Novotorium, the startup incubator in suburban Langhorne, Bucks County, is seeking a second company to join its first business, Zuppler. But Novotorium isn’t your typical startup accelerator, say its executive staff, so they aren’t seeking your average startup.
Mike Krupit, the founding general manager of Novotorium, says the inspiration occurred to him when he noticed the influx of accelerators in the area but realized there was a whole class of entrepreneurs that accelerators weren’t really focused on helping.
“I saw our economy was creating entrepreneurs out of necessity. They were unemployed, they were under employed, and they no longer trusted the government or corporate America to take care of them, so they started lifestyle companies. Not things that they wanted angel money for, not things that they wanted to exit, but things that they wanted to build for the rest of their careers,” said Krupit. “So I thought, let me build something that helps them.”
Novotorium launched in November 2011 and brought on a host of partnerships soon after, knowing that it isn’t focused on conventional startups who are largely looking to raise money and exit, but rather these lifestyle companies who are in it for the long haul.
“Our goal is in three to five years to build a portfolio of minority investments in operating entities,” said Krupit. “Companies that are growing organically, that have the ability sustain themselves, become profitable, and create jobs.”
Unlike most incubators or accelerators, Novotorium doesn’t make a capital investment to start. In fact, companies can work at Novotorium for the first three months for free, says Krupit, benefiting from the experience of Novotorium’s partners and its staff.
Krupit, himself, was knee-deep in dot-com era Philadelphia, a former chief of CDNow and executive with Infonautics, among six successful startups he boasts. So he’s ready to work with those who want to build real businesses, he says, outside of the entrepreneurial churn.
The three-month evaluation cycle means they also don’t host classes of startups, either. Instead, Novotorium aims to bring in a new company each month. In February, Novotorium made an offer to a company they declined to name, but the deal fell through.
“They wanted money, they didn’t want incubation,” said Krupit, of the deal.
In addition to seeking a second company and continuing to nurture the development of Zuppler, a restaurant e-commerce platform, Novotorium says it is now looking to help out earlier stage companies than the startups that it would normally accept. Krupit says they call these programs ‘acceleration groups’ and they’re two day programs that Novotorium designs to support the Philadelphia tech community and build the pipeline of companies who might come work with them full time.
“We’re doing a mini incubation with them for two days a month,” says Krupit. “We have programming involving office hours with partners, round table discussions, fish bowls. anything that helps these guys along.”
Krupit says Inhabi, an online apartment rental search service, is one of the businesses participating in these acceleration groups.
And yes, even though Novotorium is based in a warehouse park in Langhorne, Krupit says they are still very much a part of the tech acceleration and incubation community that is growing in Philadelphia.
“I’m not competing with DreamIT, Venturef0rth and Seed Philly. I’m complementary to them, just as I think they are all complementary to each other. So one of the things I’ve been working hard at and not been very successful at is bridging them all together,” says Krupit. “If we want to compete as an area for entrepreneurs we’ve got to band together as a community, city and suburbs.”
Novotorium, which is in a 3,000 square foot space on the top floor of an industrial warehouse, is funded by Gary Baron, the CEO of Voice Systems Engineering, who Krupit worked with until summer of 2011, when Baron agreed to fund Krupit’s idea. As Krupit tells it, Baron shares Novotorium’s emphasis on making more focused investments that are likely to have longer return horizons.
“I said, ‘look you’ve always wanted to diversify your portfolio. I want to go find a different caliber of startups. Let’s incubate them,” said Krupit of his initial conversation with Baron. “Gary said, ‘Great!'”
Baron does insist, Krupit says, on supplying the office with fitness equipment and a napping room. Krupit showed off both to Technically Philly.
Krupit and the Novotorium staff think they have found a way to run an incubator that builds more successful, more sustainable businesses. As they engage in conversations to bring on a second company, Technically Philly will continue to track whether Novotorium can succeed by helping unconventional startups succeed.
“As I explained when we started up, our secret sauce will be finding the companies,” says Krupit. “If we can master that, that will be our success.”-30-