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Interviews with Leading Entrepreneurs at Tech Startups

Interview: Alchemist Accelerator

While most people associate hot startups with B2C companies like Snapchat or Uber, the last several years we have also witnessed an unprecedented burst of innovation in enterprise IT startup world. As enterprise startups have such dramatically different needs, they really need a whole different type of support system then consumer-focused startups.

While most people associate hot startups with B2C companies like Snapchat or Uber, the last several years we have also witnessed an unprecedented burst of innovation in enterprise IT startup world. As enterprise startups have such dramatically different needs, they really need a whole different type of support system then consumer-focused startups. One organization that focuses specifically on the enterprise IT startup space is Alchemist Accelerator. Joining today to offer insights into what Alchemist is doing is one of their partners Danielle D’Agostaro.

IT Specialist Thank you for sharing some insights Danielle. To start with, can you provide some brief background on Alchemist Accelerator, such as what year you were started and the background of the founders?

Danielle Ravi Belani, Founder and Managing Director of Alchemist, founded the accelerator in July 2012.

Ravi Belani is also Fenwick & West Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University. Before Alchemist, Ravi spent six years as part of the investment team at Draper Fisher Jurvetson's Menlo Park global headquarters, where he led investments and served on the boards as the first institutional investor in companies such as Vizu (acq’d by Nielsen), Yield Software (acq'd by Autonomy), Justin.TV/Socialcam, Pubmatic, and Komli. Ravi formerly worked in product management at two Kleiner Perkins enterprise startups, and as a consultant in McKinsey and Company's San Francisco office. Ravi is a Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi graduate of Stanford University, holding a BS with Distinction and MS in Industrial Engineering. Ravi also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

IT Specialist Can you provide an overview of your core mission as you see it, and perhaps provide some background on the inspiration that made you start Alchemist Accelerator?

Danielle While Ravi was an Associate at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, he helped coordinate entrepreneurship education outreach lectures with the Harvard Club of San Francisco. One of these series was focused around the enterprise, where he found that the attendees – founders, investors, and Fortune 500 executives – were not being serviced through other avenues. And hence, Alchemist Accelerator was created. 

Before Alchemist came along, accelerators tended to be focused on consumer companies. Ravi created Alchemist to give promising enterprise startups a bit of money, access to mentors and some serious training in how to generate sales and raise funds to keep their companies going.

IT Specialist It’s interesting that you are focusing heavily on Internet of Things (IoT) startups, where do you see this space going over the next 5-10 years?

Danielle Actually the core of Alchemist is vertical agnostic. We focus on enterprise startups in any space. However, the founders often tell us where we should be looking next and IoT was that space. Cisco put in more money in Alchemist to support this new vertical, as they want to accelerate the growth within this space. In the next 5 -10 years, IoT has the potential to connect the world – people and physical things – more deeply and with less intrusion than has ever been done before. It will also increase the efficiency of traditional enterprises, which is where we’re seeing a lot of startups making real strides.

IT Specialist Turning now to the specifics, can you provide an overview of the services and support that Alchemist Accelerator provides to your portfolio companies?

Danielle Alchemist provides mentorship, and a structured path to sales, customer development, and fundraising in exchange for equity. We also provide the highest quality enterprise network in the valley which gives the founders access to top tier investors and enterprise customers.

IT Specialist What are the criteria for acceptance to your program? For example, are you looking for a certain revenue run-rate or team size?

Danielle We do not have set criteria for acceptance into the program. With that said though, we do place a lot of weight on the makeup of the team. Usually the team has one deeply technical person and one businessperson.

IT Specialist Who are Alchemists Accelerators core backers, and what drove their interest in working with you? Have you raised capital yourselves yet?

Danielle The Alchemist Accelerator is backed by Cisco Systems, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Foundation Capital, Khosla Ventures, Mayfield, Salesforce, Sapphire Ventures, Siemens, Tyco, and US Venture Partners.

Tim Draper at DFJ was the first investor to back Alchemist. Tim has a knack for investing in crazy ideas that have the potential to become huge successes, which Alchemist is well on its way to become. From there, the other investors followed.

We recently raised another round of funding that was finished off by Tyco, Mayfield, and another investment from Cisco’s investment arm. Alchemist is funded until Q1 2018.

Enterprise Incubator Alchemist Lands $2.1M From Impressive Backers 01.20.15

IT Specialist Can you provide some examples of your portfolio companies? Are there any particular success stories of startups that have gone through your program and then landed funding?

Danielle Over 50% of our companies go on to raise institutional funds from top-tier firms. Notable raises include:

Waygum Raises $1.5M to Mobilize The Industrial Internet of Things 03.27.15

Box Acquires Cloud Management Startup Airpost 02.20.15

Sense.ly Raises $1.25M for Mobile ‘Virtual Nurse’ Service 09.22.14

Student-run Startup Lands $1.5M to Help Advertisers Find Bloggers Who’ll Promote Them 08.27.14

Cisco Announces Acquisition of Assemblage 06.27.14

Dropbox Buys MobileSpan, a Ticket to Enterprise Security 06.10.14

Wise.io Raises $2.5M for Machine Learning, Simplified 03.17.14

SocialPandas Raises $1.5M for CRM Tools to Aid the Forgotten Sales Person 08.15.12

IT Specialist Are there any additional points you’d like to highlight about your program, such as upcoming events or other interesting things readers would want to keep an eye out for?

Danielle Class 9 Demo Day is next Thursday, May 21st at Microsoft in Mountain View. We’re expecting 200+ investors, customers, and thought leaders in the valley to attend.

IT Specialist Thank you Danielle, and best of luck going forward.

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