Startup Competition Guide


Some of the top accelerators and incubators in NYC

TechStars, FinTech Innovation Lab, and DreamIt Ventures all nurturing talent in Silicon Alley

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
June 8, 2013
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For all the things that New York City is known for, technology is not really one of them. But that mindset is beginning to change.

New York is the home to a number of other industries, including advertising, fashion, financial services, media, and real estate. Now a technology sector is beginning to grow as well, with the emergence of e-commerce and consumer Internet startups, including Meetup, Gilt Groupe and Tumblr, 

Of course, the city's development as a tech haven is helped by a growing list of accelerators and incubators sprouting up, helping bring to bring some of the best and brightest minds to New York.

Here are a few of the top accelerators and incubators that are helping to nurture that talent:

(Before we continue, it should be noted that there is a big difference between an accelerator and an incubator. While an accelerator funds ideas that were developed externally, an incubator brings in an external management team to manage an idea that was developed internally.)

TechStars, which offers programs in Austin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, New York City, Seattle and London, was founded by David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown, and Jared Polis, and held its first program in 2007.

Investment amount: $118K in each company, through $18K in seed funding and an optional $100K convertible debt note.

Program benefits: 

  • 10,000 Business ExtrAA points, which can be redeemed for up to 5 Plan AAhead Awards for round trip Economy Class tickets within the Continental U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
  • Up to $10,000 in hourly fee discounts to all Techstars participants. For Techstars companies selecting Cooley as primary counsel, low fixed-fee C Corp formation services and comprehensive, high quality start-up document packages, with 100% of the legal fees deferred until you raise capital; as well as free help with financing strategy, investor introductions and aseed round term sheet.
  • Free banking, as well as heavily discounted 409a valuation services, and strategic financial consultation.
  • Up to $60,000 off Windows Azure over two years: Free the first year and 50% off the second year
  • $2,000/month for 12 months in Rackspace hosting credits, as well as fanatical support.
  • $2,000/month in hosting credit for 12 months (toward both Dedicated Servers and/or Cloud),aswell as expert help and advice from SoftLayer's Innovation Team.
  • $20,000 in hosting credit is awarded to all TechStars companies
  • $25,000 in AWS hosting credit when you are accepted into TechStars.

Mentor makeup:  Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter; Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of WarbyParker;Fred Wilson, Partner at Union Square Ventures; Hayley Barna, co-Founder of Birchbox

BackersTechStars is backed by over 75 different venture capital firms and angel investors

Portfolio companies: Of 211 graduates, 79% are still active, 9% were acquired and 10% failed. Alumni include Foodzie, which was acquired by Joyus last year; Postmaster, which recently raised $600,000; Bizible; 10Sheet;  and Cloudability.

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator 

Investment amount:  An initial $40,000 investment and the potential for follow-on funding fromERA’sFund

Program benefits:

A four month program consisting of:

  • Free collaborative co-working space in New York City’s vibrant Chelsea neighborhood.
  • 200+ amazing mentors from the New York City startup community.
  • Seminars and speaker programs lead by top entrepreneurs, technologists, and industry experts.
  • Free legal, accounting, hosting and other business services and support from our 25+sponsorsand partners.
  • Access to experienced technologists, UI gurus and other product experts.
  • Exposure to New York City’s leading seed investors and VCs.

Portfolio companies: Alumni include Machinio; Get Maid; LocalBonus; and Parking Panda.


FinTech Innovation Lab has held two programs so far, beginning in 2011. It is an annual program,takingplace during the summer of every year, run by the New York City Investment Fund and Accenture forearlyand growth companies.

Investment amount: All winners also have the option of receiving a $25,000 in the form of a notethatconverts into the company's next round of equity financing.

Program benefits: 

A 12-week program  where Six companies receive:

  • Mentoring from the participating financial firmsVCs and the Lab's Entrepreneurs Network
  • Senior access to relevant user groups at the financial firms for product feedback andpotentialdeployment of proofs-of-concept
  • Manhattan workspace and $25,000, available at the company's option. The Lab will also takeasmall warrant coverage in each of the six companies

BackersThe Partnership Fund for New York City, and Accenture 

Portfolio companies: Alumni include Zipmark; LenddoCB Insights; and Billguard.


