8 Startup Accelerators trends and learnings

The last October I attended the annual summit of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), with +70 accelerators around the globe. In just one year a lot of things have changed:

For us, running Orion Startups, like one of the accelerators of GAN, this kind of events add value in several ways, one of the most important, besides knowledge and best practices, is the networking. More than a hundred people, from almost fifteen countries, five continents, and seventy accelerator programs at the same place is like a VIP party for people involved on entrepreneurship.

Well, the first day was surprising, like all the GAN events, they take us to play golf-polo, yes, a new national sport with polo rules but using golf cars. At the same time everybody started to make connections, reach people, knowledge, investors and what ever that add value to your program.

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For me, these are the 8 learnings about startup accelerators (at least what I saw at GAN Summit):

  1. **More universities**.

One year ago, only was two university-accelerator programs at GAN, New Brunswick and we ( Tec de Monterrey ), this year in the first hour I found at least ten programs supported by Universities.

Every university with a different approach, but most of them with strong link with research and innovation areas at the university. Actually, the source or the initiative of the accelerator program comes from those areas, not from entrepreneurship or business departments.

They understand the advantage innovation, patents, prototypes and phd´s compared with the non university programs.

The main focus is the teachers, before students, they convince them, attract them to capitalize they work. Once they convince teachers, they attract students.

The new pre-acceleration programs are growing, stage where they build teams, validate market hypothesis and build prototypes. This stage is important since they are working with “students, not entrepreneurs yet, innovation not products yet”. Is like a kind transition stage.

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2. **Verticals and Niche accelerators**

There are more programs focused on one or two verticals instead of take a lot of industries. Most of them are taking advantage of geographic position, connections or industries where they can have access or influence.

For example, a program based at Milwaukee focused on aviation and aerospace startups, looking for projects around the globe for those industries.

The same is happening for hardware, energy, insurance, art, design, tourism, etc.

3. **Moving to Scale Up instead of Startup**

In the other hand, some of the experimented programs with 3-5 years operating are raising new funds but… they are moving to a scale up stage. I remember the guy from Kryos Ventures saying ” i am here to invest on your graduates…” This programs understood or learn that invest at early stage increase the risk.

Some of them are finding a profitable business on the mature companies, or scale stage startups. The core of this approach is innovation and digitalization of enterprise.

4. **Corporate accelerators**

Big companies are looking for innovation always, they have seen a great opportunity at startups, not only buying startups, building partnerships with accelerators to run corporate batches with specific focus backed by the company. This means access to a lot of resources like people, value chains, suppliers, knowledge and in some cases more funding.

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5. **More money, less startups**

6. **Value for startups**

Every day are more accelerators, the competence for the best startups is getting hard, so the value offered is important when entrepreneurs decide about an accelerator program. At Orion startups, like most of the programs at GAN the value for companies is : Alumni relations, the opportunity to go global, global partnerships, SV connections, High level advisors , Discounts for services, Mentors valuable time, Network, Long term relationship.

A good practice that we are just building is a tool to share resources with companies (playbook, wiki, shared google calendar, library of templates).

7. *Partner with community/ecosystem**

Is important for the programs be involved with the entrepreneurship community or ecosystem, it is an opportunity for branding, deal flow, attract best entrepreneurs and develop the local entrepreneurship community.

Accelerators are hosts of hackathons, startups weekends, community meet ups, and demo days.

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8. **Moving so fast**

At the end, the accelerator programs still being in a global competition for the best startups, so everybody is moving so fast, trying to add more value and attract the best people.

The team is the core of the programs, we need have super heroes collaborating at the programs.

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Topics for another post: what is not working?

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