Star Tribune

Business

Tech accelerator names a second class

Project Skyway will assist four early-stage companies, including two from out of state.

Article by: WENDY LEE , Star Tribune

Updated: March 3, 2012 - 9:06 PM

Minneapolis tech accelerator Project Skyway named four tech firms Friday to its sophomore class that will begin on March 5.

Two of the early-stage companies are from Minneapolis. The goal is to mentor and support the firms so that they can become successful companies.

"We had good quality applications and we feel good about the companies we chose," said founder Cem Erdem. "We are very excited about these companies."

YumZing is a Connecticut company that lets users review dishes at restaurants, and HypeSpark is a Madison, Wis.-based firm that encourages users to endorse brands on social networks.

The Minnesota companies are Energy Resource Insights, an information database for the energy industry and Political Harmony, which lets voters choose candidates and campaigns to reach hard-to-poll voters.

Project Skyway has undergone scrutiny in the tech community. Some entrepreneurs in its inaugural class were unhappy with the amount of ownership they had to give up in exchange for Project Skyway's perks, such as workspace, funding and access to mentors and developers.

But the accelerator said it has made changes and extended the sophomore class application deadline so it could find companies that would benefit most from the program. For example, more emphasis was placed on making sure the companies were at the same stage of business development, said co-founder Casey Allen. There are also fewer companies enrolled than its first class, with four firms instead of eight.

"We've learned a ton just like any company starting out, trying something brand-new. We're always refining and always evolving," Allen said.

Jolina Li, YumZing's founder, said she can't wait to move to Minneapolis and work alongside fellow entrepreneurs. The 22-year-old said she hopes to build connections in the start-up community and get mentored through the program. Li said she'll "do whatever it takes" to make her company successful, even if it means relocating to Minnesota.

Project Skyway is asking for 9 percent equity, which it also requested in its first class. Li said that's a fair trade.

"As long as they are providing enough service and guidance to get from point A to point B, the equity they are asking for is honestly not that much," Li said.

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712

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