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Tech accelerator Catamaran reveals first group of startups

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David Hickethier is founder and CEO of Harrisburg-based Andculture, a design and innovation consultancy. The company is starting a small-business accelerator designed to help entrepreneurs develop their products and find customers and investors.
David Hickethier is founder and CEO of Harrisburg-based Andculture, a design and innovation consultancy. The company is starting a small-business accelerator designed to help entrepreneurs develop their products and find customers and investors. - (Photo / )

A new Harrisburg technology accelerator has selected the first batch of startup companies it plans to help, starting in late January.

The accelerator, dubbed Catamaran, is a standalone venture created by the leaders at design and innovation consultancy Andculture. The accelerator's first cohort will include three companies.

They are:

  • Daddio, a subscription-based delivery service that plans to offer products designed to help fathers make memories with their children. As a subscription, the service would mail boxes filled with activities and educational materials customized based on the interests of the parent and child.
  • FizikaFlex, a digital platform that aims to lower the cost of dementia care by helping to reduce the risk factors that lead to cognitive decline. One way it might do that is by creating a digital scrapbook of favorite memories to enhance memory retention for individuals at risk for developing dementia. Health providers also could use the tool to monitor patient progress.
  • Popped Culture, a social enterprise that already sells popcorn but is looking to develop an in-person and online training curriculum that would teach entrepreneurship to high school students.

Over the course of three months, each company in the cohort will go through a rigorous instruction process on the second floor of Andculture’s offices in downtown Harrisburg with local practitioners experienced in supporting startup companies.

Catamaran will work with the companies to refine their business models and facilitate the launch of an initial product or service offering.

"The development of our product will benefit from the expertise and technical assistance provided by Catamaran, enabling us to go to market sooner with an innovative application designed to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults," said Martha Lester Harris, founder and president of Fizika Group LLC.

Harris, the former CEO of the YWCA Lancaster, founded Fizika Group in 2009. Her company, which was part of the recent Rise of The Rest business pitch competition in Central Pennsylvania, has focused on programs designed to help educators integrate physical activity into the academic curriculum.

With its new application, the company is trying to give individuals a custom tool to help enhance brain health.

David Hickethier, founder and CEO of Andculture said he hopes Catamaran will help enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Central Pennsylvania.

As an accelerator, Catamaran aims to be a place where people can turn an idea into a tangible business. An incubator, on the other hand, usually helps companies with established products find markets.

In smaller markets like Central Pennsylvania, budding business owners can struggle to find enough customers to prove the value of their concepts, or they don’t know how to reach local investors willing to give them money and help make connections.

In search of both, some startups leave for bigger cities.

Over time, Hickethier said he hopes the venture will expand to more locations in the region. Andculture also is planing to develop a Catamaran incubator to provide additional help to companies that make progress in the accelerator.

Catamaran plans to host two cohorts in the accelerator per year.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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