Episode 9: Jon Bradford of Techstars Says How To Get Into Accelerators

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Jon is Managing Director of TechStars London and has previously founded and worked on startup accelerators around the globe. He’s co-founder of F6S.com which has grown into one of the most important startup program platforms in the world, and has recently cofoundedtech.eu to feature startup and tech news across Europe.

Our interview had so much great content we decided it was worth 2 episodes rather than cut out such valuable knowledge. In part 1, Jon explains:

  • How to get into accelerators
  • What investors are looking for
  • How to build a good team
  • Shifts in startup accelerator models
  • How to use crowdfunding to your advantage

How things got started

Jon shares with us how he went from being a “bored accountant” at a major firm to launching his first startup (made a ton of money) becoming a VC, joining Techstars and being part of the growth of the tech startup world.

We then dive into his opinion on the changes in how startups can get off the ground, how to get into accelerators, and what people like him (the decision maker) are looking for when making those decisions.

Don’t miss Part 2! You can contact Jon at jon at techstars dot com

12 Questions You Should Ask When Considering an Accelerator Program


Question: “What questions should entrepreneurs ask when considering an accelerator program?”

What Will I Gain Besides Money?

“All accelerators are going to offer some amount of seed money, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because you will be giving up some amount of equity in order to join the program, you want to make sure it’s worth it. You should look for a program that can offer you strong mentors, access to business resources, connections, important business knowledge and access to strategic partnerships.”

David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Which Accelerators Will Teach My Company?

“Accelerators are investors. Some accelerators would rather see you shut down and join another portfolio company’s team if it becomes clear that your company can’t provide a return. A new accelerator opens every day, so it’s important to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. Look for top-notch mentors, investors and cohort companies that you can learn from. “

Heidi Allstop, Spill

Does the Accelerator’s Goal Align With Mine?

“Different startup accelerators have different opinions of what defines a successful program. Some accelerators focus on revenue generation, while others focus on a funding outcome at the end of the program. As you consider accelerator programs, be sure to understand what the ultimate goals are for the accelerator. Compare that with your own goals for your company before committing to participate.”

Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

What Does the Data Say?

“Accelerators are all the rage these days, but most have shown to do a poor job helping startups succeed. Check out the accelerator data on www.seed-db.com/accelerators, and decide if an accelerator is right for you.”

Wade Foster, Zapier

Is the Accelerator Top Tier?

“I think accelerators are like MBA programs. The very best ones (TechStars, Y Combinator) typically pay for themselves many times over. They provide a network, access, education and more. The next tier down might be more of a mixed bag. I’d be thoughtful about exactly what you’ll get out of an accelerator that is not in that elite tier.”

Erik Severinghaus, Simple Relevance

Who Are the Mentors?

“You should join an accelerator program because of the people it will connect you to — not because of the money it gives you. Look at who the mentors are and identify who you need to know. Most of the time, accelerators will have a page with info about all of their mentor connections. Here’s an example from the accelerator I’m a mentor with, SparkLabKC.”

Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

Does the Accelerator Have a Past Rate of Success?

“Accelerator programs are a bi-directional relationship. The partners of these programs are assessing your potential to be successful. You should evaluate their past rate of success because you are forgoing other investment engines in favor of this option. It all comes down to trade-offs, and the most objective determinant is made by evaluating past performance. “

Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

Is It Worth the Equity?

“Before working with TechStars, I wondered if the program and small investment were worth the equity. Now, coming out of the program on the other side, I know that my experience was worth the equity. The mentors, coaching and support that came from a top-tier program were top notch and totally worth it. “

Paige Brown, Dashbell

Can I Speak to Graduates of Your Program?

“There are so many accelerator programs today, and they can be valuable. I have been in one myself, and it definitely helped me focus my idea and get the help I needed to move it forward. You should speak to graduates of the program. Ask them what they really thought of it, what they got out of it and how the program helped them succeed.”

Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Am I Ready?

“There are more accelerators to choose from than ever before, and startups are going to these accelerators earlier. Make sure there is something to accelerate when you apply (a team, a product and some initial costumers) so that the mentors, services and investment can make a difference. Remember that you only have 10 weeks or so until demo day, so make them count.”

Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me

Should I Earn my MBA First?

“Accelerators are great, but many MBA schools offer them free of charge, and you will graduate with an MBA when it’s over. This is highly valuable in every sector. You also get free advice from a range of experts, and some even offer business plan competitions with prize money. I’d encourage you to consider if you are ready for the program, then decide if earning an MBA would be a better choice.”

Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

Whom Can They Introduce Me To?

“If you’ve got a great idea, plenty of accelerators will take you. But all accelerators are not created equally. To narrow down the pool, you should take a look at their connections. You want accelerators that can introduce you to investors, mentors, startup founders and other people who can help you throughout your career.”

Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

Dallas-Based VentureSpur Launches Spinoff Accelerator in Oklahoma




Earlier this week Dallas-based VentureSpur accelerator annouced LaunchOklahoma, as a dedicated Oklahoma accelerator. VentureSpur accelerator has launched 11 high-tech startups in the last two years, all of which are continuing to grow and 4 of which have raised more than $1.7M on multi-million dollar valuations.

