He’s certainly no stranger to the New York startup scene. And if you’re someone like Andrew Ackerman, who has experienced all sides of the startup coin, from entrepreneur to angel investor to mentor (DreamIt NY and Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator), it seems that the next logical progression is to take that insight and experience you’ve gleaned along the way and step into the top spot as Managing Director of DreamIt Ventures’ New York accelerator.
Ackerman began his career as a consultant to Fortune 100 companies and quickly turned his attention to tech when he worked for Kaplan Online. Later, he joined the founding team of Bunk1.com and built the company into the leading provider of web services in the summer camp industry. He went on to manage a family office, where he was responsible for managing over $50M in alternative assets, as well as incubating new ventures.
“The world is smaller than you think,” said Ackerman when we sat down recently over coffee on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
It was just last year that he decided to write for the then newly-launched AlleyWatch and profile angel investors. One of the investors he sat down to speak with none other than Mark Wachen, DreamIt New York’s founding Managing Director, who is now Managing Director Emeritus and still very much involved with the accelerator. His new position will give him more time to focus on his passions – advising and mentoring the companies.
In fact, it was Wachen who recruited Ackerman, to allow Wachen hand off operational and logistical responsibilities.
“We created this role to give me more time to devote to Upstage Ventures, my own fund where I invests in and advise expansion stage companies that are later stage than DreamIt,” Wachen told AlleyWatch.
Wachen’s activities at Upstage continue to increase due to the success of many of his portfolio companies, additional investments, and his services as a director or advisor to those companies. But he didn’t want to relinquish his role in advising the earlier stage DreamIt companies – and the DreamIt alums – which is why he suggested the Managing Director Emeritus spot. Win-win.
“This will allow me to still be very much involved with DreamIt,” Wachen added. “Andrew was mentoring for us, and I always thought that he would be a great person to pass the baton onto.”
“I used to joke that all it would take to make me happy is to pull up a chair at a local Starbucks and meet with interesting startup after startup so this is basically my dream job – no pun intended, I swear!” said Ackerman. “Mark is getting me up to speed on the operations side of DreamIt New York and has been great at making this a really smooth transition. He wants to focus on the fun stuff, like working with the companies. Everything else is up to me,” said Ackerman.
In New York, anyway. DreamIt also operates accelerators in Philadelphia, Austin, Baltimore and Tel Aviv and has launched 127 companies since its founding in 2008, including Adaptly, LevelUp, Parsely, SeatGeek, MindSnacks, SnipSnap, Reactor, Peeractive, TrendKite and Biomeme.
And while we’re at it, make that almost everything.
While it’s true that Ackerman will be busy with finding office space for DreamIt’s next NY class (the deadline for applications is March 14th), hiring a program manager, curating the speaker series, organizing the hundreds of details that goes into Demo Day, not to mention working with the accelerator’s incoming batch of startups, of course, which is something Ackerman plans on never giving up, DreamIt has enlisted even more help. Erica Duignan Minnihan is also joining DreamIt as Managing Director, Community, to focus on finishing the raise for DreamIt Fund II (which invests in DreamIt alumni companies), business development, sponsorships, investor relations and company recruiting. Again, it was Wachen who suggested bringing on Minnihan, to round out the DreamIt team and to further reinforce its presence in New York.
Which brings Ackerman to the next point in how the world is smaller than you’d think. Minnihan is not only yet another angel investor whom he had profiled for AlleyWatch: the two were also both ER Accelerator mentors and during a trip to DreamIt’s Austin headquarters late last year, he met with several of the DreamIt companies, two of which were sports-related, and suggested that they get in touch with Minnihan, given her former association with STAR Angel Network, a membership organization for professional athletes and celebrities making investments in high-growth, early-stage startups. Unbeknownst to him, she was already being courted to become part of the DreamIt family.
It makes sense. Great minds think alike. And with the addition of Ackerman and Minnihan, it’s obvious that DreamIt is taking major steps to further expand its NY brain trust.