Scratchpad Accelerator, which launched in Bangor in 2015 and worked with a single cohort of four startups before taking a two-year hiatus, is relaunching this fall with a new focus on female founders.
Beginning in October, the accelerator will work with four or five female-founded, high-potential, high-growth entrepreneurial teams to validate their customer base, value proposition and business model, according to a news release.
Jason Harkins, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the Maine Business School, and Lisa Liberatore, an entrepreneur, author and founder of Lisa’s Legit Burritos, are running the accelerator. The pair are also co-founders of CoVort, the co-working space in Bangor.
The accelerator is accepting applications online through Sept. 4. Companies interested in applying must be at least 51% owned by a woman, have a national or international focus with an addressable market of at least $100 million, and be open to equity investors.
Harkins said the pair shifted focus to female founders because they realized there was a real need for it after talking to women all over the country about Liberatore’s recent book “The Power of Transparency” and doing research on women-founded startups.
“The women we talked to said they have a very difficult time getting support in terms of dollars from equity investors,” Harkins said, adding that recent evidence suggests only 3% of all VC dollars go to women-founded companies and that male-founded companies are 16 times more likely to receive VC backing. “Also, women expressed a distinct preference for programs that are collaborative and that try to support all participants success instead of having the companies compete with each other for access to resources.”
The six-month program will culminate in a Demo Day, at which each team will present its company to potential investors and stakeholders in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. The four or five selected startups will have access to more than $1 million in perks and discounts through Scratchpad’s participation in the Global Accelerator Network, according to the news release. The Maine Technology Institute is sponsoring the accelerator, while the University of Maine is partnering on the program.
In addition to the new accelerator cohort, Harkins and Liberatore have also announced plans to create a $5 million VC fund to invest in female-founded companies that participate in the accelerator. The pair are currently looking for investors to seed the VC fund in exchange for proprietary deal flow.
Scratchpad Accelerator’s inaugural, and so far only, cohort of startups participated in the program in 2015. The four startups were Orono-based CourseStorm, which develops course-registration software for education organizations; Double Blue Sports Analytics, based in Brunswick, which develops video analytics mobile applications for sports coaching; Tip Whip, a ride-sharing company geared toward college students; and Bangor-based L&K Manufacturing, which is using 3D printing technology to make the shoe-manufacturing industry more efficient.
Those companies have raised more than $1.25 million in equity financing since emerging from the accelerator and have hired several people.