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Aug. 10, 2016 12:20 pm

Venture for America’s accelerator brought 7 startups to Philly again

Half of the six startups from last year's cohort stayed in Philadelphia. In that way, the program is giving us that DreamIt Ventures vibe.

Arthur founders Leigh Sevin and Jinesh Shah.

(Photo by Wafai Dias)

Leigh Sevin and Jinesh Shah want you to get to your next meeting in style.

The pair runs Arthur, a startup that connects users with personal stylists. After meeting as Venture for America (VFA) fellows in Miami, they’re here in Philadelphia with VFA’s accelerator, along with six other startups run by VFA fellows. (VFA places recent college grads at startups in up and coming tech cities across the country, including Philadelphia, Miami and Detroit.)

It’s the second summer VFA has brought its accelerator to Philadelphia — specifically, First Round Capital’s University City headquarters. The accelerator, which allows fellows to live rent-free for the summer in a West Philadelphia house and get business training and mentorship, is becoming a boon for Philly’s tech scene, akin to the way DreamIt Ventures has historically imported startups from around the country: half of the six startups from last year’s accelerator stayed in Philadelphia and are growing their teams here, including SkyMutual, Compass and LeagueSide.

“A big part of why we stayed in Philly and why our entrepreneurs continue to stay is because of the openness and support we get from the community here,” said Sergei Revzin, VFA’s Entrepreneur in Residence who took over for VFA’s Mike Tarullo in running the accelerator.

VFA partnered with law firm Saul Ewing for mentorship, training and events, and First Round Capital for office space. Last year’s accelerator was backed by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, but the foundation only funds grantees for three years and last year was the third year it had backed VFA, said VFA’s Jackie Miller. It’s currently looking for a lead accelerator sponsor for 2017.

VFA doesn’t fund the accelerator startups as a rule but has a seed fund that startups could apply for and receive funding from.

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Emile founders Charlie Molthrop and Nazli Danis. (Courtesy photo)

Another accelerator startup is Emile, a self-improvement artificial intelligence bot that aims to gets users closer to their sleep and exercise goals. Founders Nazli Danis and Charlie Molthrop met two years ago at VFA training camp. Both Emile and Arthur say they’re interested in staying in Philadelphia after the accelerator.

What’s the biggest difference between this year’s accelerator and last year’s? Revzin said that many of this year’s teams are past the idea stage and have already acquired users, like haircare startup NaturAll Club and Emile. VFA will also have a demo day in September for the startups to get in front of investors. There’s also a year of free coworking at Benjamin’s Desk up for grabs (former VFA accelerator companies LeagueSide and Compass work out of the Old City location of the coworking space, full disclosure, around the corner from Technical.ly’s office).

If you’re an investor and would like to participate in VFA’s demo day, email Revzin at sergei@ventureforamerica.org.

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