gBETA, Gener8tor’s Free Accelerator Program, Is Expanding to Detroit

Gener8tor, a Wisconsin-based organization that holds training programs for startups and invests in them, will soon hold its first program in Michigan, if its website is any indication.

gBETA is a series of free, seven-week accelerator programs run by Gener8tor that help entrepreneurs with things like pitching their products, adding users and customers, and raising money from investors. A page on gBETA’s website now mentions a Detroit program. The page lists Stella Safari—who has held a variety of leadership positions within Detroit’s early-stage business community, most recently with startup collective Ponyride—as the director of gBETA Detroit. According to Safari’s LinkedIn profile, she has had the gBETA position since last month.

Maggie Brickerman, managing director of gBETA, says Gener8tor is “not ready to formally discuss” the accelerator’s presence in Detroit, but will likely “have more news” to announce in the coming weeks.

Brickerman said in May that Michigan was on the short list of states Gener8tor was considering expanding into, along with Indiana.

According to the Web page with information on gBETA Detroit, a program will be held in the Motor City from Oct. 19 to Dec. 7. The page also lists dates when Gener8tor will hold “office hours” in Detroit. Gener8tor says these sessions are aimed at giving local entrepreneurs an opportunity to “work with our team on your startup or idea, and learn more about the gBETA program.”

It’s not clear whether Gener8tor has leased its own office space in Detroit to host the program that kicks off in October.

Like Wisconsin, Michigan is known for being home to strong public universities. Michigan also has a huge automotive sector, which has seen its ups and downs over the decades but has become more high-tech in recent years. As carmakers like Ford and GM wade deeper into the waters of self-driving vehicles, they’ll need to attract engineers proficient in everything from transmissions to artificial intelligence. And jobs tend to follow engineers—at least those who start businesses—says Joe Kirgues, one of Gener8tor’s co-founders.

“Anecdotally, we say that if we can get an engineer to start a company, that eight or nine other jobs will follow in the next year,” Kirgues said in an interview last year. “Those jobs often are the marketing or the sales or operations jobs, but they kind of orbit around this core engineering talent in startups.”

Gener8tor has held programs in several cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota since launching in 2012. For the first few years, Gener8tor exclusively ran its core 12-week accelerator program, in which participating startups receive up to $140,000 in financing in exchange for an equity stake of 6 to 7 percent. The 54 companies that have graduated from the core accelerator have together raised more than $120 million in follow-on funding, Gener8tor says.

In 2015, Gener8tor introduced gBETA, which focuses on getting startups with local ties to participate. (The core accelerator, by contrast, draws startups from all over the country and even some from outside the U.S.)

The third series of programs Gener8tor runs, gALPHA, is a three-week “hackathon and accelerator hybrid,” according to the organization. As first reported by Xconomy, Gener8tor will run two gALPHA programs in Madison, WI, during the 2017-2018 school year, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s computer sciences department.

When Gener8tor expands to a new state, it starts off with a gBETA program, Brickerman said earlier this year. One reason for this is because gBETA is supported by sponsors, such as university tech transfer offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Financing for the main, for-equity accelerator comes from funds that Gener8tor creates, supported by money raised from investors. This process tends to take longer than it does to secure one or two sponsorship agreements to fund a gBETA program, Brickerman said.

In the past few years, Detroit’s comeback story has drawn numerous entities to the city that support tech startups, including multiple incubator and accelerator programs. It appears Gener8tor is now poised to join them.

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