Some of the Best Academic Accelerator Programs in the U.S.

In my role as Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT and Program Director for MIT’s Global Founders’ Skill Accelerator (GFSA), I’ve been researching accelerator programs worldwide, and I thought I’d share some of that research in a series of blog posts. This is the third post in the series; read the other posts starting here.

 MITThe accelerator community in the U.S. can be broadly divided into two segments: The accelerators owned by university campuses and the independent accelerator programs. Educational accelerators, driven by universities, bring unique capabilities and access to talent.

In my work with MIT, I’ve observed a very ambitious group that was also very aligned with the MIT community culture, which supports the teams through its educational process and ecosystem.

Naturally, I’ll start with MIT, but also highlight other excellent accelerator programs.

The Martin Trust Center at MIT has played a pivotal role in fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship among the student community. According to reported estimates at the end of 2014, 30,200 active companies were founded by living MIT alumni—employing 4.6 million people and generating annual world revenues of nearly $2 trillion. These MIT alumni startups collectively represent the 10th largest economy in the world (you can get even more stats here).

The Martin Trust Center offers a series of entrepreneurship courses for undergraduates and graduate students, hardware infrastructure, collaborative workspace, meeting rooms, videoconference system, and even coffee and snacks to inspire young innovators. The advisory panel boasting the brightest minds in the industry is available to provide guidance; while the MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (MIT GFSA) and events like Speaker Series’, Roundtable sessions, or MIT $100K competition are additional facilities to boost entrepreneurship around the campus.

The Harvard Rock Accelerator Program serves both student entrepreneurs and student investors who work together to grow and sustain a startup operation. This one-year long program offers 10-20 founding teams with each funding $8,000 in seed capital, excellent mentors, and peer exchange sessions till completion.

Stanford’s StartX Accelerator Program helps Stanford’s top entrepreneurs through a combination of empirical studies and collaborative expertise. This unique accelerator program does not charge any fee and takes zero equity from student companies. This program has managed to attract funds from leading investors like Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, boasts over 200 mentors who are field experts—including individuals from Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and other luminaries in Silicon Valley, delivers custom education, and offers the latest technological resources.

The Babson College Butler Venture Accelerator Program has packed in seed-funding, advising, workspace, mentoring, and even self-assessments and peer support in a highly focused program. Additionally, this program includes the Glavin Office of Multicultural & International Education, where immigration attorneys offer work authorization guidelines to international students with restrictive visas.

In 6 college startup programs beyond Harvard and MIT, Beta Boston provides a roundup of some serious accelerator-program owners beyond the likes of MIT and Harvard, who offer strong accelerator programs in Massachusetts.

Does your college or university offer an accelerator program? How do you think it stacks up? Let me know below under “Leave a Reply.”

If you want to read my next post in this series check back here on my blog or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Accelerator Programs in the U.S.

In my role as Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT and Program Director for MIT’s Global Founders’ Skill Accelerator (GFSA), I’ve been researching accelerator programs worldwide, and I thought I’d share some of that research in a series of blog post. This is the second post in the series; read the first post here.

startup picIn recent years, many global accelerator programs have launched in the US, and Silicon Valley certainly takes the lead in this effort. The original accelerators such as Y Combinator or Techstars are still regarded as leaders, followed by many other programs as role models.

However, the sterling lineup of mentors in Techstars or YC makes these two programs highly desirable to both entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists. As literally hundreds of startups from all over the globe appear everyday looking for ideal accelerators, it is prudent to know that joining an accelerator program in itself does not guarantee success.

Incubators versus Accelerators

When Paul Graham created the Y Combinator program in 2005, the program was thought of as an incubator, which largely promises office space in exchange for equity. However, later this program developed into a strong accelerator displaying marked differences from the incubator model. While both the incubator and the accelerator share a common mission of guiding a startup, the main differences between the two are the applicable time periods which are short and defined in case of accelerators; time-bound funding in exchange of equity for accelerators; and the rare incentive of A-list mentors offered by most accelerators.

The 500 Startups accelerator network has connected the Silicon Valley with the rest of the world in an excellent manner. Catering mostly to international startups, this program is doing a commendable job of supporting startup founders from abroad to get their feet wet.

