Ben Franklin

INVESTING IN PENNSYLVANIA’S FUTURE

DreamIt Ventures: Working with Entrepreneurs to Turn Ideas into Marketplace Reality

A dozen fast-track technology startup companies that may not have otherwise gotten off the ground are hard at work, developing their innovative prototype products in Philadelphia. Chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants, the companies are part of the portfolio of DreamIt Ventures, a new business boot camp and fund that is working intensely with promising university students and new entrepreneurs to turn ideas into marketable products and new companies. The winning innovators received $15,000 to $30,000 to be able to pour themselves into their technologies for three months.

DreamIt

DreamIt Ventures is a new organization that provides business support and funding to select entrepreneurs to help turn ideas into marketable products.

The DreamIt founders made their vision a reality with support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which is investing in and advising the boot camp, along with Innovation Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the University City Science Center, where the boot camp is operating. BFTP has committed $250,000 in DreamIt Ventures.

“Hundreds of teams submitted online applications,” says Michael Levinson, co-founder of DreamIt Ventures with fellow investors and entrepreneurs David Bookspan and Steve Welch. “We met with them in person or via video conference to make our final selections.”

Access to Critical Business Support

Being part of DreamIt Ventures brings new entrepreneurs access to critical support in the form of mentors, strategists, speakers, lawyers, accountants and technologists-not to mention the entrepreneurial incubator-style setting at the Science Center. They’re also introduced to the funding sources-including angel investors, venture capitalists, private investors and public sources of funding-who can provide the first round of financing to get their prototype products to market.

Levinson, Bookspan and Welch started DreamIt Ventures after reading some articles about similar programs elsewhere in the United States. “We thought it was something we could do that would greatly benefit this region,” Levinson says. The hope is that DreamIt will spark more viable businesses to set up permanent shop in Greater Philadelphia and then create jobs and stimulate the economy as they grow and prosper.

The Need for Pre-Seed Funding

Most of the DreamIt companies’ products are still confidential, but one is currently flying above the radar. Vuzit (pronounced “views it”) is an online document platform that utilizes web services and AJAX technology to create a web platform for distributing and displaying documents; BFTP already recently approved a direct investment into the promising company.

All the DreamIt Ventures companies have been hard at work since May 21. The 2008 DreamIt program wraps up on September 4-Funding Day-with companies making their presentations to investors in the hopes of receiving additional funding.

“BFTP has been one of the only institutional sources of pre-seed and seed capital in the region, other than friends and family. DreamIt brings more resources to the table and helps teach new and young teams how to take an idea and turn it into a prototype and new company,” Levinson says.

DreamIt Ventures’ founders anticipate that the first three months of DreamIt ‘08 is just the kickoff to a program that eventually runs year-round. At this point, they expect two DreamIt programs in 2009, which will hopefully lead to more in 2010.

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This article was featured in
Keynotes August, 2008
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