IVCA Profile Q&A: Kapil Chaudhary, Partner at the I2A Fund, Discusses the New Excelerate Program and the Opportunities for IVCA Members to Participate

IVCA Profile Q&A: Kapil Chaudhary, Partner at the I2A Fund, Discusses the New Excelerate Program and the Opportunities for IVCA Members to Participate

April 14, 2010

CHICAGO - “ In late January, a new program called Excelerate was launched to provide mentorship and funds for innovative new ventures. The results of that launch, the actual program, is about to start this summer, and one of the prime mentors who is participating is Kapil Chaudhary, Partner with the I2A Fund.

The IVCA interviewed Mr. Chaudhary recently, in which he outlined the program's beginnings and parameters of the innovative Excelerate 2010.

IVCA: You are part of a team that is kicking off Excelerate 2010 this summer. What is the origin of the program and what is its purpose?

Kapil Chaudhary: Excelerate was co-founded by Sandbox and the I2A Fund at the end of 2009 to help catalyze and accelerate the growth of innovative new ventures-both those that are currently based here and others from outside the area that are relocating to Chicago as part of Excelerate.The program recruited Sam Yagan, who founded multiple successful ventures, most recently OkCupid, to be the Executive Director and Troy Henikoff, founder of SurePayroll and currently CEO of OneWed, to serve on the board.

Since the time that Excelerate has gone live in late January, we have been extremely fortunate to have engaged over 40 entrepreneurial mentors, more than 25 leading venture firms including those outside the region, and the key industry and venture development organizations including the IVCA.

While the primary goal is to help guide the companies in our program to the next phase of their growth (for most their first institutional round of financing), we also see it as a great way to complement the existing initiatives in place to help spur greater connectivity and thereby entrepreneurial activity in the region.

IVCA: What is the general timeline for the program at this stage of the process?

KP: Excelerate received over 300 applications for companies vying for a spot in this summer's program and is now finalizing the selection process.We expect to have all of our companies selected by the end of April or the beginning of May. Excelerate's program will then kick-off at the beginning of June and then run for 13 weeks until our demo and investor day in September.

IVCA: What were the first steps to think about for an individual or company who hoped to participate in this program?

KP: Companies who have applied to participate and become an Excelerate portfolio company represent those who are working on a high growth venture in its early stages - “ this can range from initial concept to product in development to many cases with early revenue. All of the companies that will participate come into the program looking to expand their networks and get the guidance from the mentors in Excelerate to take their company to the next level.

IVCA: What type of companies or individuals are you seeking for the program?

KP: Mentors in Excelerate comprise of entrepreneurs who have founded a venture - “ in many cases multiple ones - “ and led those from initial concept to a successful exit, for acquisition and/or an IPO.These mentors have graciously agreed to provide their time, insights and access to help what we all hope will be the next wave of innovative companies to succeed.

For the VC partners that have become engaged, it is a great way to start working with companies earlier in their life cycle and building relationships with founders they may invest in at the end of the summer or sometime later in the company's growth.

As mentioned previously, Excelerate has engaged a number of mentors and VC partners already but continues to add and welcome more that would like to get involved.

IVCA: What kind of outside-the-spectrum thinking and people power are you looking for in general for the potential of who will participate?

KP: We're looking for companies who understand the - ˜pain point' and market demand of the industry they are targeting and have domain expertise. At the same time, they are looking to rapidly build upon the insight they are given to come away from the program with a model that is more scalable, a solution that is better targeted to their customers needs and/or engage the key partners and team members that will enable them to capitalize on their potential.

IVCA: How will your participating mentors help these companies or individuals through the process of start-up 'boot camp'?

KP: Mentors will be involved in multiple capacities.Many mentors will be leading a session or two on an area of expertise they have during the summer and all will have a chance to meet with the companies in the program early in the process. Based on mutual fit/interest, mentors and companies will pair up and mentors will provide them ongoing guidance throughout the summer on a weekly basis.

IVCA: How can programs like Excelerate help the local economy in general?

KP: Excelerate will help both retain innovative companies that may have previously gone elsewhere (seven companies in 2009 alone from Illinois went to Silicon Valley for YCombinator and Boulder and Boston for Tech Stars) and recruit innovative companies from other parts of the country to Chicago that can take advantage of all of the great resources here.

IVCA: How can IVCA members get involved?

KP: Two ways;

  1. direct entrepreneurs interested in participating in the program to Sam Yagan, Excelerate's Executive Director, at [email protected].
  2. investors interested in becoming a partner should contact me, Kapil Chaudhary, at [email protected].

Excelerate's website is www.exceleratelabs.com.