Accelerating Entrepreneurs and Ecosystems: The Seed Accelerator Model
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Recent years have seen the emergence of a new institutional form in the entrepreneurial ecosystem: the seed accelerator. These fixed-term, cohort-based, "boot camps" for startups offer educational and mentorship programs for startup founders, exposing them to wide variety of mentors, including former entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate executives; and culminate in a public pitch event, or "demo day," during which the graduating cohort of startup companies pitch their businesses to a large group of potential investors. In practice, accelerator programs are a combination of previously distinct services or functions that were each individually costly for an entrepreneur to find and obtain. The accelerator approach has been widely adopted by private groups, public and government efforts, and by corporations. While proliferation of accelerators is clearly evident, with worldwide estimates of 3000+ programs in existence, research on the role and efficacy of these programs has been limited. In this article, I provide an introduction to the accelerator model and summarize recent evidence on their effects on the regional entrepreneurial environment.
Many people provided helpful conversations and comments on the research summarized herein. I am particularly indebted to my collaborators at the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, Susan Cohen and Dan Fehder; to Fiona Murray, Scott Stern and the Innovation Initiative at MIT; and to the managers of dozens of accelerator programs in the U.S. and worldwide, all of whom have made invaluable contributions to this research agenda. I am also grateful for the financial support of the Kauffman Foundation. All errors are my own.