gBETA is a pre-accelerator for the nationally ranked equity-based accelerator, gener8tor. It is a free program that provides local startups with networking opportunities, mentorship from successful startup founders, and plenty of business wisdom. gBETA is currently accepting applications for its 2019 Spring program, for which seven companies will be chosen. Chelsea Linder, the director of gBETA Indy, gave us the inside scoop.
Julia Bluhm: How did gBETA start?
Chelsea Linder: gBeta overall started in 2015 in Wisconsin. I’ve been running the gBETA Indy program since the beginning of the year. We’ve done two cohorts, one in the spring of 2018 and one that just finished in the fall. Right now we’re just doing it in the fall and spring.
JB: What are the dates of the spring 2019 program?
CL: Early March to Mid-April. The applications are due on February 15 and then we do an interview round before we pick the five companies that will get in.
JB: What are you looking for during the application process?
CL: The three things we’re looking for the most are a great team that has a really good skill set for their specific goals, we’re looking for traction so like their number of customers and revenue – and if they don’t have customers or revenue yet then something like a wait list or potential customer interviews– and then the third thing we’re looking for are market opportunities. The goal of our program is to either get companies into equity based accelerators like gener8tor, or have them gain interest from investors. So we need to have companies that have a big market opportunity because that’s what investors are looking for.
JB: What kind of companies should apply?
CL: Any industry of companies can apply to the program. Really anything. The biggest thing is that it needs to be something with a big market. So not necessarily like a local barber shop or something like that.
JB: Are you accepting applications from both new and already-established companies?
CL: Yeah, it kind of ranges. In this past cohort we had four companies that already were generating revenue, and one company that had not generated any revenue yet. So it depends on the team and the idea and which companies we like the best.
JB: What are some companies that have gone through the program?
CL: In the first cohort we had Codelicious which provides curriculums for computer science classes in grades three through eight. They just raised a seed round of a little bit less than a million dollars. And then we had Woven, which is a platform for testing engineering candidates for when you’re looking to hire an engineer. They just closed a seed round as well at about $500,000. And then a third company that was in that cohort was SnapShyft, which is a gig-economy platform like Uber, but for staffing people in the food and beverage industry. They actually got into two equity based accelerators. They got into gener8tor which is our equity based accelerator, and then they also got into 500 Startups. So we’re really excited for them.
JB: What’s the structure of the program?
CL: Overall it’s seven weeks. Throughout that seven weeks we meet one-on-one with the companies twice a week. And then we also have a weekly meeting with mentors– the companies meet five mentors each week. It’s kind of like speed dating. They can see which mentors they have a really good connection with, and then they can continue to meet with those mentors. Throughout the program every week we also have a “lunch and learn” called OpenBETA that’s open to the public. You can see when those are happening on our meetup page. And then the last week of the program we do what we call an investors forum, and that’s where they’re pitching to investors. They’ll do 25-30 pitches to local investors, investors across our network virtually, and then they’ll also do pitches to some other accelerator programs.
JB: Who are the mentors for this program?
CL: It’s a good combination. We have some founders of startups who have done really well, and they come in and talk about their experiences. We also have a good group of mentors who are in positions of executive leadership at local companies and larger corporations in Indianapolis. And then the third group of mentors we have are service providers, like lawyers, accountants and marketing people who can help the companies with those more tactical things.
JB: What are some of the specific topics covered?
CL: We talk about everything from customer acquisition strategies and sales to financing and financial modeling to fundraising and how to pitch. We help them a lot with their pitches for investors. And really anything else. Every week we have a topic we want to talk about, but we also just ask the companies what they want help with that week.
JB: Why is it important to have a program like this specifically in Indianapolis? Do you think there’s a thriving startup culture here?
CL: Definitely. We see so much venture capital and money being thrown at companies on the East and West coats and we actually have really great startups here in the midwest. So to be able to support those startups so they can be the ones raising money and bringing some of that money into the state is huge for our economy. It also just continues to show the world and the U.S. that the midwest has strong talent and good companies. And it builds jobs. Just our companies in the past two cohorts already have about fifty full-time employees. And if you look at all the generator companies across the midwest that we’ve helped, they’ve actually created over 2,000 jobs. In just a few years, that’s a big economic impact.