Turning Word Into Action: Kicking off DreamIt Athena

by Karen Griffith Gryga, Managing Partner of DreamIt Funds

For all the talk about the unique challenges female founders face, there’s been precious little action. Until now.

With nearly four years of experience increasing the diversity in the tech industry through our DreamIt Access program (in partnership with Comcast) and with women comprising fully 1/4 of our senior team, DreamIt was ready, willing, and able to tackle the challenge. All we needed was the right partner.

We found that partner in the State of Pennsylvania’s Discovered and Developed in PA Program (D2PA)  which provided DreamIt with nearly $500,000 in grant money to identify the most effective approaches to helping female founders succeed. We are proud to announce the launch of DreamIt Athena as part of our DreamIt Philly Winter 2015 session, taking place in IC @ 3401 at the University City Science Center.

DreamIt is the first top-tier accelerator to tackle the challenges women entrepreneurs face, and we’re going beyond platforms for discussion and networking in addressing them:

Lack of Role Models: Women are relatively new to the entrepreneurial scene; we were only granted the right to a business credit in our own names in 1974(!).  DreamIt Athena brings together an unprecedented number of women mentors and role models who have already faced and surmounted the high level of scrutiny that often placed them at a disadvantage from the start.

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Autotransfusion, telemedicine for nutrition, Epic alumni part of DreamIt Health Baltimore’s 2nd class

via Stephanie Baum of Med City News

Improving patient handoffs, autotransfusion, Epic alumni and a couple of women-led startups figure into DreamIt Health Baltimore‘s second class of early stage healthcare companies. They will also be the first to occupy its permanent office at a new shared working space.

In a phone interview with DreamIt Ventures Managing Director Jason Hardebeck, he noted that the accelerator has added new partners — University of Maryland in Baltimore, including its medical school, and The Abell Foundation.

He added that DreamIt’s Baltimore headquarters would be in Power Plant Live! in Mosaic Building 113. It will be an anchor tenant at the 16,000 square foot shared workspace facility in the Inner Harbor.

Here’s a brief look at the six companies taking part in the healthcare accelerator’s four month program:

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A High Tech Way to Grow Healthy Herbs Indoors

by Sarah-Jane Bedwell

If you have a soft spot for herb gardens but find yourself without a yard, patio or a sunny climate, we have good news. There’s a new countertop garden called the ROOT, which uses an automated lighting and watering system that you can control with your smart phone.

ROOT is the brainchild of New York-based Ohneka Farms, which specializes in organic foods. Since it is a hydroponic design (which means the plants grow directly in nutrient-rich water) it involves no dirt. And since it has a water sensor that knows when the water runs low and an app to let you know when to add nutrients, you don’t even need a green thumb. It takes up only a square foot of countertop space and it can accommodate up to 16 seedling pods.

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2014 Proves To Be a Year of Growth and Success for DreamIt Ventures

by David Bookspan, co-founder DreamIt Ventures

2014 was an explosive year of growth and success for DreamIt.  I took some time over the holidays to reflect on where we started and where we have come.

Mike, Steve, and I launched DreamIt in 2008 with a mission to pay-it-forward by building process around startups that stripped away as many obstacles, and put as many resources behind them as possible to enable the most promising founders to build their companies faster.  In the last six years, DreamIt has grown to a team of 14 Partners, 13 world class companies supporting specific vertical tracks, 175-plus 1:1 mentors, over 20 world class service providers, scores of technology providers, and countless supporters.  Together, this community has rallied around the mission of helping to launch companies that can tilt the globe.

Since 2008, DreamIt has launched 179 companies including companies like SeatGeek, LevelUp, Notehall (acquired by Chegg NYSE:CHGG), Parsely, Biomeme, Mindsnacks, and Adaptly.  DreamIt Companies have gone on to raise close to $180M in follow-on funding and at a market value over half-billion dollars.

In 2014, many DreamIt companies surpassed milestones and achieved well-deserved recognition:

– Biomeme (DreamIt Health Philadelphia ‘13) was deployed to West Africa by the U.S. Department of Defense to help the world fight Ebola.

