Accelerate LI launches three initiatives

Accelerate LI entrepreneurs-in-residence Michael McEntee, left, and Kevin Accelerate LI entrepreneurs-in-residence Michael McEntee, left, and Kevin Hesselbirg will nurture new companies as part of the organization’s plan for mentoring, funding and networking initiatives. (Jan. 17, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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Accelerate Long Island, the four-month-old effort to bolster the regional economy by encouraging growth of high-tech companies, now has a blueprint for commercializing new technology and fostering start-up companies.

The organization plans to announce Friday three new initiatives -- Accelerate Assist, Accelerate Funding and Accelerate Ecosystem -- that will help nurture early-stage companies. Accelerate also announced a new entrepreneur-in-residence program.

The new initiatives are "tailored to address gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem" of Long Island, said Mark Lesko, executive director of Accelerate.

Accelerate Assist will offer teams of legal, financial and business professionals to provide advice to budding entrepreneurs, and mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs-in-residence.

Accelerate Funding will be a "one-stop shop" for early-stage financing, tapping the organization's own $500,000 seed fund from the Empire State Economic Development Corp. Additional money will be available from the LI Emerging Technologies Fund and the LI Angel Network.

Accelerate Ecosystem will provide networking to local entrepreneurs.

Ideally, the three programs will "help folks with ideas that haven't yet started a company think through all the list of issues that they have to address," said Lesko, who left his post as Brookhaven Town supervisor to run Accelerate.

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Lawyers on Accelerate Assist teams will be able to help with patenting a technology, accountants can aid in setting up the company, and the entrepreneurs-in-residence will offer business advice for growth. Lesko will also be playing "matchmaker," setting up entrepreneurs with scientists to run new companies.

More established companies in the early stages of growth will also be able to take advantage of the initiatives.

Two former Long Island executives have joined Accelerate as the group's first entrepreneurs-in-residence.

Kevin Hesselbirg, former chief executive of OpenLink, a Uniondale financial services software company, said he hopes to guide new companies as they grow.

"As a community we probably spend more on education than other places in the country, but I'm not sure if we're doing enough to create jobs" for the kids, Hesselbirg said.

The other in-house expert is Michael McEntee, former director of corporate development at the Melville offices of InterDigital Communications Llc, a Delaware company that develops mobile technology. McEntee, who started out as an electrical engineer, said he wants to use his technical knowledge to help scientists develop and protect intellectual property.

Lesko has traveled in recent months to other regions in the United States that have initiatives for fostering entrepreneurship and company formation. Accelerate's new structure, he said, incorporates the best practices from those programs.

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