Come one, come all — if your startup idea doesn’t involve just software, that is.
That’s the message from Cleveland area business accelerator LaunchHouse  as it seeks 10 up and coming startups for a 16-week program kicking off Sept. 29, 2014.
Though the start of the program may be months off, the deadline for submissions isn’t. The accelerator says it must have applications from up and coming startups by July 12, 2014.
This is the first year LaunchHouse has moved its focus away from software and more towards hardware, manufacturing and maybe even robotics. LaunchHouse used to invest in software, said the accelerator’s managing partner and CEO Todd Goldstein in a phone conversation with Small Business Trends recently.
The move in a new direction is for two reasons essentially.
Simply, today every accelerator and incubator seems to focus on software, Goldstein said. By contrast, he says, when the accelerator kicks off its first “hardware only” accelerator session this fall, it will only be the ninth of its kind in the nation and the first in Ohio.
Another, reason, Goldstein said, is the unique business climate of the region. It’s an area known for manufacturing and advanced controls. But, Goldstein said, “In Cleveland, there aren’t really that many software engineers and there aren’t really a lot of investors who understand software.”
Even though LaunchHouse is based in northern Ohio, Goldstein says the hardware startup accelerator program is open to businesses from anywhere. Last year, a company from as far away as China was part of the program.
While many software incubators tend to focus on younger entrepreneurs, Goldstein says LaunchHouse’s unique focus has it looking, in some cases, for more seasoned professionals, perhaps with years in a particular industry. Concepts could include anything from a manufacturing process to a piece of hardware tech like a wearable device.
LaunchHouse is also willing to look at projects in any stage of development. That includes anything from a drawing on a cocktail napkin to a finished product that a startup is hoping to scale to manufacturing.
About 30 finalists will be invited to a two-day session involving custom development projects, pitches to investors and meetings with experts.
Ten winning startups will receive $20,000 each from a total $200,000 grant. A partnership with NASA will give startups the unique opportunity to gain mentoring and support from the agency. Startups will share space in the 123,000 square foot Makers Alliance building equipped with 3D printing and other equipment .