LaunchOklahoma retains VentureSpur’s Managing Director, Kraettli L. Epperson, who is joined by prior VentureSpur board members Gabe Bass and Mike Whitaker on the LaunchOklahoma board of directors.

The VentureSpur accelerator will continue in Dallas as VentureSpur Texas, and will be operated by VC fund Trailblazer Capital, with a focus on mobility and technology for restaurants, retail and hospitality.

Dallas is a major hub for national restaurant, retail and hospitality headquarters and more than half of Trailblazer Capital’s portfolio is in these areas, creating great opportunity for an industry-focused accelerator. As a spinoff, LaunchOklahoma will be focused on recruiting tech startups in Oklahoma.

“In a very short period of time and on a very lean budget, we have been able to create a national profile and to launch multiple thriving startups that are attracting clients, hiring staff and raising money,” said Epperson, “We will be carrying that effort forward, with a distinctly Oklahoma flavor.”

LaunchOklahoma is currently reviewing all startup applications not related to VentureSpur Texas’ focus area and will be making program admissions on the announced 2014 schedule. The program will include a Pitch Day in October, at which participating startups will have an opportunity to pitch their company to potential investors and clients. The accelerator is targeting 3 to 4 companies for 2014, in line with prior years’ programs in Oklahoma.

“Our mentors, sponsors and investor network are happy to see a new effort dedicated to Oklahoma. There is a smaller local capital market in Oklahoma, but we have great entrepreneurs and startups. A lot of our focus will be on supporting the innovators here with outreach to our national capital networks while also developing crowdfunding strategies. Startup investment is rapidly democratizing and crowdfunding is quickly becoming the most accessible source of early-stage seed funding. Our acceleration strategy will be geared towards those new opportunities,” said Epperson.

LaunchOklahoma Board Member Gabe Bass, managing partner of Bass Law and president of the Entrepreneur’s Organization of Oklahoma, said, “Successful tech startups, especially ones that raise significant early stage capital, rarely emerge from a vacuum. They require an ecosystem of experienced entrepreneurs, advisors, and capital sources willing to engage and mentor them. This was the reason that VentureSpur was launched, to help create that ecosystem in Oklahoma. LaunchOklahoma will build on that effort and momentum.”

LaunchOklahoma will also serve as a testing ground for new technologies including a mobile app dedicated to managing the intensive coordination, networking, scheduling and especially the accountability required for acceleration success.

The accelerator also plans a future presence in other cities in the state.

LaunchOklahoma Board Member Mike Whitaker, a successful Oklahoma entrepreneur and investor, said, “We’re very interested in working more closely with the great startup efforts in Tulsa, Norman and Stillwater. The development of a robust entrepreneurial community must be a state-wide effort. Bringing Oklahoma startups investment capital from outside Oklahoma is what puts us on the entrepreneurial map.”

For more information visit www.LaunchOklahoma.com or follow www.Twitter.com/LaunchOklahoma on Twitter.

Nebraska Accelerator NMotion Announces 7 Startups Chosen for Summer 2014 Cohort


NmotionadNMotion announced the seven startups accepted into the 2014 Summer program last week.

Four of the teams are from Lincoln, where the accelerator is based. The other 3 will be moving to Lincoln to participate in the program.

“We’re excited about working with this group of strong and diverse founders. Applications were up 80% from the previous year and included applications from all over the world, so it was tough making the final cut.” said Brian Ardinger, managing director of NMotion.

Because of Lincoln’s growing list of sports-related startups and mentors, including Hudl, opendorse, Lockr, EliteForm, Hail Varsity, Bulu Box, Powderhook and others, NMotion actively targeted sports-focused startups to bring into the program.

“We think density is important in a growing startup community since it allows for greater collaboration and connections. At NMotion we wanted to actively look for ways to capitalize on our community’s strengths and build on them,” Ardinger said.

Co-founder of Turnstile Cards, Zach Sanderson, “We’re excited to come from one supportive Silicon Prairie community (Iowa City/Cedar Rapids) to another, especially one with a sports startup legacy.”

NMotion’s 2014 cohort also includes startups in agriculture, music, and digital marketing.

Like other accelerators, NMotion startups receive seed capital, coworking space, and access to a pool of resources including over 100 mentors, training, and developer and designer talent. This year’s program starts on June 2, and each startup will use the 100 days of the program to work with teams and mentors to test and validate the market, build and prototype their solutions, and prepare for a demo day showcase to be held on September 9th at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.

Companies also receive $15,000 of seed capital in exchange for a six percent equity stake. This funding was provided by Invest Nebraska Corporation along with members of the Nebraska Angels organization and individual accredited investors. Program sponsors include the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, Union Bank and Trust, NUtech Ventures, Nebraska Innovation Campus, and the University of Nebraska along with many other companies and organizations.

NMotion’s 2014 Summer cohort includes:

Adolade – Location-based mobile rewards platform: Ryan Cooper, founder of Golf Status, is creating a location-based rewards company that helps app and device makers monetize their users’ moments of achievement, loyalty, and influence.

