Three-year-old Accelerate Long Island has been quietly investing in biotech and clean-gen startups, building an MIT-styled mentoring program and pulling together the stray ends of the entrepreneurial ecosystem via dinners, bootcamps and other forms of meetups. So far so good, but now what? We check in with executive director Mark Lesko for a recap and a few hints on what’s coming. In his words:
WAY BEYOND ADVOCACY: Accelerate Long Island is principally a seed fund and we’re really the only seed fund that invests in biotech and clean tech on Long Island. Accelerate provides $50,000 matching grants and we match investments from our investment partners Topspin Partners and Jove Equity through their Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund.
SWEET SIX: We’ve invested in six companies so far – Codagenix (Stony Brook University) Goddard Labs (Stony Brook’s incubator), Polynova (Stony Brook University), Sulfcrete (BNL), SynchroPET (BNL) and Traverse Biosciences (Stony Brook University) – and are poised to announce our next investments in the upcoming weeks. Our portfolio companies are doing very well at things like winning startup pitch competitions, obtaining federal and state grant funding, getting admitted to the Start-Up NY program and, most importantly, raising additional capital.
WE ALSO: Accelerate Long Island is also designing a new mentorship program and helps build our entrepreneurial ecosystem on Long Island by such things as holding our regular BioCEO dinners, Ideacamps for tech entrepreneurs at the Huntington Launchpad and we recently issued a definitive Startups Report that, among other things, listed Long Island’s 14 hottest tech startups.
OH, AND: We recently learned that we will receive a $1.5 million investment from New York’s Empire State Development Corp. that will be the basis of a much larger second seed fund that Accelerate will manage and we expect to announce soon some very exciting news about our partners in that effort.
MAKING REAL PROGRESS: Over the past three years Long Island has experienced a lot of positive momentum and I would specifically mention, along with Accelerate Long Island, the existence of the Launchpad co-working spaces around Long Island, the Center for Biotechnology’s recent award of a multi-million dollar “REACH” grant from the NIH to support the commercialization of biotechnologies, and the groundbreaking alliance between Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
BUT: The primary gaps in the ecosystem are the lack of early stage seed and angel funding and the relative lack of business talent. Developing expertise around obtaining federal grants to commercialize technologies is also a hurdle and, for those companies that are scaling, they are having a tough time recruiting technical talent, particularly software programmers.
BANG THE DRUM: We can definitely do a better job of getting the word out about all of the positive developments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem so that we can start to generate increased excitement on Long Island regarding some positive economic news in the region.
COMING SOON: We’re also working now to position a potential sleeping giant – collectively, Hofstra University’s graduate programs at its Zarb School of Business, the Law School, the Medical School and the Engineering School – so that those schools can groom business talent to partner with the world class researchers on Long Island to develop the next generation of great tech-based startups here on Long Island.