Fast Forward was founded in 2014 to bring the same level of support found in for-profit incubators and accelerators to tech non-profits. The firm provides its members with grants, pro-bono support, and a network of mentors and colleagues. It was founded by successful Kevin Barenblat, a successful entrepreneur who founded Context Optional which was later to sold to Efficient Frontier which then got bought by Adobe, and Shannon Farley who previously founded Spark, a marketplace for millennial philanthropists.
Earlier this week, Fast Forward presented its 2016 cohort at its annual Demo Day. In true NewCo fashion (Fast Forward has been showcased at NewCo SF), each of the nine companies shared their purpose and demoed their products. Although the focus was more on potential lives impacted rather than potential market share, like other high profile start up pageants like Techcrunch Disprupt and Y Combinator Demo Day, the goal of the presentations was to recruit investors.
One can’t help but root for all the companies who participated. You can see all nine demo videos here. Fast Forward looks for companies working on education, environmental, health, and human rights issues. The challenge, of course, is finding an economic model that gets these solutions to market. Without equity to give, non-profits rely on the generosity of donors and foundations — Fast Forward Demo Day was supported by Google.org, the Omidyar Network, and Black Rock. Google.org announced $25k grants for all participating companies and offered to match individual donations up to $100k.
This seed-stage accelerator looks beyond product to help startups differentiate themselves
The Brandery, a seed-stage accelerator, is utilizing Cincinnati’s unique resources to help startups turn minimally viable products into sustainable businesses. What resources are those? Marketing and branding agencies have grown alongside Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 Companies like Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, and Kroger. As the barriers to entry for starting companies decrease, The Brandery believes startups focused on their brands can differentiate themselves and increase their probability of success.
The accelerator accepts 10 companies into its four-month program each year. In return for a 6 percent equity stake, startups receive $50,000, access to mentorship, pro-bono work from branding agencies, and a chance to work with companies like Procter and Gamble. Those resources have helped The Brandery become one of the top accelerators in the nation. The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project lists The Brandery at the Gold tier, just under Platinum where you’ll find 500 Startups and Y Combinator.
Altaeros Energies worked on the world’s first airborne wind turbine at Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA, just outside of Boston. Autonomous Marine Systems used the Labs’ shop to work on its sailing drones, fleets of which now collect data on our oceans. Accion Systems set up shop there to ready its smaller, safer, and less expensive ion-based propulsion system for satellites. Between its founding in 2011 and the end of 2015, Greentown Labs has been home to 103 small businesses.
Today, roughly 50 companies pay rent in exchange for access to desks, lab space, equipment, and software. All of those startups are developing hardware-based clean technologies to solve the world’s largest energy and environmental challenges. Greentown Lab provides the resources startups need to help launch their companies quickly — not just tools but also education programs and access to investors.
Cincinnati-based accelerator First Batch isn’t helping companies develop apps, platforms, or services. It’s focusing exclusively on startups that want to scale the production of physical products. They want to make things. Companies with a prototype can apply to the 20-week program to learn how to navigate the manufacturing, branding, and marketing resources Cincinnati offers. Why Cincinnati? Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing, and the Cincinnati metro area is second in the state.
First Batch is part of Cincinnati Made, a platform for makers to share knowledge and leverage resources to grow Cincinnati-based businesses. Up to eight startups receive a maximum of $10,000 per founder, space in the Losantiville Design Collective, mentorship, and free legal services from University of Cincinnati’s College of Law.