Athletepreneur – Online network & marketplace for athletes: Co-founder Mike Fingado is coming from Seattle and his co-founder Brian Dzingai, who is a former Olympian from Zimbabwe, will be coming from Chicago. They are building a professional network and lifestyle brand for collegiate and professional athletes.

Commissioner.io – Sports league management platform: Kunwar Gill and Richard Bansal are coming from Toronto, Canada and are working on a sports league management platform for recreational leagues and their players.

DigiWidgets – Plug-in graphic editing engine for websites: Fresh from their win at the JumpStart Challenge, Lincoln entrepreneurs Stacy Carlson (Gotta Pixel) and Carl Steffen (Stone Fin Development) formed DigiWidgets as a plug-in graphic editing engine for websites that empowers users to create, manipulate and sell digital media.

MusicSpoke – Music publishing platform & marketplace for composers: The Lincoln startup MusicSpoke founded by Jennifer Rosenblatt and Kurt Knecht is a cloud-based platform where composers, conductors, and performers can connect and share new sheet music and performances.

PixoBot – Software platform for robotics in agriculture: Vishal Singh heads up Pixobot, a software platform utilizing drones and data to improve agricultural efficiency.

Turnstile Cards – Mobile fan loyalty platform: Zach Sanderson and Jason Kristufek represent Turnstile Cards. Turnstile Cards won a recent Startup Weekend competition and are coming to NMotion from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Turnstile Cards is recreating the nostalgia of the baseball card in a mobile marketing platform for sports teams to connect with fans outside the stadium

America’s Logistics Capital Hosts First Logistics Technology Accelerator, Sparkgap



This summer road, river, rail, and runway will converge with technology in Memphis as Sparkgap makes its first six investments into early stage logistics technology companies.

rsz_incontentad2Co-locating in Memphis with global supply chain giants like FedEx and others will enable founders to tackle the latest challenges with new software and hardware technologies.

Major partners have committed to support Sparkgap including SAP HANA, FedEx, Mosaik Solutions, and Twilio.  Plus our investment friends at Solidus, Crunchfire, Angaros Group, Start Co. Angels, and SAP HANA Real Time Fund are eager to participate and screen the companies for follow-on support at Demo Day.

Sparkgap is operated as an accelerator program which provides founders a 115-day program provides that supplies crucial early-stage funding, intense technical and business assistance, as well as mentoring from some of the top figures in the industry.  It is Global Accelerator Network certified affording the accepted teams access to a wealth of resources to support their launch.

The program is part of the Start Co. platform which brings exclusive resources and services from world-class service providers coupled with regional and national support and engagement of partners and sponsors.  Start Co. mentors are rallying to the Sparkgap platform ranging from Fortune 500 execs to founders and key experts for high-growth startups.

While starting up impactful businesses is our goal, we would be remiss not to take advantage of some experiences that showcase the best of Memphis.  Our Summer of Acceleration in Memphis kicks off in May with The “Burning Man of BBQ,” the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, A.K.A BBQ Fest.  Our programs will culminate at the grandiose and historic Orpheum Theater in a massive demo day and closing party in the heart of downtown Memphis.

We are on the hunt for logistics innovators to join us in Memphis.  In the past, they’ve come from Bermuda, NYC, LA, ATL, Nashville, Carolinas and other fine places.  The gravity, authenticity, and accessibility of Memphis has kept them here — and certainly our rich entrepreneurial culture, both past and present, helps.

If you are a logistics industry innovator, join us in the real-life laboratory of America’s logistics capital. The deadline to apply is March 21.

Learn more about Sparkgap at http://thesparkgap.com. Learn about Start Co. and our accelerator programs at http://neverstop.co/gan or email us at info@neverstop.co.

Sponsored By:


10 Top Accelerators Now Accepting Applications for the Summer

annoucement2_rz_ beach

Ah, summer. Time for laying by the pool, sipping a margarita, and letting the day slip by…

Okay, maybe in someone else’s world. But we’re entrepreneurs! Summer isn’t about relaxation. It’s about coming down from the SXSW/spring break high and moving that business forward.

rsz_incontentad2And, if you’re an early stage startup, one of the best places to do that is an accelerator. Pages of digital ink have been spilled on the pros and cons of accelerators, but like anything else in life, you’re the one who can maximize the experience. If your team walks into an accelerator thinking you’ve made the big leagues and it’s easy sailing from here, you’re probably screwed. Go in ready to learn and maximize every opportunity that comes your way, and an accelerator could be just the thing you need.

The question is, which one? There are a lot of things to think about when picking an accelerator:

  • Where is the accelerator located? If it’s not in your home city, are you able to relocate for a few months?
  • Is there seed money involved, and if so how much?
  • How much equity does the accelerator take?
  • How successful have previous cohorts been?
  • Will the accelerator’s network be beneficial in reaching your company’s goals?

Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to pick an accelerator. Here are the top 10 accelerators now accepting applications:

  1. The Brandery–Based in Cincinnati, the Brandery has a great track record. Here’s an inside look at what happens at the Brandery.
  2. Kaplan EdTech Accelerator--Powered by Techstars, this will be the second summer for the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.
  3. Start Co–Memphis-based Start Co is hosting 3 accelerators this year. The Seed Hatchery will be in its 4th year, and this will be the 2nd year for the women-only Upstart. SparkGap is the newest addition, focusing on logistics technology in one of the largest shipping hubs in the world.
  4. Boom Startup–Based in Utah, Boom Startup boasts mentors from companies as diverse as Cisco and Skull Candy.
  5. NMotion–The Lincoln, Nebraska, accelerator focuses on tech companies disrupting industries like agriculture, healthcare, education, finance/insurance, and sports technology.
  6. Techstars Austin–Going into its second year, Techstars Austin already boasts some great companies like Atlas Wearables.
  7. Seed Sumo–Based in College Station, Seed Sumo does acceleration Aggie-style.
  8. Techstars Chicago–This will be Techstars first year in Chicago, but they’ve teamed up with Excelerate Labs which has graduated 30 companies since 2010.
  9. Disney Accelerator–The newly announced Disney Accelerator brings together Techstars and the Magical Kingdom to accelerate companies focused on new media and entertainment.
  10. Barclays London–Again, powered by Techstars (anyone seeing a pattern), the Barclays accelerator brings fintech companies to London for 15 weeks of acceleration.

See an accelerator you like? Click on the name and check them out.

In the meantime, did we miss anyone?

23 Accelerators Give Their Best Tips on Getting In


Love ’em or hate ’em, accelerators are popping up all over the country. The best ones offer mentorship, business development, and access to connections founders just wouldn’t have on their own.

But, getting into an accelerator can often be difficult. The process is simple enough, but what is it that really puts a team above the competition? What are accelerators looking for when they sift through all the applications for their newest cohorts?

Well, wonder no more! We asked some of the top accelerators everywhere else for their #1 tip for standing out in the crowd. Check out what they have to say:

jasonseatsTechStars Austin

Be concise in your application and communication. Toil over every word, the more you can remove the better, but also realize that buzz words contain zero information content. Don’t try to be impressive, just try to be understandable and you’ll stand out.

Jason Seats, Managing Director, @seats

Start Co, Memphis


We look for diverse, fierce, coachable, and execution oriented teams first and foremost . . . that is 95% of our selection process.  And it should be a team.  While we have taken a couple in the past, being a solo founder is a negative selection criteria.

Eric Mathews, Co-founder, @ecmathews

tonyschyVelocity Indiana, Inc

The tongue and cheek is Cash.  And to make sure you follow the instructions. The real answer would be to make sure you express passionate enthusiasm for your idea.

Tony Schy, Managing Director, @tschy

Gigtank, Chattanooga, TNmikebradshaw

“Convince us that you’ll be able to close sales or establish pilot projects during GIGTANK with customers in a rapidly growing market.”

Mike Bradshaw, Executive Director, @MikeBinChatt

nicoleglarosTechStars, Boulder

Be different so you get noticed!

Nicole Glaros, Managing Director, @nglaros

AlphaLab, Pittsburghjimjen

Be focused and specific. Don’t talk in generalities or use a lot of buzzwords or catch phrases. Be specific about the market problem you’re solving (and tell it from the customer point of view). Be specific in describing your solution (or proposed solution) and why it’s truly unique. Be focused in describing how you’ll acquire customers and market your product. But don’t mistake “specific” to mean “lots and lots of detail” – clarity and focus are still critical.

Jim Jen, Executive Director, @jimcjen


“Think big and solve a problem that’s worth solving and wear your passion on your sleeve.”

Paul Bricault, Co-founder, @pbricault

Jumpstart Foundry, Nashvillevicgatto

“I suggest that candidates network their way through our mentors. They are all naturally predisposed to root for startup founders and are clearly listed on the JSF website. If you can’t sell them on your concept then you will have an even harder time with real customers.”

Vic Gatto, Founder & CEO, @Vic_Gatto


UpTech, Cincinnati

My advice…  have a sincere passion for what you are doing.  Not only will your passion get investors excited about your idea but it will get you through the gut wrenching moments of being an entrepreneur.

Amanda Greenwell, Program Manager, @GlamHippie

Launchpad LAsamteller

Get a strong referral from a founder we’ve already funded.

Sam Teller, Managing Director, @samteller

brianardingerNMotion, Lincoln

Demonstrate your passion for the problem you’re trying to solve and show us that you’re the team that can solve it. At NMotion we’re looking for teams that know why you’re applying to an accelerator beyond capital. Teams that demonstrate an ability to work hard, experiment, and take advantage of the connections, community, and curriculum an accelerator brings usually rank high on our list.

Brian Ardinger, Managing Director, @ardinger

VentureSpur, Oklahoma Cityklepperson

If you want to give yourself the best chance of acceptance, spend some time reviewing the program and mentors on our website, including our focus areas and blog – and have a coherent reason why your startup needs to leverage our accelerator to grow quickly and how you’d make effective use of the resources provided. Startup teams that do this put themselves ahead of the pack!

Kraettli Lawrence Epperson, Managing Director & Co-founder, @klepperson

katieraeTechStars Boston

Demonstrate you have a team that can learn quickly and cares.

