Taking an idea from a dream state to the marketplace just got easier for a few entrepreneurs who will participate this summer in New Media Entrepreneurship, the first technology accelerator for minority-led startups.
The NewMe Accelerator will bring in entrepreneurs from around the country to join other startup leaders in California’s Silicon Valley, where together they will participate in nine weeks of intense business development.
“We have speaker dinners with people from Twitter, Foursquare, and other major companies,” said Angela Benton, CEO of Black Web Media and one of the founders of NewMe. “We have mentors from top VCs, angel investors, Facebook, and others, and we’ll have a demo day also at the end of the program.”
NewMe will even provide a place to live for the start-up founders while they are in the accelerator. “It is simply a way to try to take a way some of the distractions of life while immersing them in not only the start-up culture Silicon Valley offers but also in the mentorship and wisdom from the speakers,” Benton said.
Like other accelerators, NewMe is much like a business incubator – except faster. It is designed to speed up the development of start-up enterprises.
NewMe sprang from a meeting of the minds at a New Media conference last year that brought together minority startups, business leaders, venture capital stakeholders, and key government officials.
The conference focused on fostering ideas and best practices for minority entrepreneurs, building an action plan to increase the number of minority-led new media companies, developing policies to sustain these companies and bringing individuals together to broaden the diversity of the Internet.
From that gathering, and those ideas, came the NewMe Accelerator.
Mentors are the key
NewMe is primarily about mentors — which Benton believes are the key to boosting the success rate of minority entrepreneurs. Hajj Flemings, chief executive of GoKit, one of the NewMe startups, agrees. “Everything is based on relationships. It doesn’t mean people are racist, but it means that you don’t know who to pick up the phone and call to get advice or to write a check,” Flemings told the Wall Street Journal. “You think you’re doing all the right things, but it’s like you’re a gerbil on a wheel not advancing and you can’t figure out why.”
Helping startup leaders figure out why are the NewMe Accelerator’s founders — Benton, Wayne Sutton, and Toby Morning.
Benton has experience in an array of industries. She has worked at RealEstate.com, LendingTree.com, Bizjournals.com, UPS, and Homes of Color Magazine. As CEO of Black Web Media, she oversees a company that publishes BlackWeb20.com, the leading online publication for African-Americans interested in technology and new media. Black Web Media also publishes Young, Black, Professional Guide.
Benton is one of Fast Company Magazine’s Most Influential Women in Technology for 2010 and one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 150 for 2010. She is also the youngest Hall of Fame inductee of Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and a 2010 Woman of Power honoree of the National Urban League.
Sutton, a technology journalist and the man behind SocialWayne.com, one of the Top 50 Social Media and Technology blogs of 2010 and among the AdAge Power 150. He has over a decade of experience in technology and social media, and he will help the startups understand how to communicate online via brand strategy, social networks, and mobile marketing.
Morning is an artist, a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Urban Technology Ventures, which owns Citizen Space co-working spaces and invests in minority technology companies. He has worked as vice president of business development for Destiny Media Technologies, and he founded Blue Monitor Systems. Morning is the director of Semantic Seed and the global organizer for Start Up Camps.
Together, these three bring a lot of experience, energy, and expertise to the NewMe project.
And the winners are …
According to the NewMe site, the minority-owned startups in this summer’s accelerator are:
- Cued — “A mobile app in stealth that will change the way you experience location. Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina.”
- GoKit — “Allows users to create instant online identity kits to tell your story, beautifully. Hometown: Detroit, Michigan.”
- kloudco — “Explore your emails, tweets, documents, contacts, appointments and more in a powerful new way. Hometown: New York.”
- TriOut — ”Builds mobile community applications for businesses, bloggers, conferences and educational institutions. Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina.”
- Pencil You In — “Schedule and book hair appointments online. Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina.”
- Becouply — “A mobile and web app that solves real problems for couples by helping them discover new date ideas, capture special moments, and connect with the couples they hang out with most. Hometown: Washington.”
- Played — “Foursquare for gamers. See what your friends are playing on everything from Xbox to mobile. Discover new games and rate the ones you already played. Hometown: Montclair, New Jersey.”
- Fetchmob — “Allows people to buy what they need without shopping for it. Hometown: Stoughton, Massachusetts.”
- Mosion — “A mobile relationship discovery service that uses location-based technology to suggest you to people and places around you that matches your interest. Hometown: San Francisco.”
- Central.ly — “One central place to let companies promote themselves online and on mobile. Hometown: San Francisco.”
- AisleFinder.com — “Enables shoppers to quickly and efficiently find the items they want to buy within grocery stores. Hometown: Milpitas, California.”
- Careerspotting 4 Kids — “Uses video storytelling and social gaming to make Career Day, Every Day for 12-to-21-year-olds. Hometown: Oakland, California.”
Congratulations to all of these startups — this is an excellent opportunity. Congratulations as well to Benton, Sutton, Morning, and the sponsors of the NewMe Accelerator for doing what startups hope to do — taking a great idea and turning it into a successful business.
Ava L. Parker of Jacksonville, Florida, is the president of Linking Solutions Inc., a business-development and community-outreach firm, and a partner in the law firm of Lawrence & Parker, PA., and the voice of The AvaView, a blog on digital action and consumer protection.