Entrepreneurs Organization to launch Philadelphia accelerator program

Entrepreneurs' Organization’s accelerator program has one goal — to get startups to the $1 million in revenue mark. And it's bringing that aim to Philadelphia.

“When you start a business, the goal always is to hit $1 million, and typically that’s the hardest number to hit,” said Timothy Dever, president of the global nonprofit's Philadelphia chapter. “Then when you hit a million, the business takes off, and you set your sights on $100 million.”

The announcement Tuesday makes EO the latest large-scale organization to say it plans to grow an accelerator or entrepreneurship network in the region .

EO has had a Philadelphia chapter in operation since 1992, but Dever, who became its president earlier this year, decided to launch an accelerator program based on a conversation he had with the president of EO’s St. Louis’ chapter in April when the two sat next to each other on a flight to the nonprofit's annual meeting in Germany.

The program had been running in St. Louis for more than two years with more than 160 members taking part, Dever said.

“It’s unbelievable what it does for young entrepreneurs or young startups in your communities,” he said. “That was my number one focus when I came back, getting this accelerator program started in Philadelphia.”

The EO Accelerator is expecting to launch in October with an initial cohort of 30 small businesses across industries, and brings with it a cost of $2,200. Over an 18-month period, members meet up once a month for intensive, all-day learning sessions and focus on financial operations, people skills, marketing and other strategies to grow revenue to the $1 million mark.

In addition to helping boost the economic success of startups, the accelerator also operates as a kind of farm team for recruiting for EO, which requires businesses hit that $1 million milestone before joining. EO’s Philadelphia chapter consists of 85 members with median sales of $5 million.

Never said the local chapter has already formed a board to oversee the accelerator and brought in EO experts from cities like Nashville, Charlotte and Toronto to help set up the program’s infrastructure.

He said they viewed Philadelphia through the lens of an “old city” and didn’t immediately see the growth that Dever, who owns three sports bar and grills in the region, said is apparent on the ground. Part of that is perception comes down to the region being overshadowed by New York, he said, and part of that is that it hasn’t reached the level of startup activity of another "old city," Boston.

“You just have to fight through it,” Dever said, adding he saw now as "the perfect time" to launch in the region.

"There's a lot of momentum in Philadelphia right now," he said.

He’s not the only entrepreneur to see value in expanding into the city in recent months. In April, Washington, D.C.-based Her Corner, an accelerator with a similar business model to EO’s but a focus on female small business owners, announced Philadelphia would be its second market after D.C. President and COO Kimberly Berger told the Philadelphia Business Journal that it was the city’s location between New York and D.C., its large number of academic institutions and increasing rates of entrepreneurship that drew them north.

“It’s one of the best cities in the country both for entrepreneurs, new businesses in general, and specifically for women-owned businesses. There are a lot of women doing really cool things,” Berger said.

Comcast revealed in March the details of the accelerator to be housed on the fourth floor of its now-rising Comcast Technology Center. Part of Comcast’s LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs, the accelerator will be run by Techstars, the well-respected global accelerator network.

While it’s not an accelerator, Dreamers // Doers, another global network for women entrepreneurs, announced it the launch of its own regional chapter, with the help of Comcast, back in May. It's already signed up nearly 200 members.

At the time of the launch, Comcast’s Director of Entrepreneurial Engagement Danielle Cohn said the growth of startup accelerators, incubators, entrepreneurship networks and advocates aiming to push the region forward are crucial for Greater Philadelphia to reach its full potential.

“All of these pieces, they all connect and are extremely important to creating and amplifying the startup ecosystem,” she said.


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