6 Reasons to Keep Accelerators Everywhere Else

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There’s an accelerator bubble.

Accelerators, except for Ycombinator/TechStars, are irrelevant.

We should get rid of the Demo Day.

If you’ve been in the startup space for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard someone say something like this. Founders and startup advocates have naturally critical minds; it’s why we can solve complex problems in innovative ways. But, that also means we spend a lot of time second guessing and rethinking every single thing we do.

I’ve had my own doubts about the accelerator model, and they mimic most of the concerns people bring up. There are so many (2000 around the world). What company can really be built in 3 months? It seems that the only real success comes from the big names, so why bother with smaller, local accelerators?

But, this week I was convinced that accelerators everywhere else can be just as beneficial to companies as the more publicized YCombinator and TechStars. Yesterday I attended the Investor Day for Jumpstart Foundry, in Nashville, TN and was duly impressed with what I saw. Of course, they had the bells and whistles–cool venue, great food, open bar. But more impressive were the companies that presented.

Every company had made significant strides in the 3 month program. Most could give detailed explanations of revenue. Quite a few already had traction and are well on the way to making real money already.

Vic Gatto, founder of Jumpstart Foundry and partner at Solidus Company, is well aware of the negative perception accelerators carry.

“We’re definitely a young industry going through definitional challenges,” he told me. He talked about meetings with other accelerators around the world. The leaders of these accelerators are talking about what defines success. Is it funding? Exits? Revenue? Level of mentor networks?

By most metrics, Jumpstart Foundry is finding success. 65% of its graduates are still in business, either bootstrapping or with funding. They have over 100 mentors, and that network grows each year. Gatto insists, though, that another real metric of success will be future exits, and most of the industry is still too young to really see that achieved yet.

One mentor told me that this year’s cohort may be the best she’s seen. “And they didn’t start off particularly special,” she said. “I think that really speaks to how the program itself is growing.”

And, as far as getting rid of Investor Day, Gatto won’t be doing that any time soon.

“That pressure is important,” he said. It’s the deciding factor sometimes when a new founder is tired and wants to call it a night. With Investor Day looming, it’s easier to focus and do the hard work of a young company.

Make sure to check out Jumpstart Foundry’s latest cohort because there are definitely some companies to watch. We’ll cover some of them here on Nibletz in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here are a few reasons we shouldn’t give up on the accelerators everywhere else just yet:

  1. In the life of a young company, it can be easy to let an idea go when it gets hard. Surrounding yourself with mentors and good advice in an accelerator can help you push through those first stage challenges.
  2. The pressure of Investor Day can give you more traction than you thought possible in 3 months.
  3. Accelerators everywhere else understand companies everywhere else. We’ve talked before about how companies outside of Silicon Valley are innovating in industries besides the Internet and apps. Local accelerators inherently “get” that more easily than accelerators that are used to churning out consumer-facing apps.
  4. A good accelerator can be a rallying point for a whole ecosystem. Yesterday in Nashville, it was a packed house. Not just investors, but anyone interested in the startup scene showed up to support the cohort.
  5. Even if your first company doesn’t succeed, the 3 month MBA you get by doing the hands on work of an accelerator will be invaluable to the next companies you build.
  6. Accelerators may not be perfect, but what is?Anything that spurs innovation is good for the local community as well as for global issues that need creative problem solvers.

Indiana Couple Pitches Their Startup, Boosterville, At Seed Hatchery Demo Day

boostervilleAttracting great talent to an accelerator that doesn’t have the name Techstars or YCombinator in it can be a difficult task. Attracting great talent that’s already had success in the startup space can be even more daunting. That’s what happened in the case of Indiana startup Boosterville.

I actually met Pam Cooper the CEO and co-founder of Boosterville, while it was still called Sodbuster, on Brad Feld’s Hacker News alternative site, the startup hub. Pam and I quickly became friends. It was then I learned that she was a little more “seasoned” than other founders, having started a very successful small business in Indiana. Her quick wit and thought provoking questions made it easy to interact with her on an online platform.

Pam decided that despite a failed attempt at Indianapolis startup conference “Powder Keg” her and her co-founder/CTO husband, Tom Cooper, would make the trek to Memphis for everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference. At the same time we were accepting applications for Seed Hatchery and I quickly introduced her to the organizations leader, Eric Mathews, and they got in.

We learned through the vetting process that Tom was actually the founding CTO of question and answer site Cha-Cha. He also has a long resume of engineering work at several successful startups and companies. The Cooper’s have done well. They’ve got kids in college, a rather large home in Indiana, oh and Tom has his own plane as well. So why come all the way to Memphis for an accelerator?Great question, the answer: For the accelerator.

From day one both Pam and Tom dove head first into the curriculum, learning, sharing and development that is offered through the Seed Hatchery program. ¬†They took criticism like the best of them, often times from leaders and mentors that didn’t have even a fraction of the startup experience that Tom had. Both Cooper’s have said over and over again how much they’ve learned here in Memphis.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, so we went for it and Seed Hatchery was the best thing we’ve done for our company” Tom told us in an interview.

During the accelerator the coopers went through a name change, a huge pivot and even worked hand in hand with MBA students for discovery, and to help refine their product.

Boosterville combines digital wallet with loyalty and rewards and all for the benefit of schools and non profits. Using Dwolla, another midwest startup, as their mobile wallet conduit, users sign up for a school they want to donate to. From there they can see a list of merchants in their community that use the Boosterville platform. When they make a purchase at one of the establishments in the program, they check out using their phone, the merchant gets paid, the school gets a donation and Boosterville takes a small cut.

“Putting children who are now grown, through school I’ve seen my share of wrapping paper and World’s Finest Chocolate Bars”, Pam loves to tell anyone who will listen. Of course we all agree.

The company is a great mesh of Pam’s community minded nature and business savvy, with Tom’s over three decades of programming experience.

What’s next for Boosterville, well while Tom has an open invitation to return full time to his engineering job in Indiana, they are going to continue to raise money and bring Boosterville to live.

Check out their investor day pitch video below:


 

Find out more about Boosterville here at boosterville.com

We’ve got more Seed Hatchery coverage here.¬†

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