Drexel MBA candidate Rachel Benyola loves biking to and from her home in Chestnut Hill, but she does have this gripe: she hates dragging her helmet around because it doesn’t fit in her backpack or her purse.
So she developed a prototype for a collapsible bike helmet — she called it AnneeLondon — and realized she was also solving a major safety problem. She always wears a helmet. But not everyone does, in part, she said, because they’re a pain to tote around.
Benyola is among seven local startups in the third-annual PSLU Accelerator, which began Tuesday night at Old City software firm ArcWeb. Volunteer mentors and community members joined the founders to kick off the free Accelerator, an offering of Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), the volunteer-run community of tech entrepreneurs in the region.
“We started the PSLU Accelerator with a clear mission in mind: to help Philly startups grow by giving them access to the resources in our community,” said Yuval Yarden, program director at PSL. “Everything we do is by the community, for the community.”
Other startups include TresseNoire, an on-demand hair stylist startup for women of color, and GuestNet, an advertising platform cofounded by Jesse Bookspan, son of DreamIt Ventures cofounder David Bookspan.
Each team will get 12 weeks of marketing, sales and operations education taught by local business leaders. They are also paired with a Philly entrepreneur who will mentor the teams by providing the practical advice, business insight and connections needed to grow. The accelerator is free and doesn’t take any equity.
“Early on as an entrepreneur, I relied on my mentors to help guide my decision making and uncover what I didn’t know I didn’t know,” said Aaron McLean, partner and COO of Stuzo. “Today, helping the next wave of startup entrepreneurs is the least I can do to pay it forward.”
Other mentors include Gabe Weinberg of DuckDuckGo and PSL president Brock Weatherup.
“I hope that when these entrepreneurs find success, they will in turn pay it forward as well,” McLean said. “This is how innovation grows as a culture within community.”
The power of that community was felt at the accelerator kickoff event. AnneeLondon’s Benyola said the PSL team has been “amazingly supportive since day one.”
1. TresseNoire: On-demand luxury salon for natural hair
- Founders: Regina Gwynn, Octavia Pickett-Blakely | Mentor: Justin Goldman
2. RedQueen: Marketplace for video game toolmakers
- Founder: Alexander Gilbert, Dan DuLeone | Mentor: Eric Smith
3. dlux: Light control systems for optimizing health, comfort and energy efficiency
- Founders: Michael Friedman, Greg Yeutter | Mentor: Byron Druss
4. AnneeLondon: Collapsible bike helmets for women
- Founder: Rachel Benyola | Mentor: TBD
5. LocalStove: Connecting home cooks with hungry eaters
- Founders: Henrique Setton, Steven Finn, Gregory Dubin | Mentor: Gabe Weinberg
6. Return Logic: Platform that helps retailers optimize product return strategy
- Founder: Peter Sobotta, James Muir | Mentor: Brock Weatherup
7. GuestNet: Advertising platform that harnesses geotargeting
- Founder: Alan Jacobson, Jesse Bookspan | Mentor: Aaron McLean