Are Accelerators from “Everywhere Else” Better at Producing Groundbreaking Innovation? Maybe. Here’s Why GUEST POST

Accelerators, Startups, Cliff McKinney, Work For Pie, Seed Hatchery, Memphis startupsThere’s been a lot of press lately about the lack of true, groundbreaking innovation in Silicon Valley. I don’t think that’s completely true, but reading about it made me think a bit about the nature of innovation and whether the current system is built to foster it.

I live in this little city called Memphis and we have a small but growing tech community and a great little startup accelerator called Seed Hatchery that is currently taking applications for its third class.

Now the thing about Seed Hatchery is that it doesn’t get near the number of applicants as a Y Combinator or a TechStars or even some of the less well-known accelerators. They’re okay with that and they’re okay with plugging along and making improvements year after year and meeting goals and milestones that are at a somewhat smaller scale. And there are a lot of accelerators just like Seed Hatchery, all over the world.

There have been arguments made that these accelerators will die out. That may be true for some. But I happen to think that before they do they will have trained and produced more innovative entrepreneurs than some of their larger counterparts. Why? Because, generally, the enrollees in these programs have a high appetite for risk to begin with, and because they won’t have that appetite beaten out of them by the time they finish.

True innovation typically happens at the knife’s edge between failure and success. It doesn’t come from the safer and satisfied middle. That’s good news for tiny accelerators, and may be bad news for some of the more successful ones.

A program that gives me a ton of money, a good to great chance of raising more, and an almost 100% chance of landing softly even if I fail tends to convince even big risk takers to play things a bit more safe. It seems like the opposite should be true, right? I have all these benefits with virtually zero chance of absolute failure, so why shouldn’t I give it a go? But, as we see time and time again, that kind of thinking just doesn’t happen very often.

For these programs, getting in is the big challenge, and once you’ve achieved that you’re granted superstar status. Your success rate jumps to 70% or more. And if the success rate is 70% or more, then beating everyone else isn’t as important as not being in the bottom 30%. So, often enough at least, you don’t build something that has a 10% chance of glorious success. You play it safe. You try not to f$%k it up.

For other programs, by contrast, getting in is potentially easier, but success after graduation is much much harder. A lot of smaller accelerators have one or two companies out of ten successfully raise follow-on funding. When the success rate is that low, the companies tend to take bigger chances in the hopes of finding themselves among those one or two success stories. Except in extraordinary cases, it doesn’t matter what kind of human being you are. The company you build will be different based on whether you’re motivated to succeed above all others or motivated to not screw things up.

Now, before you jump all over me, I will say that there are things that continue to make Y Combinator and TechStars amazing programs, and you would be a fool not to join them if invited. The mentor networks, and the advice participants receive from those mentors, are probably by themselves worth the price of admission. But, imagine for a moment the kinds of companies that might be produced by a Y Combinator should, say, only five to ten of the 80 companies receive follow-on funding. Might that look different? My bet is yes, and that they would be much more groundbreaking.

I’m also betting that the smaller accelerators—so long as they don’t measure success by Y Combinator standards—can produce these kinds of companies. There will be more failures, sure, but that’s okay by me. The near certainty of failure is one the most compelling features.

Author Biography:

Cliff McKinney is CEO of Work for Pie, a company that is changing the way software developers get recruited and hired by changing the way they communicate with

Here’s another take on accelerators “everywhere else” from 

Wall Street Journal Adds More Startup Resources

Wall Street Journal,Startup Journal, Accelerators,Venture Capital Digest, startup newsThe Wall Street Journal has announced two new startup resources to accompany their current startup coverage. We regularly read and source the Venture Capital Digest portion of the Wall Street Journal online.  These two new publications will be a welcome addition to anyone who wants to keep up with startup and entrepreneurial news.

The Accelerators is a new op-ed section focused on startups. The Wall Street Journal will publish guest posts from popular venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and startup contributors. Currently TechCrunch offers similarly sourced content, typically published on weekends.

The Startup Journal will focus on more startup and entrepreneurial news digests from other Wall Street Journal publications. This will be similar to the Venture Capital Digest which usually reports on current and pending venture and angel deals.

“The disruption within the startup world has been closely followed by our readers, and we saw a significant opportunity to provide our audience with more robust coverage by launching Startup Journal and The Accelerators,” said Raju Narisetti, the Journal’s digital editor. “This is the latest iteration in our strategy to create more specialized content for our core audience and to provide it in such a way that makes it easy and seamless for our professional subscribers to read, digest and share.”

Source: The Wrap

Tennessee’s Venture Community Is All Eyes On Chattanooga’s Gig Tank

Entrepreneurship and startups are a hot bed of activity this month in the great state of Tennessee. As we reported earlier, there are three different accelerators graduating this month, all with their own demo day. Possibly because it’s the first of the three graduations, or possibly because they have a unique program, Chattanooga’s Gig Tank has attracted a lot of attention from the entire state.

The City of Chattanooga along with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce have organized an entire press junket tied to various events throughout the city that are celebrating the graduation of the first Gig Tank class of entrepreneurs and students.

