012. Entrepreneurs who fit the bill can apply now using a simple online form.
The launch of Acceleprise is part of a larger startup movement based in the District, which as Steven Overly of the Washington Post notes, “Acceleprise will be the District’s second accelerator. Fortify.vc opened an accelerator called “The Fort” earlier this year with a $100,000 grant from the city to help foster local startups.” The action has also included the recent launch of Startup DC, the local arm of Startup America Partnership, and the 75,000 square foot Entreprelooza! celebration of entrepreneurship that occurred in downtown DC last month.
Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Acceleprise mentor and part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation based in Washington, DC.