velocityfeatureThe next cohort of the Velocity Accelerator program will consist of food and beverage companies and applications are now open.

“It’s not going to be wildly different when the program starts,” said managing director Tony Schy. With the current, third cohort, he said, the accelerator is working with eight very different companies, but “80 percent of the curriculum is the same.” So even with the new focus, the role the mentors and instructors play will largely remain unchanged, although Schy is planning to recruit an additional set of mentors with relevant experience.

He doesn’t think that will be hard. There are definitely opportunities with the big companies that everyone knows, like Brown-Foreman and Yum!, but there are hundreds of food and beverage companies here in Louisville that are good at what they do and fly under the radar.

So what exactly is a food or beverage company? Schy is leaving that definition as open-ended as possible, “but no restaurants.” It could be a company that produces a line of foods or beverages. Or it could be a tech, distribution, marketing or food safety company. It doesn’t even have to be human food or beverage.

Schy is optimistic about this themed cohort. The struggle is going to be getting the word out. Accelerators for tech companies are starting to be “mainstream,” he said, and attending an accelerator program has become one of the steps to becoming a startup. But that culture doesn’t exist with food and beverage cultures.

VelocityLike this most recent cohort, Velocity will take up to eight companies. A lot of the planning needs to be put on hold until the companies are chosen. It’s possible Velocity will need to partner with a commercial kitchen. “Once we see what we’re getting we’ll determine what resources we need,” says Schy.

Note that this is not a permanent change for Velocity. Schy says he honestly doesn’t know what they’ll do for cohort five. “This is an experiment,” he says.

Demo Day for cohort three is just a couple of weeks away. Schy says the current class was “better than I even expected.” Some of that was due to some pretty big changes in the program. “We amped up the level of intensity and had a more rigid curriculum.” The program addressed a different piece of the business model canvas weekly. They kept meetings strictly timed and the program strictly punctual.

They still had their Thursday “stand up meeting” where companies recapped their goals and their progress. But they added a 20-minute Tuesday meeting with Schy and Greg Langdon to discuss each company’s critical metrics (number of users, number of page views, number of sales … it’s different for every company). And each company was expected to see a 10 percent gain on that metric every week.

“If you set lofty goals, they’ll meet them,” says Schy. “Everybody’s trending in the right direction.”

When asked about recent alumni successes, Schy says the Alumnify team has just signed on some significant investment. Alumnify founders AJ Agrawal and Eghosa Aihie will return to Louisville for Demo Day to speak about the progress they’ve made with their company. Schy also cited long-running Louisville startup Collabra as a company that is growing rapidly. Gearbrake keeps winning awards and contests.

Applications for the next accelerator close on Oct. 31.

Velocity’s new MakerMobile will make its official debut at the Louisville Mini Maker Faire on Sept. 27. It and all of its equipment are here, and when I spoke to Schy the trailer was in the shop being “wrapped.” This past weekend two trainers came in from TechShop Detroit to train 12 “super volunteers” on how to use all of the rapid prototyping machinery.

That machinery includes:

  • Four Computer Workstations
  • Four Electronics Stations
  • Two 40w Epilog Laser Cutters
  • Two Large Workbenches
  • Two Type A 3d Printers
  • Vinyl Cutter
  • ShopBot CNC
  • Air Compressor
  • Generator

All that in a 32-foot trailer towed by a Ford F150.

Even though Velocity hasn’t done much media about the MakerMobile, Schy has already talked to several school districts about scheduling a visit. You’ll also see the MakerMobile around town at Resurfaced and IdeaFestival.

Schy says great startup communities, like Boulder, Colo., always talk about taking a “20 year view.” He says the Velocity kids’ coding class and the MakerMobile are both great ways to get middle and high school students interested in STEM and informed about the startup community.

Could we see an accelerator for high school students soon?