First Growth Venture Network was founded in 2009.

Investment amount: "First Growth is a venture network and it is possible that a rapport willdevelopbetween one or more funders and a start-up, but the start-up is not obligated and neither are theVCsand angels"

Program benefits: 

  • Connecting with the broader FirstGrowth community, which consists of venture capitalists,angelinvestors, successful entrepreneurs and advisors, all of whom have spent years in andaroundtechnology start-ups.
  • Connecting each start-up with a First Growth Advisor Team of 3 or 4 successful networkmemberswho will serve as mentors to the team.
  • Providing two days per quarter of substantive information and networking with the broaderFirstGrowth community.
  • Providing a peer group of other young high potential tech leadership teams in the FirstGrowthprogram.
  • Ensuring their inclusion in a number of other ecosystem events so that they further developtheirnetworks even beyond the FirstGrowth team.

Mentor makeup:  Paul Cook, Founder and CEO, TagMan; Julie Hansen, COO & President of BusinessInsider; Jeremy Helfand, Vice President of Monetization at Adobe; Michael Lazerow, Chairman and CEO of Buddy Media; Jordy Leiser, CEO and Co-founder of STELLAService; and Jeremy Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer at 2Tor.

Portfolio companies: First Growth Venture Network counts seventy five companies as alumni, including ZokosArkadFood52; and and Lionesquestyle.


DreamIt Ventures

Investment amount: A stipend of between $10,000 and $25,000 ($5,000 plus $5,000 for each founding team member (up to four) who will be onsite for the program).  DreamIt also receives a 6% passive equity stake in the company.

Program benefits: 

Mentor makeup: Alex Miller,  Vice-President of eCommerce & eMarketing at QVC; Andrew Eisner, Founder and COO of Movable Media; Brock Weatherup, the CEO of PetFoodDirect; and Dan Abelon, the President and Co-Founder of

Portfolio companies: Alumni include TrendkiteBridesideBetdashMindsnacks; and SeatGeek.


Women Innovate Mobile is a startup accelerator and mentorship-driven program designed for women-founded companies in mobile technology.

Investment amount: WIM receives an equity stake in each company

Program benefits: 

  • Office space
  • Product development and design support
  • Mobile-marketing promotions
  • Access to a network of mentors, funders and advisors.

Mentor makeup: Christine Lee, VP and GM of Partner Relations at Tapjoy; Guillaume Gauthereau, Founder and CEO of Totsy; Megan Berry, Founder of LiftFive; Shauna Mei, co-founder and CEO of AHAlife; Tara Hunt, CEO of Buyosphere.

Portfolio companies: Women Innovate Mobile's first program took place in 2012, with three companies graduating: AppguppyLoudly and Sqlvision.


Astia: Founded in 1999 in Silicon Valley, Astia is a global not-for-profit organization that propels women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. It has offices in Silicon Valley, New York, Europe and India.

Program benefits: 

  • Connects entrepreneurs to serial entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, and leading service providers creating a value-add network.
  • Engages with startups for the full life-cycle of the company to ensure the long-term growth of the company and long-term viability of the women as leaders of these companies.
  • Provides programming and services are provided by our staff and the global Astia Advisor Network of more than 1,200 professionals including 300 current and former C-level startup executives and over 200 investors.

Astia works with companies on:

  • Funding assistance
  • Introductions to potential customers
  • Business strategy review
  • Team development
  • Go-to market strageties
  • Growth strategies
  • Exit and acquisition strategies

BackersAstia is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization that is generously supported by - and our offering for entrepreneurs is heavily subsidized by - committed individuals, foundations, and corporations. Most notably, in 2010 Astia received a $500,000 commitment from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Portfolio companies:  Since 2003, Astia has worked with over 250 women-led companies that have raised over $1 billion, maintained a greater than 60% funding success rate within one year of joining and achieved 22 exits, including 2 IPOs.


