TechTown Adds Bootcamp-Style Venture Accelerator

The Detroit-based business incubator TechTown announced last week that it’s launching the new Labs Venture Accelerator, which is set to accept applications online starting tomorrow for the first session, which will begin April 8. The goal of the program is to transform early stage startups into viable, sustainable businesses in a short amount of time.

TechTown’s president and CEO, Leslie Smith, describes the new 12-week accelerator program as having the intensity of a bootcamp aggressively seeking to commercialize “trapped” technology. “It’s not our expectation that a company will be ‘done’ at the end of the 12-week accelerator session—it’s more about developing that alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, or medical device technology sitting on the sideline,” she says.

The venture accelerator will be looking for 10 to 12 early stage tech companies that want to take their idea to market quickly. Companies will receive a $10,000 loan with a “reasonable interest rate” and will be eligible for another $15,000 in additional funding and services.

Smith says, in return for the cash and coaching, TechTown expects founders to devote themselves full-time to getting their startups off the ground. “TechTown spent a lot of time with moonlighting entrepreneurs in the early years,” Smith explains. “For the venture accelerator, we want skin in the game. We want you to be committed to investing your time as well as your money.”

TechTown is using the methodology outlined by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf in “The Startup Owners Manual” and the program culminates with a demo day event in front of potential investors. To be eligible for consideration, companies must be located in or willing to relocate to Southeast Michigan. TechTown is looking for teams of at least two people. Ideally, Smith says, after a company completes its 12-week stint in the venture accelerator, it will continue its engagement with TechTown.

The venture accelerator is TechTown’s latest programming change amid what feels—and looks, on the organization’s beautifully updated website—like a significant reboot. Other TechTown programs include the Blocks retail bootcamp and the SWOT City neighborhood revitalization effort.

Under Smith’s leadership, TechTown seems to be addressing its critics, who charge that the incubator has struggled to find an identity and commercialize the technology coming out of Wayne State University—particularly its medical school and affiliated doctors and hospitals.

For those who want to learn more about the new venture accelerator, an informational session will be held at TechTown on Feb. 20. The application deadline for the program starting in April is March 15. The venture accelerator will convene two 12-week programs per year.

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