Frequently Asked Questions

Applications, Process, and Team Eligibility

What is The Germinator looking for in an Applicant?

Our mission is to help companies create jobs and generate wealth in the region. In order to do that, we need to know that 1) the market potential is there, 2) the business can scale well in Central New York, and 3) the team has a vision and mission aligned with ours.

When will I hear back about my application?

Applications close March 24. We will send out acceptance letters via email by Monday March 30. Teams get about one week to accept or decline the offer. We expect the program to start April 13th. Once we get 6 companies to accept the offer, we will send out notification to those who were not accepted. We will also send information out about our other funding programs in case you qualify for them. We will open a Germinator cohort every year so you can apply again next year.

How can I strengthen my application?

The best things you can do to strengthen your application are: – Round out your team with business, technical, and other necessary skills by having great advisors and mentors. – Surveys, email lists, and letters of intent are huge steps in the right direction. We want to see that you are willing and able to sell an idea. – Demonstrate an understanding of the problem you are solving and be able to explain how your solution is disruptive or innovative. Is my age a factor in your selection process? No, although we do want to know if your founders are 18 and over.  

When is the deadline to apply and what’s the overall timeline?

The deadline to apply is March 24th.Once you submit an application, you can’t go back to edit anything. Take your time and be thoughtful. We recommend that you draft your responses before hitting submit on the final page. Copy and Paste works wonders. The first day of Orientation week is scheduled for April 13th and is subject to change.

Who chooses or screens the companies?

We’ve put together the best panel of technical, professional, and business talent by working closely with our corporate sponsors and partners.

Is my company “too far along” to apply to The Germinator?

Depends. As long as you are making under 3MM in revenue, we consider you a startup. The trainings and activities are created such that managers and senior level staff can benefit. Conversely, how early is too early? Who knows? We want to make investments in A+ teams. At the end of the day, ideas are worthless without flawless execution so if you feel your team can benefit, apply.

My team outsources software development. Are we still qualified to apply? 

Yes. We think it’s best not to outsource what you are, but it obviously works in some cases. We’re happy to consider any application. Just remember that we’re primarily focused on the team.

I’m a single founder. Can I get accepted into The Germinator, or do you only look for teams?

The more complementary skills and experience your team has the better. A single founder might benefit greatly from the program but one person can only do so much. We want teams to have healthy mix of talent, expertise, experience, and potential.

How can I find a co-founder to apply to The Germinator with?

There are a variety of events you can attend to share your idea and meet the right people. Meetup is a great platform for that, and Syracuse Tech Meetup has over 1100 people in it. Beyond that, there are events like 1 Million Cups Syracuse, Startup Grind Syracuse, Startup Weekend, and hackathons that bring interesting people together. Go to as many events as possible and don’t be afraid to talk about your idea. If you feel the need to have someone sign an NDA, you probably won’t get far. If you think other people will steal your idea, you are admitting someone can do what you want to do better than you. That’s not the kind of entrepreneur we want to invest in.

Can I apply if I’m not from the United States?

Yes. As long as you and your team can be in the US legally for the duration of the program, please do.

Can I apply if our company or founders are not from the USA?

Can you help with Visa/immigration issues? Anyone from anywhere can apply. You have to be in the U.S. legally during the program of course. Once accepted, we can help with legal/immigration issues by leveraging our contacts and network to help. However, we cannot help in advance of acceptance to the competition.

I don’t have an idea yet, but I’m actively looking for a great opportunity to leverage my skills and experience. Does The Tech Garden have a way to help me?

Yes. Send a note to Tony@thetechgarden.com and he’ll send you a link to add your name to our talent database. We’ll have a few “New Founder” events to help you meet the teams and find an opportunity to grow with them.

Do you ever offer internships to people interested in The Germinator?

We’d love to start a student program but we don’t have the capacity to warrant one yet. Send Tony@thetechgarden.com a note and we’ll keep you posted as things develop.

Who are the most notable Tech Garden companies?

This is a brand new program born out of years of experience in commercialization and economic development. Needless to say, we’ve seen success in a variety of ways. Some of our other funding programs have created new businesses to the area or have built on top of IP coming out of universities and research institutions. We have companies based in or selling products all over the US and a few are selling products and services internationally. 

Funding

What sorts of companies do you fund?

Any company that offers a unique and innovative product or service can apply. CenterState CEO and The Tech Garden have a history of working with material science, IT and software, clean tech, and bio-medical companies. Regardless of the industry or technology however, the main criteria we look for are: Economic impact and market potential, Quality of IP or core technology, Core Competencies of Team, and Business Model and Scalability

How much funding do Germinator companies receive?

Companies that are accepted into The Germinator compete for staged investments every 6 months. Teams that are cut in Rounds 1-3 are ineligible to compete in the Grand Prize Round, but become eligible for the consolation prize. Please see the summary on the Funding/Term Sheet page.

What’s the valuation for my company after each round?

