Accelerate LI’s Lofty Goal: Create the Next U.S. Innovation Cluster
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give its entrepreneurs some guidance. So Accelerate LI put together a free program that brings in seasoned executives, or entrepreneurs-in-residence, and business school students to work with startups for a few months to help develop their business plan. The end goal of that program is for the startup to make a pitch to the seed funds. Accelerate LI also has a roster of intellectual property law firms, accounting firms, and corporate law firms willing to help the entrepreneurs file patent applications or help set up payroll (those services require a fee, according to Lesko).
Accelerate then tied things together with a plan to foster the development of a startup culture. Long Island doesn’t have the capability of New York City to put large-scale events together for entrepreneurs to meet up with CEOs and exchange ideas. So Accelerate formed two initiatives: idea camps, which are monthly, self-curated discussions and meetings solely between tech entrepreneurs; and quarterly biotech CEO dinners that bring the most promising CEOs of startup life sciences companies together with seasoned pharmaceutical executives. Accelerate LI had its first such dinner a few weeks ago, according to Lesko.
Accelerate LI has connected with about 100 technology-based startups in the past seven months. The majority of them are IT companies, but a number of life sciences companies are in the mix as well.
The organization is doing due diligence on about six companies so far, has heard pitches from 25, and expects to have had about 35 companies show their wares to the seed funds by the end of the summer. Accelerate LI’s seed funds hope to help start up around 10 to 12 companies before it has to raise more cash, Lesko says.
The most advanced six startups at this point, incidentally, are all biotechs. That is both a blessing and a curse. Biotech is the epitome of a high-risk, high-reward investment, with bets tending to take several years to play out, in contrast to the smaller, quicker hits that tech startups can provide.
“It takes a special type of early-stage investor to have an appetite for that type of investment class,” Lesko says.
So Accelerate LI is trying to give them a push. The non-profit is part of a group that is talking about forming a accelerator in Long Island that would bring upstart biotech companies together under one roof, and build a program around them to help them develop.
Another of Accelerate LI’s plans is to put together a group of researchers, financiers, and industry executives, to try to unearth software solutions for problems facing genomic researchers. The hope is to find some commercial opportunities that can form the basis of a bioinformatics cluster.
“We think the New York City metropolitan region, with Long Island included, has some research assets that put us in a position that we could actually be a leading cluster in this sector,” Lesko says.
For Accelerate LI, the crucial time is right now. Lesko hopes to put the initiative’s cash to work over the next six to 12 months, and see where things stand.