If you’ve developed an idea that simply needs a little refining but is close to launching, then I’d like to introduce you to Angela Benton, Founder of NewMe Accelerator. NewMe Accelerator can help you develop a high powered connection in Silicon Valley and provide that much needed push prior to launch. Tune in as Angela joins Brent Leary to discuss how NewMe Accelerator can help you bring your dream to life.
* * * * *
Small Business Trends: Can you tell us what NewMe Accelerator is?
Angela Benton: NewMe Accelerator is a startup technology accelerator for entrepreneurs who are under represented in the technology industry. If you look around and see who is successful in running businesses in the technology space, more than likely, they are white males. Our mission and goal is to diversify the industry.
Small Business Trends: How does NewMe Accelerator help?
Angela Benton: We actually bring people to Silicon Valley and incubate them in a sense. While they are working on their startup ideas. They pitch to investors at the end of the program. What we’re really helping them do is get a connection, a really high powered connection in Silicon Valley. That is really what it’s all about.
Small Business Trends: How important was it for you to make the physical jump to Silicon Valley?
Angela Benton: It’s very important for us to be based in the heart of Silicon Valley. We’re all tech savvy. We’re on social media and know a lot of people, however, most of them we never actually met in person. You know it operates totally different in Silicon Valley.
I don’t do a lot of phone calls. I do a lot of in person meetings. People want to actually meet with you and talk with you. They know you and they met you in person. When you look at a lot of the barriers to entry and, of course, access to capital is another one, but it is access to a good network of people that can help you. Whether it is an investor, an advisor or whether you are building a team.
Small Business Trends: How do you go about selecting who gets into the program?
Angela Benton: We have a lot of different criteria we look at. It ranges from the actual product, the idea, to the entrepreneur’s background, to other kinds of criteria that is in our “secret sauce.”
There are great programs like YCombinator and 500 Startups. But one of the things that is most important to me is not that we are trying to replicate exactly what those folks are doing. We want people in our program that are good for NewMe.
Small Business Trends: Do most folks come in with a fully baked idea? Or do they come to hone the idea and prepare for potential investors?
Angela Benton: We are early stage. But early-stage is such a huge category. Ideally, we like to have those that already have something developed, that they need to refine, or that they are very, very close to launching. We can help them refine it and bring it to launch.
The program isn’t the best for someone who woke up yesterday and said, “I have an idea for a website or a web application. But I just need someone to help me get it started.”
Small Business Trends: What kind of things should entrepreneurs expect if they were accepted into the program?
Angela Benton: The first week is really fun. It’s a whirlwind. We have a welcome event that has historically been at Google, where they are required to give a two minute high level overview of what they are working on. They do so in front of an audience and in front of judges. The judges give them feedback throughout the program; for some that can be stressful, for some it is exhilarating. For us as a program, it’s a way for us to measure where you are when you come into the program.
Small Business Trends: What role are Google and other sponsors playing in the success of NewMe?
Angela Benton: All of our sponsors are really our partners so we don’t take sponsorship that is from any and everybody. We really want people who believe in what we are doing, but can put some skin in the game.
Google has been a tremendous help whether it is helping us launch this financially or basically giving us access to resources. They are sending out developers. Developers’ advocates to actually work one on one with the Founders. They have helped tremendously. The same as with our other sponsors Andreessen Horowitz and everyone else.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the challenges when it comes to getting this kind of program up and running?
Angela Benton: One challenge that I did expect, but I thought I had mitigated, was the fact that people see us as a charity.
Even though I did not form a non-profit and we stayed a for-profit, some folks see us as that way because we are helping people. I don’t know if it’s because we’re helping minorities or if it is just because we don’t make financial investments.
The investments we make are to house people, get basic transportation, access to food, and mentorship in the network. What we like to say is, “We put sweat equity into the Founders.”
Small Business Trends: What are some of the differences that you have consciously put in place that makes NewMe a little different?
Angela Benton: In addition to our program being solely focused on folks who come from different backgrounds, it is residential. You don’t go and rent an apartment and then come to our office on X,Y and Z day. You are totally immersed the whole time. As a result, you are developing your own kind of network while you’re there.
Small Business Trends: What is next for a company that graduates?
Angela Benton: That is why our application process is very important. We really look for people who have personal ambition. We can give people access to investors and information, we can give them a place to live and live out their dreams. So what is next for that company is what they make it.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.