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Accelerators / Entrepreneurs / Founders / Funding / Municipal government

The City is granting $150K to founders in Philly Startup Leaders’ accelerator

Plus, a list of the 20 entrepreneurs who made it into PSL's inaugural idea-stage Founded in Philly cohort.

City Hall in summertime. ( Zeglen)

Two notable startup programs in Philadelphia are converging: The Department of Commerce has partnered with Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) for the next round of the City’s Venture Program grants, offering up to $150,000 in grants to be shared among entrepreneurs in PSL’s Founded in Philly accelerator program.

PSL announced the relaunch of its accelerator, with cohorts of entrepreneurs who are both in the “idea phase” of a new business and currently working on their startups, last summer. The first idea-stage cohort was chosen this winter and kicked off with a happy hour this week.

Also last summer, the City chose 13 companies (and 21 founders) to receive $170,000 in grants through The Venture Program, which aimed to fund tech startups run by entrepreneurs from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

This year, The Venture Program has $150,000 in grants to disperse, and it’s doing so specifically to founders in PSL’s accelerator — who come from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, said Kevin Lessard, communications director of the City department.

“The partnership came about because we saw a great deal of alignment between the work PSL has been doing to enhance diversity in Philly’s tech and innovation and our ultimate goal with The Venture Program — supporting underserved founders,” Lessard said.

Lessard added that the accelerator provides grant recipients with structure, eduction and programming, which the commerce department didn’t have the capacity to provide. The department’s leadership felt that an approach of funding plus education would benefit founders and increase business success more than what the previous iteration of The Venture Program could offer on its own, he said.

Folks who go through the Founded in Philly accelerator and meet The Venture Program’s qualifications will be encouraged to apply for the grants. The commerce department will have some say in the selection process, “but we are just one voice or vote on the review committee,” Lessard said.

“This was truly the work of Francisco Garcia and part of his legacy at City’s Commerce Department,” said PSL Director Kiera Smalls, referring to the recently departed director of business development for innovation and technology, who spearheaded The Venture Program’s summer 2019 grantmaking. “Looking forward to continuing and evolving this partnership.”

Twenty idea-stage entrepreneurs are participating in this first round of the Founded in Philly accelerator. They’ll meet every Tuesday from February through April, and have a chance to demo their work at PSL’s Entrepreneur Expo during Philly Tech Week 2020 presented by Comcast in May.

These founders were named in PSL’s inaugural idea-stage Founded in Philly cohort:

  • Adit Gupta
  • Amanda Olsen
  • Amy Kopelman
  • Ashley Turner
  • Bryan Siegfried
  • Dana Mahoney
  • Elizabeth Vaysman
  • Gaurang Bham
  • Ian DiBruno
  • Joelle Tolifero
  • Joshua Mastomatto
  • Khalil Lewis
  • Less Cardinal
  • Leexan Hong
  • Linda Donoho
  • Michael Costantini
  • Shannon Morales
  • Shannon O’Neil
  • Shradha Doshi
  • Stephanie Gillin

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Philly Startup Leaders

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