Katie Rae, Managing Director, @ktrae

FlashStarts, Clevelandcharlesstack

Demonstrate the ability to iterate rapidly. Our application process is iterative. Apply and we will provide feedback. Respond and we will provide more feedback. On day in May we will cut a $25,000 check and accept you into our Summer Program. Continue the process throughout the summer and we might cut a $250,000 check (follow-on funding amounts vary. In 2013 the amount ranged form $0 to $300,000).

Charles Stack, Founder/CEO, @cstack

toddgoldsteinLaunchHouse, Cleveland

The number 1 tip for being accepted into LaunchHouse Accelerator is having industry expertise, consistent customer development, and the team to execute.

Todd Goldstein, CEO, @ToddGoldstein

Straight Shot, Omahadavidarnold

The most important thing to be able to demonstrate is how the founding team is uniquely qualified to solve the problem their business aims to address. Being able to connect a founding team’s personal and professional experiences with the market that’s being pursues is a great indicator of the ability to execute and generate the momentum necessary to quickly grow and scale.

David Arnold, Managing Director, @David_M_Arnold

troyhenikoffTechStars Chicago

Pro Tip to help you get into Techstars Chicago: Be able to demonstrate an ability to execute and iterate a ton in a short amount of time.  We love teams that are smart, open minded, coachable and can out execute the competition.  Submit your application early, add updates as you make progress and gain learnings and execute, execute, execute!!

Troy Henikoff, Managing Director, @TroyHenikoff

SeedSumo, College Stationbryanbulte

Prove you move quickly – if your team is strong and concept is solid, the last thing we look for is movement. Are you testing things already?  Prove it to us. The ball should already be rolling…fast.

Bryan Bulte, Managing Director, @bultebryan

kirkcoburnSURGE, Houston

My #1 tip for entrepreneurs: Clear demonstration of commitment. SURGE’s entire business model is designed so that everyone – investors, mentors, sponsors – is aligned with the same goals as our entrepreneurs. We are 100% committed to entrepreneurs and they come first in everything that we do. We believe in entrepreneurs having skin in the game. We do. We are the largest investors in SURGE and our entrepreneurs. We expect our founders to reciprocate and be 100% focused on the business they are pitching to us. If they are not, we know that customers will not buy. Investors will not invest. Thus, breaking our entire model. We don’t want part-time or hobbyist entrepreneurs. We want the real deal.

Kirk Coburn, Founder/Managing Director, @kirkcoburn

Impact Engine, Chicagochucktempleton

Passionate entrepreneurs that are ACTION oriented.

Chuck Templeton, Managing Director, @ctemp

ateetadhikariHealthbox, Boston

“Be candid about your areas for improvement – we are here to help, mentor, build, guide and connect!”

Ateet Adhikari, @health_box

Dreamit Ventures, Austinkerryrupp

I’d say to include a video pitch (not a 20-min demo recorded at another event, but a quick elevator pitch about the company and a bit about each team member).  Doesn’t require high production value – phone is fine.  Better to see team members talking than one of those cartoons with an automated voice reading a script. It’s not the most important thing (obviously the fundamentals of the team/business matter most) – but it’s unique and effective,

Kerry Rupp, CEO, @kerry_rupp

troyvossellergener8tor, Madison, WI

Demonstrate traction. The marketplace doesn’t lie—tell us about your customers, users and revenue.

Troy Vosseller, Co-founder, @troyvosseller




Upstart Graduates 5 New Female-Led Companies

upstartMEMIt seems that everywhere I go, people are talking about women in tech and women in startups. Everyone has an opinion on why it’s hard for women in tech (or IF it’s hard).  Some think the solution comes from changing institutions to accommodate families. Others think women just need to embrace careers and quit being timid.

There are plenty of opinions, but we in the startup world know that execution matters more than theory. Yesterday in Memphis, execution was on display.

The people behind Start Co in Memphis, TN are actually doing something to advance women in tech, and the fruit of that labor was seen in the 5 teams that presented at Upstart’s Demo Day. I talked about Upstart in July, and like most Demo Days, it’s amazing to see how far the companies have come in a few short months.  Of course, it’s still early days for all the companies, and everyone knows the real work begins after Demo Day.

WeddingWorthy.com–WeddingWorthy.com was a late addition to Upstart cohort, but when leaders saw how serious founder Tameesah Desangles was about her business, they felt she’d earned a place at Demo Day. Desangles’ company is a visual shopping platform for brides and their bridesmaids. There are thousands of things to buy for a wedding, and with 25 retailers on board, there are plenty of options.

Artwardly–Leni Stoeva changed her business model quite a bit during the accelerator, but the final product is an art-leasing platform that connects high-end art and individuals and businesses. No more Fortune 500 companies with Aunt Ida’s black and whites in the lobby. With her connections in the art world, and some great developers building the platform, Stoeva is on pace to change the way collectors, businesses, and even museums source their art.

GemPhones–We’ve written about GemPhones before, and founder Kelli Meade is still going strong. GemPhones is electronic jewelry, combining the function of earphones with the style of necklaces. Lots of people flaunted their GemPhones at the after parties, and it’s really impressive how many styles are already available.

