New startup accelerator, Novotorium, takes shape in Bucks; to launch next month

Tom Paine

Novotorium, a startup accelerator (a term it prefers over incubator) based in Langhorne, Bucks County, is preparing for a November 1 launch.

Novotorium comes from the vision of Mike Krupit, an experienced executive and entrepreneur. A native New Yorker, he worked in Silicon Vallley for a while before arriving on the Philly tech scene, working at Josh Kopelman's Infonautics in its early days and then becoming a key exec at CDNow, helping to manage its transition as CEO after it was acquired by Bertelsmann. The accelerator itself will be located in space leased by Voice Systems Engineering (where Mike had previously served as Chief Innovation Officer), in the old Lenox China Building. Gary Baron, President and CEO of VSE, will be funding the launch through his Baron Innovation Group. There is no public financing involved at this time.

Novotorium has a different business model than many incubators. Applicants
will be accepted for three month periods, which may be extended on a quarterly basis to up to 18 months, in which they will have free use of the space. There will be no upfront seed funding or stipends, but neither will there be an upfront equity stake for Novotorium or its partners or any fees. The ventures will get assistance and coaching from both Novotorium's own staff and its outside partners. Krupit plans to emphasize substantive product and market development work rather than "pitch coaching", he said in a phone interview with Philly Tech News. He is looking mostly for ventures that are either technology-driven or service businesses with a technology orientation.

He also has a preference for startups which have some operational track record or at least a prototype or beta test experience, rather than just being concepts on whiteboards. He says he hopes to have taken on 12 ventures by the end of next year, with perhaps 6 being active at any one time. Applicants will be accepted on a one by one, rolling basis, rather than in classes. After about six months he would like to see most ventures get $15,000 to $50,000 of funding, though there is no guarantee that will happen. If Novotorium makes a funding offer that the venture turns down, it may be asked to leave the incubator.

In addition to Krupit, Novotorium's staff consists of Chuck Hall (marketing & business development), Alberto Janza (technology), and Maria Collins, focused on communications, design, and UI issues. Several outside partners are lined up, but Krupit is not ready to name them.

Novotorium's floor layout emphasizes an open format designed to encourage collaboration. It features Herman Miller furniture, high speed wireless and wired Internet, big whiteboards, a conference room, casual meeting spaces, an Innovation Bar, full kitchen, professional gym, big screen TV and Wii. It also has data center facilities. They currently have 3,000 square feet, with the ability to quickly more than double that. Krupit also points out that its location provides good access to Philly, King of Prussia, Princeton and New York City.

As to whether there could be some bubbles emerging in the incubator/accelerator space, Krupit shares those concerns, but feels the riskiest area is in initial seed funding, which Novotorium is trying to minimize by focusing on startups with some track record.

Novotorium’s launch event will be on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, from 5-8 p.m, at its headquarters in Langhorne. You can sign up on TicketLeap here. You can begin the application process online here.


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