– Elevate Labs (DreamIt Philly ‘10) was named the #1 App in the Apple App Store

– SeatGeek (DreamIt Philly ‘09) closed their Series B round of $35M led by Accel Partners and with star investors such as Peyton Manning, Carmelo Anthony and NAS

– Stylr (DreamIt NY ‘13) was acquired by Walmart

– Seratis (DreamIt Health Philly ‘13) won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award

– Nikhil Sethi and Garrett Ullom the founders of Adaptly (DreamIt Philly ‘10), were named to Forbes 30 under 30

– Senem Guney, Priya Buthani, and Allison Berliner, all DreamIt Female Founders, were named as the three fellows for the 2015 Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs Building Bridges program

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Whose Your Landlord Checks Out Your Place For You Before You Rent It

by John Biggs

Ofo Ezeugwu wants you to like your landlord. His new start-up, Whose Your Landlord (he explains about the Whose vs. Who’s here), rates landlords, allowing you to ensure you don’t get a stinker when you sign your rental contract.

Ezeugwu, who went to Temple University and is an “actor and model, & former licensed life, accident, and health insurance producer,” hopes to “address the interpersonal side of the rental search process and producing transparency between renters, property managers, and landlords.”

“I was running for the VP of Temple’s student body during my junior year (2012). At one of our late night meetings, we were discussing ways to help students with off-campus living. I thought aloud, ‘what if students could rate their landlords, that way those coming in behind them would know what to expect before ever signing a lease?’ The students loved the idea and our team eventually won the campaign with, at the time, “Rate Your Landlord” on our platform,” he said.

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Diversity in Tech: Not just a Silicon Valley Problem, it’s an American Problem

written by William Crowder, Managing Director for DreamIt Access

The topic of diversity in tech continues to make national headlines. In nearly every instance the conversation is about the efforts underway in Silicon Valley. Even the region’s most recognized accelerator, Y Combinator made USA Today headlines last week as its president announced the firm’s push to recruit more diverse founders and said “I wish that all other venture funders thought about this the way we do…In the meantime, we have this incredible competitive advantage because no one else is doing this.”

While that might be true in Silicon Valley, when one steps outside of that region they realize that the revelation is not new wisdom. I am amazed by the amount of attention and energy being expended at attempting to solve such a huge and historic problem on a relatively small scale. In other words, the rest of “us” lives in the rest of the U.S.  Diversity in tech is not a geographic concern; rather it is a mindset that must be changed across the entire country if we expect to see any meaningful progress.  Believe it or not, Silicon Valley is not the cure for what ails us.  The Valley will ultimately be a part of the solution and I am glad to hear that it is finally realizing what many have been aware of for quite some time, that there is underrepresentation across the entire tech landscape and that should and must change.

I am a partner at a highly regarded global startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures, which has helped launch over 179 companies over the last 6 years.  At DreamIt we have taken a proactive approach to addressing the diversity in tech issue.  Specifically, in 2011 we started that work by creating a component within our accelerator cycles that would specifically recruit startups led by founders from underrepresented populations.  In partnership with Comcast we intentionally set about the creation of a program and environment that was open and welcoming to new ideas, perspectives, and problems to solve.  Since creating the DreamIt Access program, we have seen the diversity in each class increase and more importantly we have seen firsthand the power it has in the development of high quality startups and founders.

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DreamIt Philly Demo Day Recap – Struggles, Decisions, and Successes


This past Wednesday, DreamIt Ventures proudly debuted their DreamIt Philly 2014 accelerator companies at World Cafe Live in the heart of Philadelphia’s University City. After an intense twelve-week cycle and weeks of practice, the entrepreneurs presented their companies to a room brimming with VCs, angel investors, partners, and press.

Nikhil Paul, CEO of Nfoshare, kicked off the presentations with an infectious energy and spirit, even ending with his own Oprah moment, which paved the way for a decidedly exciting  day. Where some pitch days can be serious occasions, DreamIt’s Demo Day was light-hearted, with lots of laughs from the speakers and attendees.

The founders were candid about their experiences—struggles, successes, happy times and hard decisions. Allison Berliner, CEO of SpotItBuyIt, spoke about the problems she and her team faced with their original company, PopInShop, and how they made the tough, and correct, decision to pivot.

Many companies touched on the impressive traction they’ve been able to achieve during their time at DreamIt. Parkloco has started pilots with two parking lot operators that have given them access to over 25 percent of the U.S. private parking industry, Ntensify has been working with multiple top-grossing, number one apps in the Apple App Store, and RightHire announced that 25 employers are already leveraging their science-based hiring software to make better hiring decisions. Ishqr, a dating site for first generation Muslim Americans, has even been the catalyst for 10 weddings!
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Applications for DreamIt Health Baltimore are due TONIGHT
December 5, 2014 @ Midnight


DreamIt Health Baltimore is an unrivaled opportunity for healthtech startups to work closely with Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland system to establish clinical champions and achieve key business milestones such as product launch and rollout across industry-leading customers.

DreamIt Ventures is looking for teams working on any significant problem in healthcare where software and/or hardware are central to the solution.  The program offers:

Seed capital (up to $300k in stipend and following funding opportunities per team)
Access (customers, partners, investors, KOLs, SMEs)
Coaching (from exited entrepreneurs custom-fit to each startup)
Free stuff of value (legal, accounting, space, AWS, etc)
Startup chops (best practice/techniques from active practitioners of craft)

Most important is the unparalleled access to clinicians, executives, and industry leaders for designing, testing, launching, and deploying your solution at scale with bellwether organizations around the country including Hopkins and Maryland. Teams also benefit from speakers, office hours and content designed around healthcare-specific challenges such as navigating regulatory and reimbursement hurdles.

Want to know what being a DreamIt Health company means? Check out recent DreamIt Health alums including Biomeme, Seratis, Osmosis, Quantified Care, Tissue Analytics, and Haystack. Our alums are our strongest advocates, so feel free to get their perspective on what we bring to the table.

Don’t miss the deadline, APPY TODAY! Learn more about the program here.


by Natelege Whaley

Ofo Ezeugwu, the CEO and co-founder of WhoseYourLandlord.com, a ratings site for tenants, learned the best ideas solve everyday problems around us.

While the 22-year-old from Maryland, was running for vice president of student affairs at Temple University, a discussion about student housing issues with his campaign team led to the idea for a website that would put the power of finding accountable landlords back into the students’ hands.

“I thought, ‘What if students could rate their landlords for students coming in right behind them — so that way students know what to expect before signing the lease.’ And that idea just caught on like wildfire,” Ezeugwu told BET.com.

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As DreamIt Philly Demo Day Approaches, Companies Focus On Niche Industry Solutions That Are Already Finding Success

Philadelphia, PA, December 2, 2014 – It’s been two years since DreamIt has hosted their flagship DreamIt Philly accelerator in the City of Brotherly Love. This year, DreamIt returned their traditional fall cycle with twelve promising startups who are already moving the needle by gaining strong customer interest. Tomorrow, the participating companies will take the stage at World Cafe Live! and pitch their companies to an audience of several hundred investors, industry leaders and potential customers at DreamIt Philly Demo Day (#DreamItPhilly). Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter is scheduled to give remarks during the event.

This year’s cohort showed exceptional growth across an array of areas including user acquisition, establishing partnerships, and fundraising. More than half of the class built relationships and established partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, including Samsung, Comcast, and Microsoft, as well as one team establishing a partnership with Essence Magazine. Teams have launched their apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and several are working on closing notable seed and bridge rounds. Six of the companies are lead by female founders, which further demonstrates the significance of our recently launched DreamIt Athena program.

“We are excited for this year’s DreamIt Philly participants to get on stage and show this community who they have become over the last three months,” said Patrick FitzGerald, managing partner of DreamIt Philly. “It takes more than funding and access to an investment community for a startup to make it in today’s business world. Entrepreneurs need an ecosystem where failure is embraced and they are encouraged to take on risk without abandon and fail fast, because they have a collaborative trust with the people around them.”

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