IDEA launches first wave of ventures

It’s abundantly clear that influencers@ is not your everyday business: the Allston, Mass., office has desks and computers, yes, but also a ball pit and a wall of Nerf guns. On one day last week, Spencer Bramson, founder and CIO — that’s short for “chief imagination officer” — was wearing a giant snowman mask, the kind you might see on a mascot or theme park character.

“We take a lot of existing marketing theories and give them an extra touch of ‘oompf’ and youngness,” said Bramson, who founded the profitable buzz and guerilla-marketing agency he now runs with Northeastern University alumnus Greg Skloot, B’12. “Everyone in our company is under 24, so we’re exactly the demographic we help connect our clients to.”

Influencers@ (pronounced “influencers at”) is no run-of-the-mill company. It was formed only a year ago with support from IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator, which helps students and alumni create, develop and accelerate new businesses through coaching, mentoring and funding.

In fewer than two years, IDEA has worked with more than 200 ventures from every college in the university and provided approximately $150,000 in funding to more than a dozen teams, many of which have drawn interest from outside investors. The venture accelerator is in position to dole out some $200,000 in funding within the next year.

“The connections we made and the people we met through IDEA have been incredibly helpful,” said Skloot, the chief operations officer of influencers@. “We got so much out of our connection to IDEA, and we absolutely want to give back to Northeastern and its entrepreneurship community.”

Over the summer, IDEA has “launched” its first round of ventures, comprising the six businesses that have completed its mentoring program: influencers@, Akrivis Technologies, Mini Pops, Moniker Guitars, Pure Pest Management and Tuatara Corp. The six companies received a total of $60,000 in “gap funding,” grants issued by IDEA to finance promising new ventures before they become profitable.

The Boston Globe highlighted the start-ups’ launch in an article on Monday.

“‘Launch’ means these ventures are self-sustaining and have completed the IDEA process,” said its CEO Chris Wolfel, a Northeastern senior. “They’ll always be part of our IDEA family, becoming service providers and mentors for us.”

He noted that IDEA will continue to launch new ventures on a quarterly basis and will distribute its next round of gap funding on Tuesday night.