Startup accelerator Gener8tor finished mentoring its first cohort of Wisconsin startups in its gBETA program this summer, and the startups’ founders said the mentorship has been invaluable.
The gBETA program only accepts five startups affiliated with a Wisconsin college, and usually consists of tech-based startups, though the program does occasionally accept low-tech businesses.
The program educates founders, whose business idea they feel has high potential growth, on how to effectively manage a fledgling business.
As Gener8tor has grown to deal increasingly with larger, more mature startups from around the country, gBETA allows the accelerator to continue providing opportunities for Wisconsin-based companies, Troy Vosseller, co-founder of Gener8tor, said.
“Hopefully these startups will become good candidates for Gener8tor itself or another accelerator or to be funded by an angel investor or venture capitalist,” Vosseler said.
The program runs for six weeks and has three sessions following the academic calendar, Vosseller said. Unlike Gener8tor, gBETA does not invest cash or take any equity from the company. Instead, it teaches founders the expectations for a startup and holds them accountable to meet milestones, Vosseller said.
He said gBETA’s full time staff consists of two people, Sara Woldt and Maggie Brickerman, who work with the companies regularly through scheduled meetings with Gener8tor founders.
Companies enrolled in the program must relocate to the Gener8tor offices for the six week period, Vosseller said.
“The hope is that the companies are working out of the office and benefiting from the community of each other,” Vosseller said.
The gBETA summer group included EnsoData, which makes software for sleep clinics, and Wintermute, which provides smart phone software. These were selected from a pool of 30 applicants.
Chris Fernandez, co-founder of EnsoData, said he and his partner came out of gBETA better businessmen. He said while they had good technical skills, the program helped them become more rounded.
“We learned a lot about pitching, executive summaries outreach, marketing, investor relations, a lot of the things we didn’t get through the [UW] engineering program,” Fernandez said.
The mix of companies and institutions in Madison provide a nurturing environment with a good network for young startups, Fernandez said. He said his company is currently acquiring its first batch of customers and plans to launch their product soon.
Saul Laufer, Wintermute co-founder, said gBETA helped focus the company on the most critical aspects of being a new company.
“There are so many things that so few people have to do and be concerned about and [gBETA] helped prioritize and it was a really valuable thing they provided,” Laufer said.
Wintermute plans to launch in late fall.
While each of the startups this session involve current or former UW students, Vosseller said the program accepts students from any public or private Wisconsin institution. He said gBETA is currently accepting applicants for the fall session.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated gBETA is limited to startups affiliated with University of Wisconsin System schools and referred to Sarah Wolf Woldt. The Badger Herald regrets these errors.