Considerations When Thinking about a Business Accelerator for a Start-up

John F. Wasik reported in Thursday’s New York Times that, “When Katlin Smith entered the New Venture Challenge business accelerator, she had developed an idea for making food that was ‘simple, healthy and delicious‘ but did not have a sense for what to do next.

“Ms. Smith came to the program, offered by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, two and a half years ago. She had started out creating gluten-free muffin mixes in her living room in North Carolina, and by that time had ‘three baking mixes in two to three stores.’

The mentors and guidance provided by the accelerator convinced Ms. Smith that she could be the Betty Crocker of clean eating.”

Mr. Wasik noted that, “She came up with the business concept while working at Deloitte, before starting as a student at Booth, but the accelerator, and the cash prize that came with it, helped her take the next step with her start-up.

“Within months of entering the program, Ms. Smith competed against 100 other teams and was awarded some $30,000 in 2014. Since then, she has increased her business’s sales exponentially.”

Today’s article explained that, “Although definitions vary, there are more than 230 accelerator programs worldwide that have provided $19 billion in funding for more than 6,000 companies to date, according to, which provides information on accelerators nationwide.

“Out of the 160 accelerators based in the United States, about 35 programs are connected to universities.

“In essence, accelerators aid start-ups with funding, mentorship and, often, office space. They all provide an essential advantage for any entrepreneur: comprehensive support.”

Mr. Wasik also pointed out that, “Still, not all accelerators are equal. [Matt Maloney’s, a co-founder of GrubHub, the online food takeout service] advice for start-up owners who are considering one is to look at the people involved. Ms. Smith recommends examining the kind of experienced entrepreneurs the accelerator works with and how much one-on-one advising is offered.

“The rankings of Seed-DB, which keeps track of such programs, also offers a guide to entrepreneurs looking for accelerators.

Not all would-be start-ups can get in. Most programs have a competitive selection process. At New Venture Challenge, for example, two-thirds of those who apply do not make the final cut. Accelerators affiliated with business schools typically require participants to be enrolled students.”

The New York Times article added that, “Above all, experts advised, make sure the support network of the accelerator is going to work with your personality and business model. Some may be too aggressive, while others provide only meager guidance.”

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