Stylecrook–A native of Bermuda, founder Zakkiyah Daniels came all the way from Thailand to participate in the Upstars accelerator. Stylecrook is a social shopping site that allows you to receive discounts when you enlist your friends to help you pick out clothes. Let’s face it, that’s how most women shop best anyway. Stylecrook is now making it digital.

Kids360Now–Audrey Jones started her presentation with a sobering story about children harmed at a day care and taken to a hospital, but because their parents contact information was inaccessible, the parents didn’t find out until pick up time. Kids360Now solves that problem by putting the information into the parents’ hands, and allowing them to grant access when needed. A daycare administrator can simply open an app on her phone in the even of emergency, rather than trying to reach a file cabinet.

The women of the first Upstart cohort made big strides in the 3 months of accelerator life. We at Nibletz are cheering them on as they continue to grow and develop their companies.



Coca-Cola Changing The World, Not Just Making Sugar Water, With 9 Accelerators

Coca Cola, Startup Accelerators, Accelerators, Coca Cola Innovation

I was one of the first people to see the Jobs movie at an early showing on Thursday evening. One of the big highlight scenes in the movie is when John Sculley recounted the conversation he and Steve Jobs had in New York when Jobs went to recruit the then President of Pepsico to become the CEO of Apple. Jobs once considered it to be the worst move of his career (or at least that’s what the movie and Walter Isaacson’s book suggest). In that conversation Jobs reportedly asked Sculley if he wanted to sell sugar water the rest of his life, or if he wanted to change the world.

Well it looks like Coca-Cola isn’t content on just selling sugar water either. Coke has made another global move towards innovatino by supporting startups with nine global accelerators. The company made a bold show of support for startups back in April when it was announced that they were a large corporate sponsor of Startup Weekend and now UpGlobal.

VentureVillage reported on Thursday that Coca-Cola has already started accelerator programs in San Fancisco and Sydney. They also just recently kicked off a program in Mexico City, with Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Bangalore, Berlin, Singapore, and Istanbul all on tap as well.

Coke isn’t looking for the next wild flavor or even a revamp of its bottles or cans. They are looking for innovation in distribution and well being. Coca Cola’s global Vice President of Innovation David Butler gave a presentation in early August in Sydney outlining the programs.

“About a year and a half ago, the company stepped back and said – what are we not doing in terms of innovation?” Butler explained. “You can get lost in that word but essentially what we came down to is that there was a lot going on in this ecosystem, this community, that we weren’t part of…”

As to what Coca-Cola is looking for, Butler said it was up to the individual programs across the globe. When asked by an audience member;  “So it could be as broad as a Coke-branded wearable device that helps you be healthy or it could be, actually Coke will do your deliveries for you?” one audience member asked.

Exactly, Butler replied. “Those are two ideas we’re working on right now.”

Venture Village also reports that this isn’t Coca-Cola’s first shot at startups and accelerators. In 2001 they formed a startup incubator in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, that offered $250,000 in seed capital for up to 12% equity. Bloomberg reports that the program eventually fizzed out for unknown reasons.

Check out Coca Cola’s “Innovation Stories” blog here.




Startup Accelerators: The Hard Advice

GigTank, Mira Designs, Sisasa, TidBit, startups, accelerators

(Lawrence Yu CoFounder of Mira Designs. Photo NMI 2013)

Startup accelerators are great,] because they give young growing startups capital, access to resources, mentors, and hopefully investors. But they aren’t always rosy. In fact, if all your days in an accelerator program are rosy, then you need to run like hell from that accelerator program.

On our sneaker-strapped startup road trip, we’ve had the privilege of meeting several startups in mid session. We’ve seen startup founders cry, scream, cuss, even break things, typically right before they have that “aha moment”.  What we normally find is that the hardest piece of advice, and usually the “ugly baby” moment, is very early on in the accelerator. In fact most accelerators engineer an activity on day one or two where mentors, advisors, or even media members are invited in to tear an idea to shreds.

We got a chance to talk with Lawrence Yu, cofounder of Mira Designs, Alejandro Dinsmore, cofounder of Sisasa, and Sam Bowden, founder and CEO of TidBit. All three startups graduated from the GigTank accelerator in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Tuesday afternoon.

For Yu, the hardest advice came as an eye opening experience that they weren’t the only startup trying to fix offline retail with online components. The team at Mira Designs needed to make sure that they were clearly differentiating themselves from the competition and they needed to do it in a big way.

For both Bowen and Dinsmore, their harshest advice was an ugly baby moment that for both startups meant a pivot. Sisasa totally changed course from the idea they came into the accelerator with.  For Bowen it meant going after a different industry, actually an industry he knew more about first hand.  The end result of both of their “ugly baby” moments was what most would call traction.

The video below features all three founders talking about their harshest or most eye opening advice in the GigTank.

Check out the accelerator panel with accelerator heads from across the country at this national startup conference.


Startups In The Fastlane: Flashstarts Startup RegulatoryBinder

RegulatoryBinder, Cleveland startup, Flashstarts accelerator, accelerators, fastlaneWhile Richard Arlow was pursuing a dual MD/PhD at Case Western Reserve University he experienced the pain first hand that so many doctors, researchers and scientists experience far too frequently.

