Meet the growing B2B startups in the spring 2021 cohort of the PAX Momentum accelerator - Technical.ly DC

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Apr. 15, 2021 2:59 pm

Meet the growing B2B startups in the spring 2021 cohort of the PAX Momentum accelerator

Based in the D.C. area, the accelerator is working with startups from a range of cities to grow sales and marketing engines. We talked to founder Matt Hanson talks about programming, diversity and approach.
The PAX Momentum cohort for spring 2021.

The PAX Momentum cohort for spring 2021.

(Courtesy photo)

A group of startups from around this country and others will be coming together virtually to take part in programming and support from the D.C.-area based accelerator PAX Momentum over the next two months.

The nine startups developed technology that is bringing new approaches to areas such as climate, health and ecommerce, representing one of two cohorts that the Montgomery County, Maryland-based accelerator. It draws from a group of eastern U.S. cities, as well as Toronto and Santiago, Chile.

Pax Momentum was launched in 2020 by Matt Hanson, a cofounder of Vienna, Virginia-based Blu Venture Investors and exited satellite communications company Segovia. It works with B2B tech companies that have achieved traction and are seeking to scale in sales and marketing to capitalize on wide interest. Hanson said it reserves three spots in each cohort for companies seeking to work on climate tech.

Born in the pandemic, the accelerator cast its net wider than the D.C. area. Yet it maintains strong ties with the D.C. area through local companies that take part in the cohort, and a network of D.C. investors and community members who support the startups. The accelerator is linked with an investment group called PAX Angels, which formed as Hanson drew from his D.C.-area network, but now counts investors that span New England’s biotech community as well as cyber experts in Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs in Southern California.

Programming focuses on three areas that are key for companies with a product in the market that are looking to get to the next stage: fundraising, revenue and messaging.

“PAX Momentum is becoming this bridge between our natural network that our team has from living and working in the D.C. ecosystem for decades and bridging with other great investors and entrepreneurs from other parts of the country and even outside of the U.S.,” Hanson told Technical.ly. And in the past, those other communities may not have sought out D.C. as a startup hub.

As far as the makeup of the current cohort, there’s a diversity in background as well as industry and geography. It has 55% of participating founders from underrepresented groups in tech, including 40% who identify as women. Hanson said this was a result of a process that sought out the best.

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“We never explicitly went out to create a diverse portfolio. What we did do is set out to look high and low for the very best talents, entrepreneurs and companies,” Hanson said. “I think by virtue of making sure the search is complete and really evaluating every opportunity on the merits that you’re bound to end up with the kind of diversity that we’ve got. It makes us a much better program and accelerator by bringing together people from different ethnicities, gender and nationalities and different parts of the country.”

Of course, it’s also important to consider who is doing the investing and supporting of these companies as they grow. When it comes to the team that is advising the companies and serving in the angel group, Hanson said it is working toward “making strides” on bringing more diversity, but that is a slower process. The investment community generally tends toward being overwhelmingly white and male, and PAX Angels has mirrored that to start. As Hanson looks to expand it, rules about high-net-worth individuals limit how the team can go about recruiting. Since launching, Hanson said PAX has had women join as the advisory board, and he hopes they will become investors, as well.

When it comes to the team that is advising the companies and serving in the angel group, Hanson said it is working toward making strides on bringing more diversity, but that is a slower process.

“We’re expanding and working on it,” Hanson said, “but we frankly have some work to do in that area.”

Companies that participate in the PAX Momentum accelerator receive a $50,000 investment and $20,000 of in-kind services, with valuation and equity stake that’s particular to each company. Programming focuses on three areas that are key for companies with a product in the market that are looking to get to the next stage: fundraising, revenue and messaging.

With a focus on the companies that have completed product development and are seeing market traction, the accelerator is geared toward helping the entrepreneurs develop into leaders of a growing sales and marketing engine, while effectively serving customers. The network of mentors and advisors also help with the different parts of that, like running a board meeting and implementing channel strategies.

“We help entrepreneurs to take their great story and turn it into effective content so they can find a professional way to educate prospects and continue to grow their revenue,” Hanson said. Within the team, the approach aims to instill confidence that they understand an approach for identifying and hiring the best folks for the sales and marketing team, as well as modeling the skills that will help move a customer through the sales process.

“Through that disciplined process it tends to tease out the very best language for deciding quickly and clearly the company’s position in the market and the gap that they fill between what a customer does now and what they’re hoping to achieve in the future,” he said.

Here’s a look at the cohort, with info from the accelerator:

ClimateTech

  • Bloomfield Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based company aiming to bring more efficiency and precision to farming with specialized cameras and AI that that assesses the health and performance of crops
  • Sesame Solar, an Ann Arbor-based company that creates modular solar nanogrid solutions that can provide mobile power
  • Just Vertical, a Toronto-based company that creates indoor vertical gardens, dubbed “furniture that feeds you”

Ecommerce

  • Lilli’s Freeing Returns, an Atlanta-based company that runs a B2B marketplace for store returns
  • Sweft, a Philly-based company that makes a platform to automate the process of launching products online for large ecommerce retailers

HR Tech

  • Rallybright, a Bethesda-based behavioral science-based performance assessment and management platform for team performance
  • Storybolt, a Chicago-based company that makes a platform for employee engagement and belonging

FinTech

  • Protosure, a New York-based company offering a no-code insurance product development and distribution platform

HealthTech

  • Pegasi, a Santiago-based company that seeks to make healthcare info clear, secure and accessible for the developing world
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