If you or your team have a great idea for a startup venture, and you’re searching for the best path to launch, we have good news. Yesterday, Connecticut Innovations (C.I.), the state’s investment entity, announced that it would conduct its accelerator program again this fall. (See C.I.’s press release here.)
This will be the second cycle of the program; in the spring of 2012, C.I. announced the TechStartSM accelerator program for startup teams (a program similar to TechStars and Y Combinator) as a way to help Connecticut entrepreneurs and ventures thrive. If you’re not currently in Connecticut, the program might just be a reason to move and set up shop here.
Why? What’s An Accelerator?
Every startup begins as an idea in the minds of one or more people. And although the paths that the idea can take are probably unlimited, turning an idea into a successful product or service is generally easier with capital, strategic mentoring, and access to resources.
For different reasons at different times, people and organizations who care about how ventures start and how to improve the venture’s probability of success have come up with various solutions for entrepreneurial teams. Along the way, tools like venture funds, business incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces have sprouted up.
So how does an accelerator help an entrepreneur?
A good accelerator does more than just provide capital – it increases your speed and probability of success. An accelerator usually involves: a) an investment in the team by the sponsoring firm, b) intense, structured mentoring, c) a specific timeframe, often 10-12 weeks, and d) a process which embeds tests and challenges to help the startup prove itself. So, while “the unaccelerated” might very well make the same progress in 10 weeks, ventures taking part in an accelerator have more resources, structure, and are under more positive pressure to make significant progress within the same time period. The risk of getting derailed, taking absolutely the wrong path, stalling out, or losing interest is reduced.
And, of course, being selected for, and graduating from an accelerator brings the venture the elusive advantage of visibility, prestige, and credibility when approaching investors after graduation.
It’s important to note that different accelerators operate differently – TechStars emphasizes colocation, smaller class sizes, and mentor-startup chemistry, while YCombinator ventures work outside the accelerator space, are part of larger class sizes, and access mentors via office hours.
How Does TechStartSM Work? Where Can I Apply?
The first class of TechStartSM wrapped up at the end of May, with teams presenting to an audience of investors in New Haven. Connecticut Innovations has published video of the presentations on its YouTube Channel, so you can get a sense of the teams which presented, and the types of ideas represented.
The TechStart site provides a general outline of the eligibility requirements and the benefits of the program. The program is open to “Connecticut-based entrepreneurial teams,” will make up to $25,000 available to each team (personal guarantees not required), and will require a full-time commitment during the program.
In terms of other benefits, the program stresses mentor resources, pro-bono service providers, education on fund-raising, interaction with fellow entrepreneurs, and guest speakers.
In its press release, CI indicates that the program will be held in New Haven again for this cycle, and that the program schedule will run from mid-September through mid-December:
- Applications Open – June 15
- Early Application Deadline – August 1 (for additional consideration)
- Application Deadline – August 15 (5:00 p.m., no exceptions)
- Finalist Presentations – August 29
- Notification of Selection – Early September
- TechStart Accelerator Program Begins – September 17
- TechStart Accelerator Program Concludes/Teams Pitch to Investors – Mid-December
If you’re interested in participating, applications are open now. [Apply Here]