“We’re back!” reads the tweet.

Indeed, Innovators Program Raleigh is back for round three after months of doubt that the program would continue.

The accelerator program for startups backed by Citrix, Red Hat and HQ Raleigh is returning, offering startup teams within those two companies as well as five other “external” ventures $10,000 grants and the possibility of landing another $50,000. But there have been some changes.

Applications for round three are now open.

In December, Citrix confirmed plans to shut down an accelerator program but said it was open to the idea of continuing support for the Innovators program in Raleigh. Red Hat had remained committed to it as had HQ Raleigh even as Citrix adjusted its startup efforts after a wave of budget cuts.

On Tuesday, HQ Raleigh said Innovators would continue with Red Hat and Citrix as sponsors – and with Nick O’Connor of Venture Toolkit running the program. His California-based firm works with clients to help grow startups “by using tools and techniques used by the most successful startups and enterprise companies in the world and designing custom programs based on your needs.”

“Nick was brought in by Citrix to leverage his Venture Toolkit framework for the Citrix Startup Accelerator during the last two years. This year’s program will run very similarly to years past, but under a new organization called Innovators Program, Inc.,” HQ Raleigh spokesperson Allyson Sutton tells WRAL TechWire.

“The partnership with HQ Raleigh will remain the same as the past two years; we’ll provide workspace and resources, lead on marketing efforts and assist with logistics. Liz Tracy on our team is also one of the main program coordinators.”

O’Connor’s title is Managing Director, Innovators Program Inc., which is a partnership between HQ Raleigh and O’Connor,

“The Innovators Program is much more than a 3-month accelerator program,” he said in announcing the revised program. “With alumni startups, mentors, and investors it is now a vibrant community that helps founders make months and years’ worth of progress in days and weeks.”

“The Innovators Program is much more than a 3-month accelerator program. With alumni startups, mentors, and investors it is now a vibrant community that helps founders make months and years’ worth of progress in days and weeks.”

Jesse Lipson’s support

Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager of Cloud Services at Citrix who also helped launch HQ Raleigh, has been a huge advocate for the Innovators program and said last year he would continue supporting it even if Citrix pulled out.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Lipson (who sold Raleigh-based Sharefile to Citrix and remained with the company; its Raleigh headquarters is just up the street from HQ Raleigh in the city’s warehouse district) reiterated his and the Citrix commitment.

“The Innovators Program is completely unique in the way that it combines internal corporate teams and external startups to come together in an immersive learning experience,” Lipson said.

“By providing these talented entrepreneurs with guidance from industry leaders like Citrix, we give them the tools they need to turn their ideas into successful businesses. And by bringing startup entrepreneurs into this program, Citrix gets great insight about what is happening in the external environment and helps preserve the culture of innovation and intrapreneurship within our company.”

Red Hat reaffirms support

DeLisa Alexander, executive vice president and chief people officer at Red Hat, also affirmed the Hatters’ continuing commitment.

“At Red Hat, we believe fostering innovation and supporting the growing startup ecosystem is an essential part of our role as a longtime member of the Triangle business community. We’re excited to collaborate with Citrix and HQ Raleigh for the third year to bring this program to life for another group of local entrepreneurs,” she said in the announcement.

Startup funding

The Innovators Program will field as many as 10 startups, including two from Red Hat and three from Citrix.

After the three-month program concludes, the startups will be eligible for further investments of up to $50,000.

“This unique collaboration combines localized early-stage entrepreneurial support with large-scale enterprise expertise and resources to foster both new startups and corporate innovation,” HQ Raleigh says.

The program has produced some impressive startups over the past two rounds, including award winning Seachange Technologies and fellow NC IDEA grant winner EmployUs. Savii Care, another graduate, recently closed on $450,000 in funding.

Applications are due by Aug. 10. The program launches Sept. 15.

Learn more at: http://innovatorsprogram.co/