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College Connections: Standout options for starting out

Gener8tor, LLC is a business accelerator that aims to be the best value-added investor in a seed or early stage company.  It invests $20,000 in exchange for a 6 -9 percent equity stake in the companies that go through its 12 week program. Following the program, the companies also receive up to $120,000 in the form of convertible debt. That includes $50,000 from Gener8tor, $20,000 from Angels on the Water, LLC, and another $50,000 from BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, Inc. if the startup is based in Wisconsin.  Possibly more importantly, the companies get guidance and contacts from Gener8tor’s staff and founders.  This hands-on approach has earned Gener8tor a place as a top 15 accelerator in the US as ranked by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project.  Unsurprisingly, start-ups are interested in working with Gener8tor.  Each intake, they receive more and more applications to become an owner of the t-shirt proclaiming they are now a Gener8tor company.   That means those accepted are hitting more and more goals, showing more traction, and generally just rocking it more each year. 

This makes it difficult for college students or recent graduates trying to start companies to get into the program.  They are competing against companies that have cash flow that isn’t dependent on how tolerant their dorm roommate is.  Given that Troy Vosseller, a founder of Gener8tor, started Sconnie Nation in his dorm room, they wanted to make sure the college students weren’t left behind.  Thus gBETA, a pre-seed accelerator, was born.  gBETA is a free program – no fees and no investment – for college students or recent graduates of Wisconsin colleges or universities. Like the main program, gBETA will accept five companies in each class for 6 week sessions during the spring, summer, and fall to correlate with the academic calendar.  The gBETA companies may not get cash, but they still get access to a community of mentors, entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and technologists including their fellow cohort members, as well as gener8tor and gBETA alum as well as individualized coaching and mentorship from the experienced Gener8tor team.

Earlier this month, I visited the Pioneer Launch Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.  The Launch Lab connects students with resources, training and contacts to pursue the development of their for-profit business, social or nonprofit venture.  Maggie Brickerman from gBETA and I held “office hours” that were supposed to provide information to the students regarding the gBETA program.  But it quickly became apparent that the students had much more interesting stories.  The story of gBETA was told faster and faster at each appointment so that we could hear about what the student was doing.  There was everything from an automatic cat food feeder to a craft distillery.  Brock Waterman at the Launch Lab had a lot to show off, and we were happy to hear all about it!

The good news is that it isn’t limited to Platteville.  University of Wisconsin-Madison has quite a few options with D2P, the Business and Entrepreneurship Clinic and Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic just to name a few.  But it isn’t just at the UW campuses.  Brian Morello is making sure that students at Beloit College have resources and opportunity at The Center for Entrepreneurship in Liberal Education at Beloit (CELEB).  And that’s just a mere scraping of the surface.  So if you are a student or recent alum, check with your college.  They can’t wait to connect with you and to get you connected with some amazing programs.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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