Changes coming as Startup accelerator Straight Shot readies for 2nd class

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:00 am

Startup accelerator Straight Shot is now accepting applications for its second class, and the program plans to make some changes this time around.

Among the changes: increasing the number of participating startups from seven to 10, giving them earlier access to investors and providing more focused, strategic mentoring.

The accelerator, started by Omaha's Dundee Venture Capital, aims to spur fledgling businesses' growth through action plans and mentoring.

The program's curriculum this year will focus on five specific areas: fundraising, sales and marketing, business management, product development and customer experience.

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Like last year, Straight Shot will provide a general pool of mentors made up of business leaders from corporations and startups. However, this year it will pull mentors who can speak specifically to each category within the curriculum and make them available for question-and-answer sessions and one-on-one meetings.

“We'll have a nice mix of general mentors that help with the overall process ... but we also want to have specific mentors who can speak to these different reoccuring issues that any company in this seed stage will run into,” said David Arnold, the program's new managing director.

The change in the number of startups was in order to have more of an impact on the community. “Having the benefit of year one under our belts, we think we can handle 10,” he said.

Before joining Straight Shot last month, Arnold was director of client services for Omaha-based MindMixer. He also worked as the deputy communications director for Mayor Jim Suttle, where he led the development of EngageOmaha.com.

Last year, startups participating in Straight Shot made their first investor pitches at the program's culminating Demo Day. This year, startups will be in front of investors sooner.

“Investors will get to ... peel the layers off the onion, see exactly what's going on, look at the type of program we're running and watch the moment of them being built,” Arnold said. “So when they see the demo day, when they see the polished pitch, they see all of the work that's been done.”

The accelerator had received about a half-dozen applications within the first two days, mostly from startups located outside Nebraska. Arnold said accelerator officials were able to rely more on a network of mentors, investors and other accelerator programs to recruit startups.

The program hopes to include a balance of startups from Nebraska and from outside the state and region. About half of the participants in last year's program were from out of state, Arnold said, and a few relocated to Omaha permanently. While that's not one of the accelerator's requirements for participating startups, it is a goal.

“Whether or not they grow into a huge corporation or something that employs 20 people,” he said, “we want those companies here.”

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