What’s new in Temple business acceleration? Hint: It’s bigger (literally).
The Fox School of Business went through a huge renovation last year, and with it came a new space and accelerator program for young entrepreneurs from the Innovation Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI). It’s offering a slew of free membership-based resources open to all faculty, alumni, graduate and undergraduate students to learn business skills outside of class.
Greg Fegley, director of IEI accelerator programs, said the new location — which takes up most of the first floor of 1810 Liacouras Walk — is a far cry from the original 20-by-20-foot space where people struggled to network.
“The single biggest question I was asked by students was: I don’t know how to find a partner, I don’t know how to find a cofounder. Temple’s a big place, with 17 schools. Sometimes schools are a little more siloed than others,” Fegley said. “I think having this place that they can call home is going to be a game-changer in that respect.”
The IEI already offers at least two events and services per week for all of Temple’s 17 colleges, including workshops, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities. Fegley said it mainly hosts students who have technical skills but were unable to fit supplemental business classes into their schedule.
He’s also seen interest from alumni who have startup ideas but don’t know where to get resources, or hope to start freelancing. (Temple’s Small Business Development Center is more geared toward non-enrolled community members seeking help with their small businesses.)
But Fegley and Temple still felt like it wasn’t enough, so they started the 1810 Accelerator to provide extra resources to early-stage startups. The new cohort program is open to all current members of IEI, although the first group was selected from finalists from the Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB), a business plan competition with $40,000 in grand prizes, as well as the Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund Competition for women-owned and women-focused businesses.
Fegley oversees the accelerator’s first crop of 15 startups, and is currently searching for the next group that will start in the fall. It’s an eight- to 10-week program that hosts guests speakers and offers the first round of resources — though no funding — to help small startups and businesses get off the ground.
While the space opened in March, it only held a few events, plus the accelerator and BYOBB. Fegley, who has worked with the pitch competition for 10 years, was part of a Demo Day event last Wednesday for BYOBB’s 12 finalists, some of whom also participated in the accelerator, to give four-minute presentations on their progress since the competition’s end in April.
He said winners have since used their prize money to hire employees and interns, and have since identified technology sources and used the new accelerator location as a coworking space for daily work and advisory board meetings.
BYOBB has seen criticism in the past for not focusing enough on minimum viable product, or MVPs. Fegley said he hopes the accelerator can bridge that gap.
“To some extent, like any accelerator, you have your hits and your misses, but certainly Temple saw that there could be more done to help,” he said. “The push here within the IEI to get the approval to launch an accelerator program was part of it.”
After this first cohort, Fegley said he’s hoping to build a more consistent infrastructure for supporting the companies, eventually focusing on companies at different stages. He’s also hoping to start a feeder program with other accelerators in the city that can offer capital.
“Just to send [the teams] off into the wide world without any additional resources and support and safety net, I guess that’s reality, but we felt we could improve their success rate by offering programs,” Fegley said. “But now that we have the space and they’ve hired a full-time resource — me — I believe it will make a difference.”-30-
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