SPRINGFIELD — Olive Natural Beauty Inc. was the big winner at the first annual Accelerator Awards presented by Valley Venture Mentors last night, winning the top prize of $35,000 to advance the startup skin-care business.
More than 120 teams from across the Valley and beyond applied to the grant program. The top 30 were accepted and engaged in a series of 72-hour monthly training boot camps in downtown Springfield. A total of 29 teams made presentations recently in preparation for the awards.
Of those, 12 were chosen as finalists, and were awarded a total of $282,500 in funding last night: Olive Natural Beauty Inc., $35,000; PetSimpl, $32,500; Lobster IT Limited, $32,500; MachineMetrics, $32,500; Wonder Crew, $27,500; EDENIS, $27,500; Food on a Truck, $22,500; Artifact Cider Project, $20,000; Worksafe Technology Inc., $15,000; BeTH, $12,500; LocalTable, $12,500; and White Lion Brewing Co., $12,500.
The other 17 semifinalists, each receiving $2,000, include American Eagle Cycles Inc., Bakepedia, Broga LLC, Cell Zone Inc., CloudContacts, Digital Media Revolutions, East Coast Taps, Eureeka, Feat Socks, Heartfelt Fine Gifts, Lathrios, Norma Computers LLC, Nudger, NuPlanit, PeopleHedge, Piddx, and Voyaj.
VVM program participants judged each other on their customer segment, sales and marketing, scale, profitability, and size, as well as their revenue model and cost structure, to determine the finalists.
“VVM takes a lovingly critical approach to training its startups,” said Paul Silva, co-founder and president of the organization. “We put the entrepreneur first in every endeavor. I’m extremely proud of what these entrepreneurs and their mentors have been able to achieve.”
During the four-month Accelerator Program, startup teams collectively raised more than $1 million, hired employees, negotiated partnerships, secured and grew accounts, and increased product orders.
“We provide comprehensive, effective resources for our teams,” Silva added. “Our real aim is to provide our groups with preparation beyond the presentation. We want them to build their businesses for the long term.”
This year’s Accelerator Program was funded by MassMutual, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Mass. Technology Collaborative, with the mission to support an entrepreneurial renaissance in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.