(Photo by Bob Stasio)
In the final stretch of 2018, Philly-based accelerator Dreamit saw three of its portfolio companies get acquired in deals that totaled an eye-popping $600 million.
First up it was Boston-based LevelUp, a payment tech company that got picked up by GrubHub in September 2018 for $390 million. Then, over the holidays, adtech company Adaptly inked its deal to be acquired by consulting giant Accenture for an undisclosed amount. Ringing in 2019, PR analytics firm Trendkite — an Austin-based PR analytics firm founded by QuotaPath founder AJ Bruno — closed its sale to PR media company Cision for $225 million.
Average time from funding to exit: 7.5 years. TL;DR, it was a good year.
Ask Dreamit Ventures Managing Partner Steve Barsh and he’ll describe the accelerator’s model as that of a venture fund first, whose “platform team” (the resource-providing arm of venture firms) is called an accelerator. By breaking up its offering in three separate verticals — health, cybersecurity and real estate-facing startups — companies are exposed to sector-specific mentorship.
The next page in the playbook comes straight from dev teams: Where developers undergo “product sprints” to complete projects, the accelerator takes companies in customer and investor sprints. Basically, they’re two-week stretches of back-to-back meetings with customer prospects and pitches to investors, a move that since 2015 began replacing Dreamit’s more traditional “demo day.”
“It’s like startup theater,” Barsh said of demo days. “We’re not about applause. Our number one job, for companies that are on the VC backed-model, is to get them to the next round of funding, and if we don’t, they fail.”
Another key change in the playbook in years past was the company’s move to open the program to all companies — regardless of where they’re based — in a bid to, yes, boost deal flow for Dreamit, but also embrace the connected era.
The lingering 2015 question (“Is Dreamit’s new model bad for Philly’s tech scene?”) can be answered two ways.
The downside? Out-of-town companies no longer come through town for months at a time for the program, reducing the chances they’ll see a viable new market in Philadelphia or consider a full-fledged relocation.
Where’s the upside? In that a Philly fund is now associated with large, multi-million-dollar exits. The acquiring companies in those deals are household names, too (if your household is tech or business savvy): GrubHub, Accenture and Cision.
Ask Barsh where he stands in all of this and he’ll point to our own realLIST as evidence of the program’s relevance beyond the model shift. There are both portfolio companies (Lilu, TrekIT Health and Group K Diagnostics) and companies with indirect ties: Dreamit founder David Bookspan’s Amino and AJ Bruno’s QuotaPath.
For 2019, much like a startup founder would, Barsh says the goal is to keep building the thing.
“Keep building and hopefully get to work with some of the best startups in the world,” Barsh said. “I hope we get that privilege.”
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