Though the pleasant insanity of 2011 is a not-so-distant memory its an exciting time to both look back and move forward with NewME. When I use to edit BlackWeb20.com it was a great outlet to share what was going on in my business and also pontificate on industry news. However, as I got busier and my role changed I wasn’t able to write as much as I’d like. So writing this update is long over due for me, I’ll try to spare you all the gory details in an effort to avoid writing a novel despite having so much to I want to share. Where to begin...!?
Founders Got Funding
The Founders from last cycle have been killing it as entrepreneurs! Several have launched products and iterated on those products with new releases and features. You can read more about what they are doing individually and in their own words here . After watching Black in America 4 I’m sure you may be wondering who succeeded in raising money in the group beyond CNN’s documentation of that cycle. Collectively, 60% of the Founders in first NewME Accelerator cycle raised money. Of the 60% that raised money the average investment amount was about $92,000 with a total investment amount of a little over half a million dollars. It’s important to note that this was accomplished without NewME making any financial investments into the companies. Isn’t it amazing what a few resources and access to a network can do? Not too shabby for a first time program too if I must say so myself! :)
Apps On Apps On Apps
You may remember a mention of us having somewhere around 75 applications received from individuals wanting to be in the first cycle. Since the airing of Black in America 4 we’ve had over 300 applications! Not only that, word about the program is spreading and folks are itching to apply to cycle 4 (Summer/Fall 2012) and so we’ve opened up the application process again, you can apply at http://www.newmeaccelerator.com/apply. We want to help more entrepreneurs so we’ve decided to have two cycles in 2012. The next one starts February 20th and the other in August. Stay tuned if you’re interested in applying.
The Support is Awesome
We thought it was going to be hard to out do ourselves in support from speakers, mentors, and sponsors but we were wrong. In addition to having folks like Mitch Kapor, Ben Horowitz (not shown in Black in America), Navarrow Wright, and Vivek Wadhwa involved again some pretty impressive individuals were added to the roster. People like Eric Ries (Lean Startup), Eva Ho (Exec at Factual), Cory Ondrejka (Now at Facebook but coFounder of Linden Lab/ Second Life), and other top notch folks.
I can’t count the number of people who’ve ask me how we are able to pull off this type of program at the level we are doing it. Aside from having a team that hustles HARD the companies that support the program financially are more than just cutting a check. They believe in what we are doing and are putting in sweat equity and resources too. For instance, Google is the presenting sponsor for 2012 but that isn’t enough. When we decided that it would be best for the Founders to work out of the city in 2012 so that we didn’t have to incur transportation costs, they were not only fine with changing the location from the Googleplex to San Francisco they made it possible for us to work out of the HUB SoMA for the year. The HUB SoMA is an amazing co-working space in the heart of one of SF’s bubbling start-up districts that caters only to organizations who are setting out to do good and change the world; the synergy couldn't be better. This is all great but to make my point and so that you really understand that it doesn’t stop there: Tagged is throwing the Founders a welcome party (our program doesn’t have any social activities baked into it so this helps), HP is hosting the mid-way checkpoint (this is the start of Founders getting ready for demo day), Wilson Sonsini is allowing us to send Founders that need it to their long standing Entrepreneur's College and Gunderson Dettmer has regular weekly legal office hours for the Founders. NewME would not be such a strong program without things like this that directly add to the Founders being successful.
One thing I realized after Black in America aired was the demand for what we are doing. We got hundreds of emails in a short period of time; all of which I read, most of which I or someone from the team replied back to; and I noticed a few key things:
Folks wanted something like NewME locally;
Regardless of educational background people really just wanted to know ‘How do I start?’ and ‘I have an idea, what now!?’; and
There are already really smart and impressive people, both technically and entrepreneurs, in areas that aren’t traditionally looked in who just need connections.
I think what folks in-grained the tech industry are missing (myself included pre- ’Black in America’) is that being a tech Founder and executing on an idea isn’t an accessible concept for most of America. Generally, people (Black, White, Latino, and anyone else) don’t know the first steps to take. The number of messages we got were so overwhelming we decided to launch NewME Community, something I was originally planning on rolling out in year 2 or 3. In a short period of time we have close to 650 members and have communities in over 78 cities! The mission of NewME Community is really simple, it’s to make the tech industry accessible to regular folks around the world not just ivy league drop-outs so it’s exciting to see so many people on-board so early in this journey. We plan to make tech entrepreneurship accessible in a variety of different ways but mainly by educating (talks, workshops, classes, etc.) people and finding talent that exists in those communities already but are hidden or hard to find. We’re off to a great start and just announced that NewME Community members can attend several Google Tech Talks across the country, something that typically isn’t accessible to everyone. We also rolled-out our Start-up Directory and Talent Database. So now, in addition to joining your local NewME Community, you can submit your startup to the directory or add yourself to our Talent Database. We’re already working with Andreessen Horowitz (kind of a big deal, their total fund management is $2.7B) to source entrepreneurial and technical talent that meet certain criteria and will be funneling the best and the brightest to them.
Realizing what makes NewME different
With all that’s been going on it can get hard to take a step back and realize what you’re doing, the effect that you’re having on others for the better, and making sure you stay grounded in the DNA of what got you to where you are. Recently, the latter has been top of mind when I get a chance to reflect, typically before my kids wake up or right before I go to sleep at night. I’ve realized that what makes NewME different is not just that we are focusing on the underrepresented in the tech space. It’s the DNA of who NewME is and the Founders that we help. It’s the connection that you may have had to myself (as a young single mother), or to Anthony (as an inner city kid), or to Tiffani (a highly technical girl who never tried to ‘fit in’). There are more people in the world who can relate to that than there are that can relate to dropping out of an ivy-league school to start a tech business. And honestly that’s a big part of what gets me excited about NewME. I’m more aware now that as we grow this can’t get lost and it’s just as important as helping Founders; the current (and growing) Team NewME subscribe to this ideology as well.
What you’ve been waiting for
Like I mentioned when I opened up this article I had tons I wanted to share! By now you’re probably wondering ‘So who the heck is in the next class?!’ I won’t delay in letting you know who the lucky few are that got selected for the Winter/Spring 2012 cycle.
Founder: Rachel Brooks
Desription: TheModul.us allows small businesses to affordably configure products through their software.
Founder: Andre Gabriel
Description: Butlr gives you the easiest, funnest way to find any kind of deal on the Web.
Founder: James Norman
Description: We are a discovery entertainment platform that offers the only digital video experience you can call your own.
Founder: Naithan Jones
Description: AgLocal connects independent farmers and producers with the demand of local business and consumers.
Founder: Tendekai Muchenje
Description: Helpr is a one stop customer care portal that literally makes customer care as simple as @#*!.
Founder: Amanda McClure
Website: Private Alpha/Beta
Description: Kairos overlays data on top of real life interactions in the enterprise market using facial recognition and augmented reality.
Founder: Christopher Lyons
Website: Private Alpha/Beta
Description: pictureMenu allows restaurants to bring their menu's into the 21st century by allowing them to create "smart menus" accessible via tablets and mobile phones. pictureMenu's tie into a restaurants POS system.
While we’ll be having a private welcome event for the Founders at Google (think the ‘Dragons Den’ you saw on Black in America) you can meet the new Founders at a party we’re having at Tagged. If you’r in San Francisco you can RSVP here: http://newme-tagged-rooftop.eventbrite.com/
What a crazy 8 months this has been! If you’ve made it this far down I appreciate it. You can follow NewME on Twitter @NewMEAccel, like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, or sign up for our newsletter on our website to stay up to date on what we’re working on.
Onward and Upward,