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This free, Philly-based startup accelerator program is accepting candidates now

Got a business, but need work space, new markets, and mentors?

You may be in luck. There’s a free “accelerator” business program in Philadelphia just for you, accepting applications through Wednesday, Jan. 15.

The 2020 Global Startup Accelerator is sponsored by the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and the University City Science Center. Paid for by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the accelerator is in its second year.

There are 25 spots in the six-month program, and this year’s cohort will focus on “smart city” technologies and companies with an interest in expanding to India.

Applicants — businesses from the Greater Philadelphia area — should be focused on improving a civil service or the health of a population using technology. Their specialized area of work could include:

  • Connected devices/internet of things
  • Digital health and social determinants of health
  • Fintech with a community component
  • Education technology
  • Energy efficiency
  • Cybersecurity

There is no cost to attend, said Anthony Stipa, who’s promoting the program for the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and University City Science Center.

“This is a completely free program," Stipa said. "It’s a hands-on curriculum, where entrepreneurs can learn on-site at the Science Center from other members of the cohort, advisers, and business leaders. They are also entitled to free office space during the term of the program.”

Advisers include institutional investors, academics with expertise in tech transfer, government officials, corporate executives, and startup founders. Selected founders and their teams will learn on four tracks — market overview, legal and regulatory framework, cultural acclimation, and pitch and fund-raising prep. The program starts Jan. 23 and ends July 16.

Included with admission is a six-month membership to ic@3401, the Innovation Center tech coworking hub of funded, early-stage companies in Philadelphia. The ic@3401 is a partnership between Drexel University and the University City Science Center with 17,500 square feet of coworking, incubation, and acceleration space at 3401 Market St.

Visit the Welcoming Center’s website ( for more information.

In 2019, 12 companies graduated from the first Global Startup Accelerator cohort. The accelerator program was one of 27 chosen nationwide by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies.

Last year’s cohort focused on markets in Europe. Renée Stewart, cofounder and chief scientific officer of Levolta Pharmaceuticals, was introduced to partners in Europe through the program. Her company was given a “toolkit for avoiding classic regulatory mistakes” with a “personalized curriculum.”

The 2020 cohort will focus on expanding markets in India.

Applications can be submitted online at

“Through GSA, startups are also able to tap into vast networks of successful local immigrant entrepreneurs,” Stipa said.

Anurag Jain, an entrepreneur and adviser to the Global Startup Accelerator, cited a study from the New American Economy showing that 20.6% of all entrepreneurs in the U.S. are foreign-born. In Philadelphia, the city’s foreign-born population grew 69% between 2000 and 2016, “a sharp increase that has contributed to a culture of entrepreneurship and resourcefulness in the local business community.”

This is just the latest of many new startup accelerators and incubators in Philly.

The Science Center launched a new accelerator, Launch Lane, last year after also creating the Digital Health Accelerator. Health Hackers, a collaboration between FirstHand and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s iSTEM team, debuted in the fall of 2019, and over 350 middle and high school students in Philadelphia participated in over 5,700 hours of STEM engagement through FirstHand.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing