Dudley Square accelerator announces first class, sponsor

Smarter in the City founder Gilad Rosenzweig will launch the new accelerator in June.
Smarter in the City founder Gilad Rosenzweig will launch the new accelerator in June.

Now it’s real.

Smarter in the City, a tech accelerator program planned for Dudley Square, has unveiled its first class of startups and expects to finalize a lease next week. It also has its first corporate sponsor — Brightcove, the Boston online video software firm.

Founder Gilad Rosenzweig, an architect and urban planner, faced plenty of skepticism when he conceived an inner-city accelerator. Our Scott Kirsner wrote about his challenge in January, and when I wrote about Smarter in the City last month, the nonprofit still had no sponsors, no space, and just six applicants.

“There was always the question, ‘Can this happen?’ There are barriers,” Rosenzweig said. “Now we’re getting to the point where we can say, ‘Yes, it can happen, and we’re overcoming those barriers.’ ”

Smarter in the City ended up with 22 applicants — not exactly a Techstars-esque total but enough to assemble a pretty impressive cohort of five teams led by racial minorities, women, and residents of Roxbury and Dorchester.

The six-month program kicks off in June, and each team will work with experienced mentors to advance their products and services. Rosenzweig plans to hold networking nights to introduce the entrepreneurs to potential investors and also will host events for students from nearby Madison Park High School and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science.

He acknowledged there is a lot of pressure on the first class to prove doubters wrong.

“I don’t think they know how much pressure is coming,” Rosenzweig said. “They’re going to feel it from me and also for the community, saying ‘You’re here for yourself, but you’re also here for the community. You’re the first pilot program that’s proving to the rest of the city that this can succeed.’ ”

Cal Borchers is a business reporter for the Boston Globe. Reach him at callum.borchers@globe.com.
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