Groundwork Labs is one of those programs in town that’s under-covered by media, and that’s likely because money doesn’t change hands when companies enter or exit the program.
The nonprofit free accelerator program is meant as a feeder for other programs under the umbrella of the NC IDEA Foundation. A portion of companies win an NC IDEA grant after they finish the Groundwork Labs program. Idea Fund Partners is a for-profit fund affiliated with the foundation and could make investments in Groundwork companies, though it hasn’t yet done so.
The bigger goal of Groundwork is to make sure founders have the skills they need to succeed in business and/or raise money.
They do that by matching companies with mentors like executive director John Austin, business consultant Peter Anylan, Albright Digital founders Vickie Gibbs and Jeff Lindsey, business consultant and SoarTriangle principal Lauren Whitehurst, Smart Office Energy Solutions’ Bryan Hassin and serial entrepreneur Scott Barstow.
Another benefit of a program that doesn’t involve equity or investor dollars is that it can be nimble and adapt to the needs of local entrepreneurs. Requests from a growing number of entrepreneurs made Groundwork create an After-Hours program last summer. And because some of the participant companies got so much value from that program, they’ve stayed around this fall.
Groundwork also partnered to create the SoarTriangle mentorship program for female-led startups. It’s a partner to the Raleigh Internet of Things Meetup, offering spots for the group’s recent hackathon winners. It’s also a big supporter of Triangle Startup Weekend. And each summer, Groundwork takes top college student-led startups from around the state through the program.
But what’s critical for the program to continue is its results. Though the failure rate of startups is well documented at around 90 percent, more than half of Groundwork companies are still in business since it opened in 2012. And 40 of those 60 companies have raised some kind of funding since graduating the program. See a full recap in the infographic below, and here’s the rundown of the most recent class, which graduates in early 2016.