DreamIt Ventures Goes to School on Edtech, Furthers Reach in Israel

8/13/13Follow @jpruth

The more startup accelerators pop up in the nation’s tech hubs, the harder they have to work to differentiate themselves. The team at DreamIt Ventures in New York is emphasizing niches such as education technology, and is also working increasingly with startups from Israel. Last week’s demo day in New York demonstrated some of DreamIt’s focus as well as its collaboration with Comcast Ventures to nurture more minority-led startups.

The DreamIt New York summer accelerator wraps up on Aug. 16, but last week Mark Wachen, the managing director for the local program, introduced the 15 startups in the class. Based out of Philadelphia, DreamIt Ventures has been operating for six years, Wachen said, running accelerators in its home city as well as programs in Austin, TX, and Israel.

The summer 2013 New York class marked the return of DreamIt’s collaboration with Brooklyn-based Startl, which connects startups in education technology to potential investors and partners. Dreamit and Startl previously worked together, though the alliance went on hiatus last year. The organizations resumed their joint effort with the latest DreamIt New York batch of education technology startups: Online education course aggregator HeyKiki, learning platform TradeUp, and CreatorUp, an e-learning platform for creating video content.

TradeUp assesses workers’ skills and helps them find jobs, said co-founder Daniel Daks. The platform gauges which areas of knowledge job seekers need to develop and matches people to openings they are qualified for. TradeUp also steers users to online classes that may help advance their careers. The platform uses an algorithm to parse the different skills required to fulfill specific jobs. That information is matched to online education options from sources such as Coursera, Daks said.

He believes TradeUp speaks to the problem of potential hires not knowing what skills employers are looking for and thus not knowing which online courses to take to land jobs. “We curate personalized education for them,” he said. “We have a database of over 16,000 free online educational resources.”

Even after completing the right online classes, potential hires still face a conundrum. “If I acquire my skills online, how do I articulate to an employer that I’ve successfully achieved the profile of a viable candidate?” Daks asked.

TradeUp offers an answer, he said, by informing employers who subscribe to the service which job applicants on the platform have completed training relevant to the openings.

But the latest DreamIt class went beyond education, featuring a broad mix of startups including WireLawyer, a professional network for attorneys to connect with each other and find referral work, and GamePress, a platform that lets users create custom video games they can play and share with their friends. GamePress is also the first Canadian startup in the accelerator, working alongside companies from across the United States and overseas.

Startups from DreamIt Israel appeared at the New York demo day for the second time. The program in Israel accepts up to five startups and also introduces them to New York. This year’s demoing Israeli startups were Mimoona, which helps fashion designers and brands predict demand before production commences; music app developer Instrumagic; and Trippin’In, which analyzes social media engagement to show the relationship between people and the real world places they visit.

Another aspect of accelerator is the DreamIt Access program, which features minority-led startups, an underrepresented part of the ecosystem. Run with support from Comcast Ventures, this latest iteration of the Access program worked with startups WeDidIt, TouchBase, Serviceful, Callida Energy, and Perkle.

Serviceful CEO and co-founder Juan Chaparro said his company is an online concierge that lets homeowners request household services such as pet sitters and lawn care. Chaparro said he and his wife had worked cleaning houses in Dallas in 2004 then formed a business, hiring others to service more houses. “We reached about 5,000 clients and $1 million in revenue,” he said. Through his hands-on industry experience, he learned that homeowners wanted a more efficient way to manage the services they need, which led to the creation of the Serviceful platform.

DreamIt offers up to $25,000 in seed funding to each startup in the program. Some 112 startups, including notables such as Adaptly and Take the Interview in New York, have graduated from the program. “In total they’ve raised about $92 million in follow-on capital,” Wachen said, “and have a combined market capitalization of close to $400 million.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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