Toronto-based startup accelerator program DRIVEN has opened up the application period for its third cohort.
The accelerator was founded by Tamar-Melissa Huggins, who previously ran Knexxion Communication Group, a boutique PR agency.
As of 2012 the program seemed to have had a focus on women, minority and otherwise underrepresented startup founders. Thus far the program has graduated eight startups, 80 percent of which are still operating, and 65 percent of which secured funding.
Along with the call for applicants, the big news revolves around a partnership with RocketHub, a New York-based crowdfunding platform, “to provide start-ups in Toronto with the opportunity to raise funds for the tuition to attend the program.”
While we haven’t heard of too many programs that actually charge a tuition rate (if it’s not deducted from upfront cash), Dave McClure recently had to diffuse a bit of a controversy when someone posted on Secret that 500 Startups deducts $25,000 “tuition” from its $100,000 investment it makes into each company. Being the character he is, McClure explained in great detail on that same post what the terms of entering his accelerator are.
DRIVEN is a non-profit social enterprise and it takes no equity from startups, nor does it appear to provide any upfront capital. Its tuition fee of $7,125 covers costs and materials as well as its startup space at Project OWL in downtown Toronto. Clearly there’s no limited partners footing the bill with DRIVEN, so the money has to come from somewhere.
However, it’s a tough ask on startup founders to expect them to cough up $7,000 bucks, crowdfunded or not, to attend any program. In the case of venture-backed accelerator programs, giving up a bit of equity is a small price to pay for often badly-needed startup capital. Heading into a program and burning $7,000 right off the bat is another story. Ultimately the program will be judged on its quality and whether or not it’s worth it to spend $7,000 to attend an accelerator as opposed to giving up equity with another program.
If DRIVEN builds a really good program, then ideally startups will come (and pay).
Some of the mentors associated with the program include CTV host and event speaker Amber McCarthur, Tulip Retail COO April Dunford, TedX speaker Bobby Umar and more.
It’s curriculum is divided into three phases: a 30-hour business development phase, a 21-hour design phase and a 15-hour investment strategy. DRIVEN looks for “high potential early stage digital startups” who have (according to the site):
- At least one cofounder who is a woman, person of colour and/or newcomer entrepreneur
- A prototype with a focus on consumer-internet, web/mobile app development and cloud computing
- Team of two to four founders in (or able to relocate to) Toronto
- Strong business or technical acumen possessed by at least one cofounder
If startups are interested, the application process ends on April 23. Shortly thereafter, the “crowdfunding campaign prep” begins, so the startups can start raising the tuition.