Accel7, a White Plains-based startup accelerator, plans to help entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley launch up to 30 businesses in the next 18 months, according to Danny Potocki, the accelerator’s managing director.
Potocki told the Business Journal that Accel7’s first group of five startups is completing a three-month program and the accelerator is accepting applications from entrepreneurs who would like to join the next group, which would begin receiving services in September.
Accel7 is headquartered at the KOI Creative Space coworking office at 169 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains with a second office in Rhinebeck at the CO. coworking space at 6571 Spring Brook Ave. In addition to Potocki, Accel7’s leadership includes John W. Higgins and Johnny LeHane. The “Accel” in the nonprofit’s name refers to “accelerator” and the numeral 7 stands for the seven counties in the Hudson Valley the organization was established to serve.
“We’re partly funded by Empire State Development so we have a real focus and mission in helping our local communities build these startups,” Potocki said. He explained that the early stage companies on which they’re focusing each involve two to five entrepreneurs who are “not only working on an idea, they’re working on an early concept, an early product. They’re building their first everything, their first strategy, their first business model, their first team, their first technology, their first client and partner.”
Potocki said Accel7 provides $50,000 worth of services to each startup. “We don’t have the startups just sit in a classroom and learn. We work with them so we provide teammates and experts across business development, product development, marketing development and fund-raising development.” He said they hope to provide funding above $50,000 in the future.
Potocki, a Harvard graduate, led business development for two technology companies that had projects in 40 countries on six continents and dealt with cutting-edge data analytics. He is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Iona College and serves on advisory boards at Rutgers University and SUNY New Paltz.
Higgins, Accel7’s director of operations, attended Boston College and the Kellogg School of Management.
LeHane, the head of growth strategy, is managing partner of the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, was an operations manager at AOL and is an executive board member of the Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz.
Potocki said after the entrepreneurs finish Accel7’s formal program, they’ll continue to receive support. “We are partners. We’ll be there as a resource and also if they wanted to work out of our space we’ll say to them, ‘let’s figure that out.’ ” He said Accel7 does take equity in the companies, currently 4% to 5%.
The five companies in Accel7’s program are: Lessonbee, developing health and sex education materials; Capri, an online education platform supporting financial literacy and leadership development for girls; Cruz Street, a data platform to help medium and large companies manage data; Local Produce, a coworking and community space based in Pelham that’s looking to expand; and SportsHi, a team management app for high school students and coaches.
Potocki said they’re including an extra element in the training and advice offered to entrepreneurs. “When I was helping build rapid-growth startups, I didn’t see my family as often as I wanted to. I was overweight. I was not working out. I was spiritually and emotionally kind of short and not really connected.” He said they bring in experts on those areas as well as the nuts and bolts of business. “We believe that the transformation of the person is just as important as the transformation of the business,” he said.
The application for participation in Accel7’s startup accelerator program is available at accel7.org.