IVCA Profile Q&A: Sam Yagan, Executive Director for Excelerate 2010

IVCA Profile Q&A: Sam Yagan, Executive Director for Excelerate 2010

July 21, 2010

CHICAGO - “ Late last year, a group of like-minded funds and investors founded Excelerate. This program is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and early stage companies to apply their ideas to a start-up - œboot camp,-  for 13 weeks this summer. During the time they receive mentoring from top venture founders/investors and a bit of capital, which culminates in an - ˜Investor Day' in late August.

Sam Yagan is the Executive Director for Excelerate 2010, and he sat down with the IVCA to give the background and details regarding the program, including a way for IVCA members to participate.

IVCA: You recently became Executive Director for the Excelerate 2010 program. What firms are involved and what is the purpose of this program?

Sam Yagan: Excelerate was founded by Sandbox Industries, The I2A Fund, Troy Henikoff and myself.The purposes of the program are to accelerate the development of ten young companies, attract/retain entrepreneurial talent in Chicago and engage local business leaders to contribute in the local start-up ecosystem.

IVCA: What are the companies that are participating at present and what is the timeline for activities within the program at this stage of the process?

SY: I've included a summary of the ten companies (click here to download summary). Right now, the only remaining milestone on the calendar is Investor Day, on August 31st.

IVCA: What happens on Investor Day and how will those participating companies prepare for that day?

SY: Investor Day will be the culmination of the Excelerate program.The ten companies will get to pitch their businesses to over 100 investors from around the country. The companies will spend the better part of August refining their models and perfecting their pitches.

IVCA: How did you process and select the companies that are participating?

SY: We promoted our application process through mostly organic channels like social media and word-of-mouth.

IVCA: How will the participating venture and investor mentors help the companies through this start-up 'boot camp'?

SY: The 90 plus mentors who have engaged with Excelerate companies have helped in numerous ways - “ providing advice, making introductions and assisting in fund-raising.

IVCA: What are some examples of ways these companies use their mentors that has really impressed you and/or the person doing the mentoring?

SY: The mentors of the Excelerate program have provided invaluable guidance across a wide range of business issues. One mentor spent an entire day meeting with one company, producing a five page go-to-market strategy. Another mentor facilitated an introduction to a company that become a strategic partner.

IVCA: What are some of the obstacles that these companies hope to overcome in this mentoring program? Do you find some common problems with the applicants?

SY: Small companies face many of the same challenges as large ones - “ customer acquisition, fund-raising, time-allocation, prioritizing development and more.

IVCA: For future applicants: What kind of outside-the-spectrum thinking and people power in general is this program looking for?

SY: We are looking for companies in a position to make a huge advancement in their business with only $20,000 and 13 weeks of mentorship.

IVCA: How do programs like Excelerate in general stimulate economic growth and what general expectations do the participating mentors hope to achieve?

SY: Excelerate stimulates economic growth becausethe companies are more likely to stay in Chicago and will have more financial resources - “ both revenue and invested capital - “ than they would have otherwise.Mentors are typically looking to both give back to the community and also derive personal enjoyment out of working with entrepreneurs.

IVCA: This is information for the IVCA membership. If they are not already, how can they get involved? Is there a specific person to contact?

SY: We would love more IVCA members to get involved.Here are two ways

- “ you can become a - ˜friend' of Excelerate and receive our emails and/or

- “ you can attend Investor Day on August 31st, 2010. Either way you can contact me at [email protected]exceleratelabs.com.

The Excelerate website is www.exceleratelabs.com