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Start-up matchmakers seek new ideas for local money

Three investors who got rich starting and selling their own Philadelphia-area tech businesses have collected 94 applicants for DreamIt Ventures, a program that will fund and advise ten start-up entrepreneurs this summer on how to get their products to market. They want more. Deadline is March 12. Visit to apply.
  Steven D. Welch (who built valve-maker Mitos Technologies Inc. and sold it to Parker Hannifin last year), David Bookspan (sold MarketSpan and its legal data service, now CourtLink, to LexisNexis in 2000), and Michael Levinson (sold PTS Learning Systems to Global Knowledge Network in 1999) have been flogging DreamIt on visits to business and engineering schools from Harvard to Penn State. They say it's an East Coast variation on Silicon Valley's yCombinator program .
  "They all have a good team, and a product that either could get to market or looks like it could get funding in three to six months," Levinson said of the applicants so far. "We've gotten plans for mobile advertising platforms, things you can put in a cell phone or BlackBerry. Plans for hyperlocal networking and product promotion. Three or four applications from around the gaming world. And widget plays, plug-in applications that can drop into places like Facebook. People want to know, how do we monetize these?"
  Most of the applicants are from local college students or young companies "that want help getting a bump over the hump," said Bookspan. Others are from farther afield: "One we like came in from two guys in Singapore. We've heard from Russia, Europe and Iran."
   DreamIt has signed up a Who's Who of Philadelphia private equity investors, accountants and lawyers (Michael Heller of Cozen & O'Connor, Michael Kopelman of Edison Venture Fund, John Loftus of Safeguard Scientifics, among many others) to help sort applications and advise the winners. They'll get cash stipends while honing their business plans, and the program will culminate with "Funding Day" presentations to investors.
   Besides would-be entrepreneurs, DreamIt is also looking to hire aspiring "C-level executives" to help develop business strategies during the summer program.