The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced today that VentureWell’s ASPIRE Program has become the third accelerator approved to participate in its NJ Accelerate program. NJ Accelerate was created by the NJEDA last year to grow New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem by promoting greater participation by Garden State entrepreneurs in qualified accelerator programs throughout the United States. It is also designed to incentivize graduate companies from approved accelerators to consider locating in NJ, as well as to showcase the talent in Garden State accelerators on a national stage. More information about NJ Accelerate can be found at http://www.njeda.com/njaccelerate.
An accelerator is a fixed-term, cohort-based training experience for startups that offers educational and mentorship programs and facilitates connections to venture capitalists, angel investors, mentors, customers, industry experts, and corporate executives who can help early-stage companies grow. Many accelerators also provide investment capital and office, lab, or prototyping space.
Through NJ Accelerate, the NJEDA will match investments made by an approved accelerator into startups that locate in New Jersey within six months after graduating from the participating accelerator’s program. NJEDA’s match will be in the form of a direct loan up to $250,000. A five-percent match bonus is available for companies that are certified as women- or minority-owned in New Jersey. The NJEDA will also provide rent support for up to six months if a company locates in an approved NJ Ignite collaborative workspace.
“Every New Jersey startup brings a unique idea or perspective to our state’s vibrant innovation ecosystem,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “In order to recapture New Jersey’s role as a leader in innovation, we must continue to connect these young companies with tools to address their individual needs. We’re quickly scaling up NJ Accelerate so that entrepreneurs can leverage resources offered by well-known and highly-regarded accelerators throughout the country while reaping the benefits of locating in the Garden State.”
Massachusetts-based VentureWell is a nonprofit that supports early-stage science- and technology-based inventors driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Its E-Team Grant Program helps science- and engineering-based student teams from across the nation commercialize their high-impact innovations. During ASPIRE, VentureWell’s third and final phase of the E-Team Grant Program, startup companies participate in an intensive program that prepares them for the investments and partnerships necessary to launch their ventures. Mentors-in-residence work one-on-one with startups to simulate due diligence conversations and integrate feedback into deal room materials in real-time.
For each cohort of ASPIRE, VentureWell selects 10-15 dedicated science- and engineering-based startups from across the nation that are launching inventions. Upon completion of all three stages of the E-Team Grant Program, the accelerator may provide investments up to $50,000. All participants tap into VentureWell’s large mentor and alumni network, which includes over 5,000 teams of entrepreneurs across all programs. VentureWell was founded with support from The Lemelson Foundation, and has received funding from Qualcomm, the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among many others.
“The E-Team Grant Program has a proven track record of supporting early-stage innovators with early funding and targeted training to move out of the labs and into the marketplace,” said Christina Tamer, Director of Programs – Early-Stage Innovation & Venture Development at VentureWell. “New Jersey is home to thousands of scientists and entrepreneurs working to develop life-saving and life-enhancing technologies. We are excited to invite them into our programs to support their efforts to commercialize their products as a result of our participation in NJ Accelerate.”
Since its inception in 2015, 117 startups have participated in ASPIRE and have raised over $189 million in follow-on funding since participating in the program. The E-Team Grant program overall, with its three stages, has supported 652 unique teams that have raised a total of $645 million. Participants have been recognized by national publications, including being listed on “Forbes 30 under 30” and being featured in the New York Times and National Geographic.
In addition to benefiting New Jersey startups, the NJ Accelerate program also provides exposure and funding for the approved accelerators. The NJEDA will disseminate information about VentureWell and encourage well-qualified companies to participate. In addition, the NJEDA will provide up to $25,000 per event capped at $100,000 in total sponsorship funding for accelerator-led events, such as Accelerator Demo-Days, cohort road shows, in-person classes, pitch competitions, and networking events held in New Jersey.
Accelerators and entrepreneurs interested in participating in the NJ Accelerate program are encouraged to contact the NJEDA at NJAccelerate@njeda.com. Additional information and detailed eligibility criteria for both accelerator programs and entrepreneurs are available at https://www.njeda.com/njaccelerate.