Michigan State’s Conquer Accelerator Announces 2017 Participants

Earlier this month, the Michigan State University-backed Conquer accelerator program announced the five startups that will spend the summer pushing their products and technologies to market.

Starting in June, Conquer participants will begin the 10-week incubation program. What makes Conquer different from many other university accelerators is its accessibility. Even though the program is administered by MSU, it’s open to any startup seeking to overcome obstacles to commercialization, regardless of college affiliation.

Each Conquer startup gets $20,000 in seed capital in exchange for 5 percent equity, along with co-working space. Throughout the summer, teams will meet with mentors to learn more about topics such as fundraising and sustainability.

“This year, we’re pushing hard on each team to have a direct mentor from their industry,” says Paul Jaques, Conquer’s director.

At the program’s conclusion, instead of holding a demo day event in mid-Michigan, where MSU is located, the teams will hit the road and present their pitches to investors in Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City.

Jaques says out of the six startups that participated in the Conquer program last year, three are fully operational and making money. One of those companies, Golfler, was a semi-finalist in last fall’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, and Jaques says it also scored some additional, post-Conquer funding.

Jaques says the biggest thing he learned during last year’s inaugural Conquer cohort was to push the participating tech companies to hire a chief technology officer.

“If you’re building a technological product, you really need to have a CTO on your team,” he adds. “When you’re creating something, you always need to make changes, and if you’re relying on an outside company to make those changes, it can get very costly. It also takes a lot longer.”

Jaques says Conquer is always looking for additional mentors to coach the startups; interested parties should contact the program.

Without further ado, here’s a bit more about the 2017 Conquer startups:

HorizonIQ is a mobile app designed to help travelers navigate dining and entertainment options when in a new city.

LEAP Worldwide is an online forum for athletes, coaches, and sports teams to connect and find information about job openings, various athletic leagues, playing opportunities, and more.

PrndL brings the sharing economy to parking, enabling users to rent their underutilized spaces to drivers in high-demand areas.

Vertexer says it “weds human judgment with technology” to help companies find diverse, qualified job candidates through personal referrals.

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