“I realized that my clinical collaborators were killing themselves to painstakingly record data in hundreds of pages in paper regulatory binders. They would get audited and after two days of searching, the auditor could always find some way to show that the documentation was not accurate, complete or current. Their trial would then be completely shut down, sometimes just over a single missing signature.” Arlow told us in a FastLane interview.

We’ve heard this before from our friends going though the ZeroTo510 accelerator in Memphis, and others in the medical and life sciences startup fields. We also found out that restarting a trial, even after being shut down for something as small as a signature can cost thousands upon thousands, if not millions of dollars. This of course is a huge pain point and a huge problem.

Arlow is hoping to solve this problem with his SaaS solution for the regulated medical industry. RegulatoryBinder is an enterprise document management (EDM) web app specifically for clinical trial regulatory documentation. When researchers, scientists, and doctors integrate their research with RegulatoryBinder, the system will help them keep all of their documentation organized, current and in compliance, saving millions of dollars.

Check out our Startups In The Fastlane interview with Arlow below:


Where is your startup originally from?

Cleveland, OH

Tell us about your current team?

As the sole founder of RegulatoryBinder.com, I am a medical geek who unexpectedly became an entrepreneur. I was trained as a biomedical engineer and started a device company at Lehigh University in PA. The company created a clinical grade device, several patents, and was named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Under 25 in 2010.

As for my education, I went to Case Western Reserve University to pursue a dual M.D. / Ph.D. degree again in biomedical engineering. I conducted clinical trials, particularly supercomputer simulations for medical research. I have presented at conferences and have been published in top journals, including Elsevier Neuroscience.

Throughout my involvement in clinical trials

So, I started RegulatoryBinder.com and have since taken leave from the M.D. / Ph.D. program to pursue this opportunity full-time. I have built a strong team of advisors and developers that compliment the vision.

What does your startup do?

We are a software and service provider for the regulated medical industry.

We developed the first clinical trial regulatory software (CTRS). The software is an enterprise document management (EDM) web app specifically for clinical trial regulatory documentation.

We are also the only hosting provider that assumes responsibility for eRecord regulation compliance for instant, risk-free use.

Without RegulatoryBinder.com, institutions need to perform additional procedural controls (i.e. training, backups, tech support, access control) and validate software technical controls, in order to comply with regulations. The performance of these controls comes with additional cost, time to implement, numerous procedures and still the risk of non-compliance.

Existing comparable eClinical software takes $3-5M and over 1 year to implement. We bundles these procedures and risk for the user whining their license cost, and provide them with the ability to electronically complete their regulatory binders in the shortest possible amount of time. We can thus exceed both customer and regulatory expectations while lowering total cost.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?

Throughout the rest of the accelerator program, I plan to close more clients, finalize our next major release and start our next funding round – while ensuring that the needs of existing customers are still being met.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator?

Iterate everything. As a startup, you have to iterate—or rethink, adjust, change everything you think you know. Iterate your client and investor materials. Iterate your product. Iterate your quality, support and sales strategies. Then iterate your vision, which will cause you to iterate all the former. Of the most importance, iterate how you iterate and manage operations. Have defined and realistic goals, metrics and timelines for all iterations.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far?

Doctors don’t make great businesses (on average),  so if I want to make a great business, I need to focus 110% of my energy solely on that goal.

I became a doctor to help individuals.

I’ve become an entrepreneur to make a great business and help society.

What is your goal for the day after demo day?

It’s just another day. I’ve got to talk with potential clients, support users, engage the developers and raise money.

Why did you choose this accelerator?

I was not looking to join an accelerator. I did not need the money or experience of being in an accelerator. And, if you look at the math or history, almost all companies from accelerators fail.

I chose FlashStarts because of the team, environment and enterprise-IT focus. It was the right choice for me and has enabled me to scale the company.

If you relocated for the accelerator are you staying in your new city?

I am a Clevelander.

What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied?

I was gratefully surprised by the integration of business, development and designer interns that work with my team.

This enabled me to start assigning tasks and focus on core deliverables, like learning how to be a CEO. :)

Where can people find out more?


Check out more of our Startups In The Fastlane interviews here.


Launch Tennessee And The Blackstone Foundation Are Looking For The TENN Best Startups

Launch Tennessee, Blackstone Foundation, TENN, startups, accelerators

Just yesterday we were talking about the 9 accelerator regions in Tennessee.  Launch Tennessee is the public/private partnership that oversees those nine accelerator regions and helps promote Tennessee startups statewide. Earlier this month they announced a new initiative, cleverly called TENN, that’s looking to identify the ten top startups coming out of the Tennessee accelerators. The program will kick off August 27th with a statewide demo day.

The TENN is sponsored by the Blackstone Foundation, who we just reported yesterday announced their LaunchPad program was moving into their 5th state, Montana.

“Focusing on innovation and attracting and encouraging entrepreneurs are key economic development strategies in Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement.  “Launch Tennessee’s initiative to coordinate a statewide network of startup accelerators is an important part of our ongoing efforts and isn’t being done anywhere else in the country.  The TENN program, which is one of the most exciting projects to come out of this effort, recognizes the best and brightest of Tennessee’s entrepreneurs.  I look forward to the new ideas, partnerships and investments that will result from the program.”