Accelerators Who Take Equity versus Who Don’t

It is widely known that YC takes 7% equity, 500 Startups takes 5%, but there are some accelerator programs who take as much as 50%. This practice may make it difficult to raise another funding round later with less equity to offer VCs.

On the other hand, the programs offered by top university campuses like MIT, Stanford or Harvard do not take any equity from student companies. Non-academic accelerator programs like Mass Challenge also do not take any equity. The programs who do not take any equity usually demonstrate strong networks with the VC community and other corporate sponsors for fund raising issues.

Academic vs. Independent Accelerator Programs

The accelerator community in the U.S. can be broadly divided into two segments: The accelerators owned by university campuses and the independent accelerator programs. For additional information, budding entrepreneurs with startup ambition should refer to this Mashable article: The Pros and Cons of Startup Accelerators.

The accelerators who take equity believe they are the ones who will finally survive; they say accelerators who have no financial stake in a startup are simply there for public relations and no real financial growth for the company. Yet, educational accelerators are driven by universities, with unique capabilities and access to talent. My next post will delve into some of the best academic accelerators in the U.S.

If you want to read my next post in this series check back here on my blog or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, as I will post about new updates there as well.

 

Accelerator Programs: How they stack up


Accelerator_1Inc. magazine
reports that accelerator programs in the U.S. have doubled every two years between 2008 and 2014 with roughly 172 accelerators in America today. With entrepreneurship rapidly growing and reshaping economies on a worldwide basis, accelerator programs can enable entrepreneurs to jump start their businesses and help attract venture funding.

The primary role of an accelerator program is to facilitate rapid growth of a startup company through planned funding, mentorship, resources, guidance, and community support in exchange for equity or pure satisfaction.

Many people are familiar with programs like AngelPad, MuckerLab, Techstars, and Y Combinator (which now actually classifies itself as a seed fund), but many universities have their own very successful accelerator programs as well.

In my role as Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT and Program Director for MIT’s Global Founders’ Skill Accelerator (GFSA), I’ve been researching accelerator programs in the U.S. and how they compare with programs in India, China, and Europe – and I thought I’d share the highlights of some of that research in a series of blog posts.

How Does an Accelerator Program Work?

In a typical accelerator program, the program offers seed funding, office space, access to technology, expert mentorship, and an inspiring community environment—all packed into a limited time frame, usually three to six months. In most accelerator programs, the final benefit to the startup is a repeatable model, which may be used many times to churn out successful companies in an assembly-line fashion.

So what will the accelerator programs gain in return? Well, the gain may be company stocks, equity, or just plain satisfaction of being able to mentor startups to the level of fully operational businesses.

However, as literally hundreds of startups from all over the globe appear every day looking for ideal accelerators, it is prudent to know that joining an accelerator program in itself does not guarantee success. Here is an interesting tutorial on how to join an accelerator program from Business News Daily: Accelerator Programs 101: How to Apply and What to Expect.

The article points out that the typical applicant is in the early stages of business development and has either just launched or is getting ready to do so. Many companies that join an accelerator have a finished product or concept, and may have even raised capital, but others may only have an idea and no funding whatsoever. Startups that may be looking to join an accelerator must have certain prerequisites and the right mindset.

Prerequisites for Joining an Accelerator

Wherever in the world you are looking to join an accelerator, there are some common prerequisites. In order to locate a good match between a startup and an accelerator, startups ought to consider these prerequisites:

  • You must have a product—not just an idea!
  • You must be willing to take financial risks.
  • You must be willing to wait and watch, while you are learning about the startup process.

Without the right mindset, a startup, no matter how enthusiastic, will not be successful.

Entrepreneurial Growth on the Rise

In a recent CNBC report, the Kauffman Foundation’s Startup Activity Index shows that in 2015 U.S. entrepreneurship levels had the greatest year-over-year increase in the past two decades. The group estimates that every month, some 530,000 Americans become new business owners. Yet, statistics show that as many as 90% of startups fail, so seeking out an accelerator program can help startup ventures beat the odds with resources, networking, and experienced mentors.

I’ll be sharing a series of blog posts on accelerators around the globe – and the approaches taken by different regions. For my next post check back here on my blog or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, as I will post about new updates there as well.