Effectively, each investment made resets your valuation. This structure is incredibly favorable to the company since we are diluting our own stake along the way. Our mission is to position you for success and reinvest any earnings back into the program. 

Why does CenterState CEO want stock in my company?

Like you, we’re entrepreneurially minded. We think that the value of the learning, networking, and coaching provided by the program is of tremendous value. The Germinator competition will provide you with the healthiest possible start and greatly improve your chances for success and sustainability. Ultimately, any gains made by helping you succeed are reinvested into the program and future cohorts.

Do you fund companies that are competitive with each other?

We don’t bring in companies that directly compete with each other in the same cohort. It may turn out over the course of the program however that teams pivot in the same direction. In that case, yes.

What sort of control am I giving up by granting equity to the CenterState CEO?

CenterState CEO wants to be viewed as co-founders. In a nutshell, we don’t want any special or controlling interests in your company. We won’t ask for a board seat or for any uncommon investor rights. You’re the entrepreneur and we’re just here to help you succeed.

How can we get funded after The Germinator ends?

We provide the seed funding to get you going, but you may very well need more funding to really make it. Every 6 months, we’ll host a big demo day called the Greenhouse. These demo days are a way for you to really showcase what you’ve done to angel and institutional investors we invite. In addition to that, you may be eligible for the other funding programs we offer while you’re in The Germinator so a grant or convertible note here or there can help you ramp up too. In total, a team may secure close to a half million dollars over the two year period in the best-case scenario.

Do I need to send in a business plan?

Nope. Just fill out the online application – that’s all we need.

Intellectual Property

Who owns the IP?

Any IP belongs and stays with the Applicant.

I’m concerned that if I apply, you won’t protect my intellectual property. Should I be worried about this?

We’re certainly not in the business of stealing ideas, and we treat application data as confidential information. Each year, we see hundreds of applications and many of them include similar ideas. For this and other practical reasons, don’t ask us to sign an NDA. Our application does not ask for your “secret sauce” and there is no reason you have to disclose this to us if you’re not comfortable doing so. All IP belongs to the applicant.

Residency and Length of Stay

Do I have to be there for the entire 2-year period?

We expect all teams to actively participate but understand life happens. If you’re thinking about leaving Central New York, be aware there are penalties for leaving the region. In short, we want you to take advantage of the many tangible and intangible resources and opportunities that will be provided. The Germinator is a major commitment and we expect you to be around most of the time.

Do I have to stay in Syracuse when the program ends?

There are pros and cons that you and your team will need to think about if you decide to leave. We’ve created financial incentives (and penalties) to help you grow roots here. If you need to set up satellite offices or remote sites, we can help you if it makes sense to do so.

Resources and Everyday Life

What else does The Tech provide in terms of space, Internet, legal, etc.?

We have a 53,000 sq. ft. facility that is home to over 40 other startups and have really fast wireless networks to support them all. Our prototyping partners, including our in-house software development shop, can help you build and debug products at a discounted rate (or for free). Our partners and sponsors can also hook you up with deals on equipment and professional services too.

Where will we live while we’re there?

That’s up to you – we don’t provide a place to live. If you’re accepted into The Germinator, we immediately assign someone on our end to help you find housing. It hasn’t been much of a problem for past founders. The great thing about Syracuse is that rentals are common and homeownership is ranked among the most attainable in the country.

Do I have to work out of The Tech Garden?

Yes. We believe there is a great deal of value in being in the space. The other companies and mentors interacting there present a great opportunity for you to learn and grow.

What will a typical day be like for a Germinator founder?

It’s your company, so you’ll be hard at work on your product. Depending on the Round, we’ll organize educational sessions with our mentors. You’ll have regular check in days with our team to address issues and challenges along the way. In general though, you’ll be working on your product each day, just like all of the other founders in the program. We don’t tell you what to do or when, but we create an environment that is conducive to helping your startup mature. We’ll make sure you have lots of experienced mentors around to help you along the way. 

About Us

How are CenterState CEO, The Tech Garden, and The Germinator connected?

CenterState CEO is a non-profit organization that spearheads many economic development projects and initiatives in Central New York. The Tech Garden is an affiliate entity that handles the entrepreneurship and innovation services across that region. The Germinator is The Tech Garden’s newest startup competition that drives CenterState CEO’s mission to create wealth and prosperity in the region forward.

Can I stop by your office to say hello?

Sure. It never hurts to get to know who you’re going to be working with. We ask that you email Seth and Tony to schedule a time to chat: Seth@thetechgarden.com, Tony@thetechgarden.com.

SO WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

The Germinator offers an attractive funding structure, an in-house software development shop called The DevBox, office space in a 53,000 sq ft facility home to over 40 other startup companies, and is part of a welcoming community of entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators. Applicants who are accepted into the program will be pushed to their limits while having a support network available every step of the way. It’s an experience unlike any other and we encourage you to apply.