As we start working on The Startup Factories there are a few things we need to get straight. First of all we need to try and settle on a definition of what constitutes an accelerator program. Quora is doing a great job of listing the kind of scheme we’re interested in as they pop up, but what are the defining features? Our first thoughts are:
- They work with pre-seed stage companies — usually with small teams (2–4 people) of first time founders.
- They are selective — they have some form of application process, this could either be by referral or by an open application system with expert judgement that picks the most promising companies.
- They are time bound — they have an intense period of support for companies that usually lasts for three months, although there is often some form of support beyond this period.
- They support teams in cohorts — they tend to take companies in batches to create peer support. This can be anything from six per cohort up to over 30 in the case of Y-Combinator.
- They have a heavy focus on mentoring — bringing in people from the local tech and business communities to help the companies
- They have the aim of securing further funding for companies. Accelerators are often described as ‘on ramps’ to the investment world.
Then there are a few features that accelerators have different approaches to:
- Providing shared office space — Y-Combinator and Seedcamp don’t provide shared office space, Techstars and Springboard do.
- Providing finance at the beginning of the program — While most accelerators do provide finance up front, Village Capital for example provide a prize at the end of the program.
I’m sure we’ll come up with a sharper definition as the project progresses — in the grand scheme of things it’s early days for the accelerator model and things will change over the next few years. There’s also a lot of room for diversity within the model because the context makes a big difference. Whereas we know an awful lot about starting companies using bank credit because the model has been in place for centuries, we’re only just learning how to create and support new businesses in the internet age.
- The Startup Factories (paulmiller.org)
- TechStars’ European Affiliate Startupbootcamp Launches In Madrid, Berlin And London To Follow (techcrunch.com)
- Start-Up 100: Could Europe build a Y Combinator? (telegraph.co.uk)