DreamIt Ventures Incubator Starts Monday; Demo Day in August

Philadelphia-based DreamIt Ventures, the second established accelerator to open a New York branch, is gearing up to open its doors on

Philadelphia-based DreamIt Ventures, the second established accelerator to open a New York branch, is gearing up to open its doors on Monday. The first hurdle–getting enough quality applications–proved to be no trouble, as managing director Mark Wachen and team had more than 500 applications to sort through in order to pick 15 companies. That’s an acceptance rate of three percent–higher than Y Combinator and the 1.7 percent accepted for TechStarsNY, but still extremely selective.

“The goal is to accelerate the growth of these companies at a pace that they would not have been able to do on their own resources,” Mr. Wachen said. “DreamIt’s founders are all entrepreneurs who have had successful exits. [We have] a long list of advisers and mentors that will be working with them through the summer. In addition to having a broad pool of advisers, we also pair each company with dedicated mentors, seasoned executives or seasoned entrepreneurs, who spend three to five hours a week with the company they’re paired with, very dedicated person who can get under the hood and be in the trenches with them.”

Companies also hear weekly speakers and attend workshops on things like law and accounting.

Mr. Wachen is a born-and-bred New Yorker who’s been working in the New York tech scene since 1994, when he was working on new media for SONY Music. He started investing in internet start-ups for SONY and “had some big wins,” and founded his own company, Optimost, which optimized websites in real time and was acquired in 2007. He was introduced to DreamIt Ventures through his investment in SeatGeek, the General Assembly-seated ticket reseller that graduated from DreamIt two years ago. “I was really impressed by how savvy these guys were when they were right out of college. I had learned that they had gone through the DreamIt program, which peaked my interest.” A few introductions later, he learned DreamIt was looking to expand in New York and needed a New Yorker to head up the program.

“The biggest benefits were one, the network of mentors and speakers and two, the office space and opportunity be so close to different companies,” SeatGeek CEO Russ D’Souza said. “I think for no. 2, this is a sizable improvement over YC. We benefited from being in such close proximity from other companies. Doing a startup at the earliest stage is a pretty isolated experience and I found it inspiring being among so many entrepreneurs.”
Not all the companies in SeatGeek’s class went on to raise money–some are now defunct. But they met their lead investor, Arie Abacassus, through DreamIt. “Our lead investor was actually in the audience at our Demo Day, heard us pitch, liked the concept and the team and brought in our first angel investors. We’ve raised $2.3 million now,” he said.

Mr. Wachen has brought on as mentors investors and founders from New York and beyond including Ross Goldstein, DFJ Gotham; Rick Heitzmann, Firstmark Capital; Charlie O’Donnell, First Round Capital; David Frankel, Founder Collective; Ian Sigalow, Greycroft Partners; Joshua Kushner, Thrive Capital; Jason Finger, SeamlessWeb; Jack Groetzinger, SeatGeek; David Lifson, Postling; Seth Priebatsch, SCVNGR; and Mike Yavonditte of Hashable.

The 15 DreamIt companies–two thirds of them from outside New York, one from Honduras–will work out of an office on 27th for three months. DreamIt and TechStars have very similar terms–$5,000 plus $5,000 per founding team member (up to four, for a maximum of $25,000) in exchange for a six percent equity stake vs. $6,000 per founder, up to three founders with a six percent equity stake at TechStars. Y Combinator gives $11,000 plus $3000 per founder and “occasionally” more, in exchange for usually a six or seven percent stake.

The 2011 DreamIt Ventures New York companies are:


      (St Louis, MO) Video-chat based doctor’s office with back-end automation


      (New York, NY) Admission pipeline to US schools


      (Boston, MA) Online end-of-life planning platform. Store your wishes and important information securely in the cloud, and access expert advice on how and why to prepare for worst-case scenarios


      (Honduras) Online classroom communication, helps teachers share assignments with students

Clothes Horse

      (New York, NY) Data-driven platform that makes fashion fit


      (New Haven, CT) Online retail optimization


      (Philadlephia, PA) Demand-driven deals, focusing on local, aiming to give the user the power to determine prices on the things they want


      (Austin, TX) Interactive knowledge network; put Facebook into study mode by connecting you with friends for homework and projects.


      (New York, NY) iTunes for all-star chef’s recipes


      (Pittsburgh, PA) Online adaptive learning platform


      (New York, NY) Social gifting platform; a way for friends, family, and coworkers to contribute towards the purchase of a gift for someone special


      (Boston, MA) App creation and distribution platform, allowing individuals and organizations to launch mobile and web applications without prior programming knowledge

New Quill

      (Los Angeles, CA) Mobile publishing and collaborative learning


      (New York, NY) Social and mobile app publishing and advertising


    (Boston, MA) Cloud-based video interviewing platform for employers to more efficiently screen candidates


DreamIt Ventures Incubator Starts Monday; Demo Day in August