The Iron Yard is a unique startup accelerator located right at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, South Carolina. Created by a group of entrepreneurs and investors in the area, the Southern accelerator runs a three month program each Summer for ten innovative tech startups looking to make an impact in big markets.
The 13 week program runs from May to August, offering accepted startups seed funding, mentorship, free design and accounting services, furnished working space, and the chance to pitch to hundreds of investors from around the country during the final demo day.
Upon acceptance, startups will receive investments of $6,000 per founder for up to three founders, in exchange for a six percent stake in the company. The accelerator says that its stake will give The Iron Yard a role akin to a “co-founder” position, though it emphasizes that the original founders will “still run the show.”
The program offers mentorship from a variety of companies, including team members from Google, Groupon, and Twitter, among many others. Without any cubicles, the Iron Yard’s working space is largely open — a layout that is meant to inspire the same kind of closeness and collaboration seen in the small town community surrounding its walls. The accelerator offers entirely furnished coworking spaces and offices that total more than 3,700 square feet, including an outdoor garden and a lounge equipped with a disco ball.
It’s clear that the Southern accelerator program takes a great amount of pride in its focus on the impact of small town communities and the innovative teams supported by them. In addition to the yearly program, The Iron Yard holds its own kind of conference called a Grok. More like a three day retreat than a business gathering, the Greenville Grok is where entrepreneurs come together to share their experiences, drink craft beer, go zip-lining, and inspire one another.
“We’re not interested in riding a wave of technology to profit or creating things with little meaning,” reads The Iron Yard website. “We believe that technology and design, and, more importantly, the people behind them, have the ability to introduce incredible innovation and smart solutions that affect not only our local economy, but cities and industries around the country.”
The Iron Yard will begin accepting applications for its 2013 program on February 3rd, so any entrepreneurs interested in getting a healthy, Summer-long dose of small town hospitality should get their pitches in order before then. And who knows? You might even like it enough to stick around for a while.