NYC Seed focuses on software and technology companies with its SeedStart program/

Investment amount: Each company receives $20,000.  NYC SeedStart will take a five% equity stake in the company.

Program benefits: 

  • Office space
  • Internet access
  • Thousands of dollars in free services from corporate sponsors
  • Mentorship during the 12-week SeedStart progam

Mentor makeup: Joe Covey, CEO of Mag Rack Entertainment; James Green, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Giant Realm; Are Traasdahl, founder and CEO of ThumbplayLubna Dajani, founder and CEO of Stratemerge.

Backers: Partners include ITAC, The New York City Economic Development Corporation, The New York City Investment Fund, NYSTAR and Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Portfolio companies: Alumni include MagneticTicketflyCoursehorse; and Fieldlens.

Founder Institute  is an early-stage startup accelerator and global launch network that helps entrepreneurs create meaningful and enduring technology companies. 

Investment amount: 

  •  Founders pay a $50 USD Application Fee to cover the costs of administering the Predictive Admissions Test.
  • Founder accepted into the program contributes a $995 USD Course Fee to cover location fees, Mentor travel, and other expenses. 

Each Graduate contributes 3.5% of their company equity in Warrants to a 10-year Bonus Pool with other peers from the current semester. The Pool returns are then distributed as follows:

  • 40% goes to the Founder Institute, its Local Directors and Partners.
  • 30% goes to the Mentors, and each Mentor's individual share is based solely on anonymous ratings received from the Graduates.
  • 30% goes back to the Graduates themselves - allowing them to earn returns based on both their success, and the success of their peers.

If a company is successful and receives significant financing from third parties, the Institute asks that the company pay a one-time Tuition of $4,500, which supplies the growth capital for the Institute.

Program benefits: A 16 week program, in which The Founder Institute offers a weekly curriculum of company-building sessions designed to help entrepreneurs think through every aspect of their business. Each session is lead by three startup CEO Mentors, who share their opinions on the topic, and provide our founders with expert feedback and advice. Participating Founders are given assignments to build key aspects of their companies between the sessions that are completed in Working Groups with their peers. Session include:

  • Vision and Values
  • Startup Research
  • Naming and Branding
  • Revenue, Costs and Profits
  • Startup Legal and IP
  • Product Development

Mentor makeup:  Aaron Patzer, Founder and CEO of; Adeo Ressi, CEO of The; Brian Wong, Founder & CEO of Kiip; Bubba Murarka, member of the Business Development team at Facebook; Seth Sternberg, co-founder & former CEO of Meebo.

Portfolio companies: 807 companies have graduated from Founder Institute, with 91% still operating, and having created over 5,000 jobs. Alumni include RetailigencePuzzazzRealty Mogul; and Spikes.


Black Ocean: 


Investment amount: "We fund our companies to the point where they have discovered and validated a repeatable, scalable business model. At which point we often seek to bring in new capital partners to accelerate our growth."

Program benefits:  "We centralize HR, Legal and Accounting to allow our teams to focus on building their core business"

Portfolio companies: Alumni include Appnation; BimbasketTastebuds; and Grapple.


Nest New York: a combination soft landing and launch pad for proven North European, Russian and other foreign startups to enter the US market.

Investment amount: Companies can pay as little as $500 a month just for the space, or $5,000 a month for the team, partners, fundraising and investor introductions.

Program benefits: 

  • Office space in Union Square
  • Office Manager services
  • Meeting room facilities
  • Video conference call set up
  • Mentoring & Events
  • Kitchen & fresh coffee
  • Financial evaluation,
  • Market assessment,
  • Product & Business development
  • A partner network

Backers: Partnerships with Skolkovo Tech Park and Skolkovo FoundaOon from Russia 

Portfolio companies: Alumni include ShortcutmediaBeintoo, Thinglink and Curiator.

Have we missed your accelerator or incubator? Let me know which ones I've missed in the comments section!

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