January 20, 2017
Entrepreneurs have quite a few options when it comes to transforming the idea on the back of a napkin into a full fledged company. Unfortunately for those seeking to create a positive social impact, the options are notably less plentiful. In Washington DC however, SEED SPOT and Booz Allen Hamilton are looking to change that with the launch of their new incubator. The incubator will not only focus on developing startups who will create a positive social impact, but are also diversity inclusive.
As there are many options for entrepreneurs, we spoke to SEED SPOT’s cofounder and CEO, Courtney Klein, to get a better understanding of what sets them apart. It’s also important to note that SEED SPOT is a non-profit incubator, and will not take equity or ownership of the businesses they help build. However, they will make introductions to investors and other much needed community members.
“We rely on strong partners to make our work possible and we cannot think of a better alignment between the values and mission of SEED SPOT and the culture and purpose of Booz Allen,” said Klein. “We are incredibly excited to help entrepreneurs in DC make a big impact on the world as we launch our programming this spring. After talking with many of the great entrepreneur support organizations in DC, we heard the need for early stage venture support to help further build the pipeline of great entrepreneurs in DC. ”
The first cohort, set for April of this year, will come in the form of either a 15-week full-time program or a 12-week evening program. The full-time program will end in a demo day that will be open to the public, and later, a separate event with investors present. The part-time program is designed for entrepreneurs with a side project, but currently have a full-time job. The team will later assess whether or not they will start their five day bootcamps, which are geared more towards entrepreneurs who are interested in dipping their toes in the water and identifying if there is market fit for their concept.
“In general, the earliest startups should feel comfortable applying regardless of their stage,” said Klein. “For full time, we do look for some sort of traction at that point. They should have some inclination of what a solution will be. Some have come in generating revenue, and we take them to the next stage. Others have a problem-solution focus, but need to find market fit.”
Like most incubators, SEED SPOT is more than just education; it's a community driven system that introduces entrepreneurs to much needed community members. Due in some part to their corporate partnerships and their national network, “it opens up exposure to the entrepreneur in short order (access to this bank, this law firm, engineering team, etc.),” said Klein. Because they don’t take equity, they don’t play favorites. According to Klein, they're there to be an advocate for each startup, putting a team behind them, and helping them expand well beyond the 1, 2, or 3 people teams.
With such a high fail rate for most startups, this particular incubator also boasts an incredibly interesting stat. Albeit self-reported, according to Klein and SEED SPOT’s website, 82 percent of startups that have gone through the incubator are still in business. They credit this to the community and support provided to each entrepreneur, with many startups in cohorts that regularly stay connected or participate in alumni events.
As for the first cohort, 15 will be admitted to the full time program, and 20 or so will be part of the evening program. When selecting those involved, startups will be “diversity inclusive, looking at a cross section of age, gender, and the industry that they are in. Education is a big one for us, followed by health, civic engagement; we are looking for a very diverse cohort of people,” said Klein. Though the team will introduce entrepreneurs to investors, they will also encourage startups who can bootstrap to do so.
SEED SPOT is also hiring three new local team members, with positions available now. At the time of speaking with Klein, they were still evaluating specifically where the incubator will be housed, but will make updates accordingly as they get closer to launching the program in April. Applications for the first cohort will close on March 1.
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