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WDCEP launches DC tech startup mentoring initiative

The Washington DC Economic Partnership launched the Accelerate DC Venture Mentoring Service Tuesday, a long-term mentoring program that will connect startups to business advice no matter what stage the startup is in.
Based on the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, a program that has been in operation for 14 years, Accelerate DC VMS provides capable entrepreneurs with a team of mentors who volunteer their advice for free--and are sworn to have no ulterior motives.
The two MIT alums and serial entrepreneurs who founded the service realized that "there were lots of people who would give them advice but [they] were never sure what other agenda there might be," says Jerome Smith, co-director of the MIT VMS. "There were attorneys, financial people, investors or potential investors." To help other startups find unbiased advice, they founded the MIT VMS, a model which has since been replicated around the world--and now in Washington D.C.
The initial group of mentors will be pulled from Accelerate DC's three partner universities, which each have their own mentoring programs: George Mason University, George Washington University, and UMD. Unlike those university programs, Accelerate DC is open to the greater startup community as a whole, and comes with no time limit.
"People today tend to focus on the Facebooks...the ventures they think start up in 30 minutes," says Smith. "The reality is...there's a long startup period. Our program is not a bootcamp, it's not a semester, it's not a course. It's an ongoing relationship."
Interested startups will be able to apply by Sept. 1, says WDCEP's Tiffany Thacker. Because the initiative is just starting now, the group is focusing on established tech startups only for now. "[We're looking for] companies that are not in the idea stage...we'll be looking at each company individually and determining whether they are established enough for mentoring, that they're serious and we can work with them."

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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