COMETS accelerator to give funding to startup participants

Peter Goldsmith, founder of COMETS, said this year

Peter Goldsmith, founder of COMETS, said this year the program will have a fund of $50,000. This is the COMETS office space in Hauppauge on Aug. 27, 2012. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Long Island's startup accelerator program, COMETS, has a new incentive for companies: funding.

The third iteration of the program, which is meant to help local startup technology companies grow quickly by providing resources such as office space and professional mentors, will begin this fall with a fund of $50,000 raised from 18 local investors, said Peter Goldsmith, the founder of the COMETS program and head of the Long Island Software & Technology Network, or LISTnet. Goldsmith will announce the changes to the accelerator program Wednesday night at LISTNet's annual awards banquet at the Garden City Hotel.

Some companies enrolled in COMETS -- which stands for Connected Organization Mentoring Exciting Tech Start-ups -- in its first two years never completed the program. Goldsmith said he hopes the funding will attract more ambitious startups and become an incentive for program participants to work harder.

"Companies will sit down and understand this is something they can benefit from only if they put the work in," he said.

Last year, two of the three companies selected for the second round of COMETS dropped out and were replaced.

Local officials and businesspeople said they were optimistic about COMET's third try now that it has funding in place.

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"Any time you put $50,000 on the table for startup companies and have that kind of support, I think you're immediately relevant," said Mark Lesko, the executive director of Accelerate Long Island, an organization that seeks to promote local science and tech companies.

COMETS will take applications through the summer starting in mid-May, and select three startups that will receive $5,000 in funding at the start of the program in September.

The program will last 12 weeks, and end with the companies receiving another $5,000 and a demo day presentation to investors in the Long Island Angel Network, whose members invest in early-stage local companies.

Investors in the fund for COMETS will have an option to buy 5 percent of each company that receives funding.

"When you're a young founder, $10,000 helps," said Bob Brill, managing partner at Jericho-based venture fund Newlight Management LLC and one of the investors.

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