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LI tech incubator seeks entrepreneurs

Peter Goldsmith, president of LISTnet, the organization heading

Peter Goldsmith, president of LISTnet, the organization heading a program that offers start-ups free office space and mentoring services inside the new LI Tech COMETS office space in Hauppauge. (Aug. 27, 2012) Credit: Steven Pfost

A start-up incubation program, aimed at helping local tech companies develop and grow on Long Island, is now looking for entrepreneurs to apply.

The program, called LI Tech COMETS, will provide budding start-ups with free office space and a range of mentoring services for six months, said Peter Goldsmith, president of the Long Island Software & Technology Network. LISTnet is spearheading the new program.

Long Island-based start-ups can apply for COMETS -- which stands for Connected Organization Mentoring Exciting Tech Start-ups -- by submitting a short business plan on starting Wednesday. The COMETS 12-member steering committee -- made up of local venture capitalists and business leaders -- will select three companies to participate in the program's first year.

"We're looking for three software or IT companies on Long Island with good key management, who're aggressive . . . who really want to make things work," Goldsmith said.

The program is worth up to $50,000 for each start-up, based on the mentoring services and rent for offices. The start-ups will be housed at the Long Island Tech Mall, a 30,000-square-foot, three-story office building in Hauppauge.

At the end of the COMETS program, the three participants will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the Long Island Angel Network -- a group of local investors -- to obtain funding.

Ideally, the local seed money will convince the start-ups to stay on Long Island -- and help turn the area into a technology hub while combating the "brain drain" of skilled young workers moving off the island, Goldsmith said.

Mark Fasciano, a managing partner at venture capital firm Canrock Ventures in Jericho, said start-ups that have received mentoring are more appealing to investors.

"In principle, having an entrepreneur who has been . . . coached and mentored would be in general more attractive, no question about it," he said. "We would certainly look and listen at anything that comes out of that program."

Local software companies CA Inc. and DealerTrack, as well as Hofstra University's Frank G. Zarb School of Business, LISTnet and the LI Tech Mall, are sponsoring COMETS and providing the funding to administer the program, but they will not be taking any equity stakes in the three companies chosen.

Goldsmith said the inspiration for COMETS comes from the highly selective accelerator program TechStars, which has mentored hundreds of start-ups and helped get them off the ground. David Calone, the chief executive of Jove Equity Partners in Setauket, was one of the original investors in TechStars and assisted Goldsmith with building the COMETS program.

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