high-tech accelerators

Growth engines & Intermediaries.


Authored by
Joshua G. Eckblad,
Ph.D. Candidate

Corporate accelerators are one mode of corporate venturing (i.e., collaboration between corporate firms and startups), which is the focus of our research program.

Boulder was my first destination on a 5-week research exploration of corporate venturing and investment syndicate networks in the US during February and March 2017: Boulder (CO), San Francisco (CA), Research Triangle Park (NC), Washington, DC, and New York City (NY).

Boulder, Colorado is a medium-sized city (population 300,000) nestled in a picturesque valley where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. Since 1960, Boulder has nurtured a number of embryonic industries, including organic foods (e.g., Celestial Seasonings), computer storage (e.g., StorageTek, later acquired by Sun Microsystems), missile defense (e.g., Ball Aerospace), biotech (e.g., Amgen biochemistry labs), and more recently Internet firms (too many to list here).

According to the Kauffman Foundation, Boulder also has six times more high-tech startups per capita than the US average. It ranks among the top 20 most productive US metro areas in terms of GDP and unemployment is approximately 5.4 percent, which is two points below the US average (Helm, 2014).

Startup Growth Engines.
Boulder is home to Techstars, a startup accelerator founded in 2006 that combines investment capital with intensive mentorship of a cohort during a 3-month program. Paul Graham launched the first seed accelerator in 2005 (Y Combinator started in Cambridge, Massachusetts and later moved to Silicon Valley). Y Combinator was followed by Techstars, Seedcamp (a startup that I co-founded joined the cohort in 2009), Startupbootcamp, Tech Wildcatters, Boomtown Boulder, and HighTechXL (Eindhoven, Netherlands), among others.

I met David Cohen, a co-founder and managing partner of Techstars on the pre-conference evening. Techstars invests in more than 200 startups a year through their accelerator program — the standard deal is $20K in exchange for 6% equity (plus an optional $100K convertible debt note) with an equity back guarantee.

Intermediation between Corporates & Startups.
Techstars also runs corporate programs to help source external startups that fit with a corporate’s strategic priorities (e.g., Microsoft, Disney, Barclays, Kaplan, Sprint, and R/GA).

Techstars has raised a number of funds that is backed by more than 75 different investors including super angels, venture capitalists, corporate venture capitalists, and various institutional investors such as Morgan Stanley.

Please see
Cohen & Hochberg (2014) for insight into accelerators.