Companies that have graduated from one of Tennessee’s nine regional business accelerators in the last year can apply to be one of The TENN by Aug. 2. A panel of regional and national venture capitalists and angel fund leaders will select The TENN to participate in the inaugural program. The application, a full listing of the panelists, and other program information may be accessed online.

Shortly after demo day, The TENN will leave for a statewide bus tour, where they will meet with leaders of Tennessee’s top corporations. Additionally, during the master accelerator program, The TENN companies will fly to California and the East Coast to network with venture capitalists and angel investors.

Other benefits of the TENN program include office space in the nearest regional accelerator or a subsidy for the company’s existing office space, events that connect the companies to industry-specific mentors, and high-level access to major corporations based in Tennessee.

Governor Haslam will announce The TENN at the statewide demo day, which will also include a keynote speech from John Greathouse, partner at Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Rincon Venture Partners and co-founder of RevUpNet.

“I am looking forward to participating in the upcoming TENN program, Tennessee’s statewide demo day in which the top companies from Tennessee’s accelerators join forces to network and compete,” Greathouse said in a statement. “The TENN program is an outstanding opportunity for startups that are past the initial incubator stage, but are seeking mentors, funding and other critical resources to help them achieve the next stage of success. My hope is that this unique platform spawns similar regional and statewide events targeted at assisting companies that have graduated from accelerators but have yet to reach critical mass.”

Just as it was last year, August will be a huge month for Tennessee startups. Chattanooga’s GigTank, Memphis’ ZeroTo510, and Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundry accelerators will all graduate.

You can find out more about Launch Tennessee here.

This huge startup event for startups everywhere else is also in Tennessee.



The Angel List That Matters, All The Incubators & Accelerator Taking Apps Through Angel.co

Angellist, startup accelerators, accelerators, startupsHere’s the complete list of incubator and accelerator programs that you can apply to using an account from angel.co (Angel List). If youu’re not familiar with Angel List, it’s one of the three things we recommend you sign up for as soon as you start your startup, the list also includes CrunchBase and Startup America. Info on all three is here at “three free things every startup should do”

Marquee accelerator programs like 500 startups, Techstars and Dreamit Ventures are all using the Angel List platform for easy access to applications. Here’s the complete list.

500 Startups, Silicon Valley program focused on startups everywhere. Founded by crazy ass Sith Lord of Startups Dave McClure. This program promotes entrepreneurship everywhere.  Apply here

Techstars, one of the widest recognized brands for startup acceleration based in Boulder CO with programs in Boulder, Seattle, Austin, Chicago and New York. Apply here.

DreamIt Ventures is based in Philly with programs in New York, Austin and Israel. Apply here

Capital Factory is based in Austin with a concentration on revenue vs follow on funding, Apply here

Murker Lab is one of Silicon Beach’s (LA) marquee startup accelerators. Apply here

Alchemist Accelerator based in the valley they are looking for startups with “distincitive technical cofounders” Apply here

sxswVC Fast Pitch at SXSW in Austin Apply here

LaunchPad LA is in it’s 5th class for their LA based mentor driven accelerator Apply here

Amplify.la Amplify is a hands on startup accelerator and multi faceted entrepreneurial campus in Silicon Beach (L.A.) Apply here

Upstart Labs, located in Portland they focus on B2B startups Apply here

Founder Fuel, Is a Canadian based accelerator in Montreal with $50,000 seed and an opportunity for $150k follow on Apply here

Launch Pad, is in the heat of New Orlean’s Super Bowl of startups Apply here

Longhorn Startup is an entrepreneurship class at UT in Texas Apply here

SeedStartup is an international startup accelerator in Dubai Apply here

GSF India is a multi-city startup accelerator in India located in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai Apply here

nReduce is the online startup incubator Apply here

And why you’re at it why not pick up two tickets to the largest startup conference in the U.S. everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference

Important Techstars Deadlines Approaching


Techstars, the globally recognized startup accelerator brand has some important deadlines coming up for startups interested in applying for their programs.

The deadline for the next Techstars New York session is this Friday January 18th. Finalists will be notified by February 2nd. The program runs from April 2nd to June 28th. Interested startups can apply here.

Nike introduced a new Nike+ accelerator program in partnership with Techstars. The program will be based in Portland Oregon close to Nike’s world headquarters. The program will run from March to June. The deadline to apply is February 3rd. If you’re interested in this new innovative program with one of the nation’s biggest brands you can apply here.

The Microsoft accelerator for Windows Azure is also another partnership with Techstars. That cohort will take place in Seattle Washington from April to June. The final deadline for those applications is February 2nd. You can apply here.

Techstars is the founding member of the Global Accelerator Network. Patrick Riley the Managing Director of GAN and the GAN staff will be on site at everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference with three panels on accelerators and talking to over 2000 attendees who’ve purchased tickets across the country, as well as over 100 startups in the startup village about what accelerator would be best for them. For tickets or more information click here.