A little background.

Chattanooga was actually the first city in the United States to offer gigabit ethernet to the household, not just the node within a 600 mile radius. Every house and every business within Chattanooga’s gig footprint have the fiber piped to their home. The backbone of what is referred to here are “The Gig City”, is a smart grid. The City of Chattanooga has deployed a smart grid to communicate information from electric meters and other utilities for all residents and business’ within the footprint.

Now, it’s the decision of the resident or the business, if they want to also utilize that same fiber line for data services, tv and telephone. The “Gig” was deployed last year, a year ahead of Kansas City and Google. The gigabit ethernet in Kansas City functions more like a traditional cable company. The gigabit ethernet goes to the node, or the street, then Google signs customers up to bring the service down to the home. Of course one of the big things to consider in all of this is there aren’t wireless routers that can support wireless transmission of a full gigabit data stream, wirelessly to the device. Most traditional computers also can’t function at the gigabit speed. Right now, end users will experience speeds from 30-100mbps which is of course a huge feat in itself.

The GigTank is a traditional accelerator program that was designed for startups to utilize that huge bandwidth to develop startups. Unlike most traditional accelerators the GigTank had two classes, an entrepreneur class which received a $15,000 seed investment and a chance to win $100,000 in additional funding Thursday morning. The other class is a class of student led startups that received free room and board, but did not receive a seed investment. The students are competing for a $50,000 prize.

Also unlike most traditional accelerators, all of the startups will pitch the judges in a closed door session Thursday morning ahead of the actual pitch presentations on stage tomorrow.

Needless to say all of this excitement in Chattanooga has attracted a lot of attention. When commenting to a local reporter StartupTN President and President of Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center, Michael Burcham said “There will be 500 people here tomorrow who’ve either started companies, or invested in companies, and most of them are coming from out of town”. If the buses the city are running specifically for the event from the area hotels are any indication, there are definitely a lot of people from out of town here.

Jared Nixon, a partner in Daymond John’s Shark Branding, is one of those out of town guests. He’s here in Chattanooga to scope out the startups that are participating in the event, but he’s also intrigued by the infrastructure around the gig itself.

There are folks in town from Warner Brothers, Mozilla, US Ignite and other nationally known companies and ecosystem partners.

Even the Nashville centric Burcham, who happily announced that 70% of the investors and 90% of the venture capital is in Nashville, is eager to see the ideas that come out of the GigTank which is equally important to Burcham in his role as StartupTN President. Burcham says he looks for two main components in deals he does, the “idea” and the competition. If there’s no competition in the space, he stays away from that idea because there’s no market. One of Burcham’s strongest suits is nurturing good ideas. He does this on a daily basis through the Entrepreneur Center and Jumpstart Foundry, Nashville’s GigTank counterpart.

While there are a lot of startups presenting at Gig Tank’s demo day with similar ideas happening all over the country, these startups had a huge internet pipe to work on, and hopefully these ideas will win far more than the $150,000 available from the GigTank itself. Hopefully there are some multi-million dollar ideas in the bunch.


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We’re the voice of startups “everywhere else” and cover Tennessee startups like no one else. See more Tennessee stories here.

Rawporter Roadshow: We Talk With Venga At The Fort In DC

We’re still going strong on our Rawporter Roadshow stopping in and talking with tech companies and startups from “everywhere else”. We spend some good quality time at Fortified’s “The Fort” accelerator in DC. We already brought you our interview with NexGame and now we’re spending some time with Sam from Venga to talk about Venga and what it’s like to startup outside of Silicon Valley.

We actually felt like it was more important to spend more than just 3 hours in the nation’s capital to really get a feel for the scene. We also got to spend a lot of time with Kendrick and Carl from inthecapital who lent us some of the co-working space they were borrowing from the largest co-working space provider in DC and a great friend of startups.

Check out the interview video above. We covered Venga earlier on here as well. If you like what we are doing we could sure use some gas money for the trip hit the donate button on the right side.

If you’re a startup from literally “everywhere else” send us an email at and we’ll get you covered.

Philadelphia Phocus: Incubator Novotorium adds second company inhabi

Inhabi is a service which matches landlords and prospective renters with each other.  Using proprietary system to find the perfect match.  The Philadelphia region is home to a relatively new incubator (or accelerator) Novotorium.  They say that “Novatorium is a new concept and unlike most of the incubators and accelerators that you may already know.”   Instead of finding companies who are looking to sell to another company for a big payout Novotorium focuses on companies who are aiming for “organic growth, profitability and sustainability” and are in it for the long haul.

Back on March 15, 2012 Technically Philly announced that Novotorium was looking for a second company to join their incubator program.  On March 29th it was announced that inhabi would be joining Novotorium.  Philadelphia currently has a number of incubators DreamIt Ventures, Project Liberty, Seed Philly, Good Company, and others.  Over the course of the next few weeks we hope to be meeting with a number of these incubators/accelerators as well as planning  to bring you coverage from Philadelphia Tech Week

The above  list comes from an article on TechnicallyPhilly Desks for Startups: Infrastructure for entrepreneurs or budding startup bubble?