Angelou, founder of Angelou Economics and a long-time economic adviser to the tech industry in Austin, found the process of opening a bank account for the new entrepreneur, getting a Visa, and all the rest of the paperwork tedious and time consuming.
That’s when he decided to create a one-stop place for foreign entrepreneurs to get assistance. He founded the International Accelerator in 2013 to help as many as 15 foreign-born entrepreneurs set up operations in the U.S. The accelerator, based in Austin, just graduated one entrepreneur and has a second one in place, Angelou said.
And the International Accelerator had a pitch event two weeks ago with eight startups from around the world. From those pitches, the accelerator selected three companies to move to the U.S. and another two are pending, Angelou said.
“It’s pretty exciting for me, as the founder, to enable young global entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. and launch their companies in the largest market in the world,” Angelou said. “That’s what gives me a lot of hope and a lot of energy coming to work.”
Eight startups pitched to a panel of judges, investors and mentors at the event held at Andrews Kurth, an international corporate and litigation law firm.
The winning companies included Loren Medical Devices from Italy, which makes a catheter, Dextr, from Australia, a mobile app that seeks to replace the QWERTY keyboard for smartphone users and Plored, fashion social network from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The yearlong program gives the startups $50,000 cash investment from the International Accelerator and investor community in exchange in the form of a convertible note. The accelerator, which takes up to a 15 percent stake in each startup, also connects the startup with mentors and providers of professional services in exchange for a negotiated equity stake. The accelerator provides other assistance such as finding housing, legal assistant and help getting a Visa.
In December, the International Accelerator will have another event and one more next March around South by Southwest Interactive. By next year, Angelou would like to have anywhere from 15 to 20 companies working at the accelerator.
“We’re basically doing economic development,” Angelou said. “We are providing a way for a lot of these young people to fulfill their American Dream.”
The International Accelerator is also working with the MIT Forum, which has infrastructure in many countries, Angelou said. They are doing a pilot project in Greece right now.
“They just had a competition and we’re talking to three more companies to join our accelerator,” Angelou said.
The International Accelerator is also raising a $4 million seed round, of which $1 million has already been raised, Angelou said.
Last year, the International Accelerator brought 50 foreign startups to SXSW Interactive. Next year, it plans to bring a couple of hundred, Angelou said.
“Thirty percent of all entrepreneurs in the U.S. are foreign-born,” Angelou said. “This is a growing market.”