Posts from startup accelerator

FinTech 2012

I've written extensively about the startup accelerator phenomenon. I think it has been transformative for entrepreneurs and VCs and startups in general. We should all take a second and thank Paul Graham for his insight into how to properly construct such a program. Paul is a visionary entrepreneur who has changed the game.

One of the things I am most excited about in the startup accelerator world is the development of "vertical accelerators." We have seen them emerge in healthcare, education, finance, and a number of other sectors. Last year I blogged about the first FinTech Accelerator here in NYC. I watched that group of entrepreneurs go through FinTech last summer, I talked to them at an evening event, and I watched what has happened to those teams after they came out of the program. I was impressed at every stage.

Last week, the second annual FinTech program, FinTech 2012, was announced. Like last year, the secret sauce of this program is the leadership of the CIOs and CTOs of the largest banks and financial services companies:

The chief technology officers and senior technology executives from 12 financial services firms will pick up to six entrepreneurial companies to participate in the Lab, which begins in May 2012. Bank of AmericaBarclays Capital,Citigroup, Credit SuisseDeutsche BankGoldman SachsJPMorgan ChaseMorgan StanleyState Street, and UBSwill be joined this round by American Express and Capital One.

When I talked to the teams that went through last year's program, this was the thing that all of them gushed about. Getting regular access to the highest level technology execs in these institutions was a game changer for most of the teams.

If you have a fintech startup that could benefit from participation in such a program, you should seriously consider FinTech 2012. There's an information session on January 10th and the applications are due on January 18th. Details are here.

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Calling All Fintech Entrepreneurs

The startup accelerator movement continues to gain momentum. And now we are starting to see sector specific startup accelerators. Last year I posted about Startl, which focuses on education entrepreneurs.

And now we've got a Fintech focused accelerator program here in NYC. It is called The FinTech Innovation Lab and it is an annual program runby the New York City Investment Fund and Accenture. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am on the Board of the New York City Invesstment Fund, which is twelve year old investment fund operated by The Partnership For New York City.

The Fintech Innovation Lab is focused on "entrepreneurs and early stage companies that are developing cutting edge technology products targeted at financial services customers."

Here's the cool thing. The customers are participating in this program. The CTOs and CIOs of firms like Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and UBS will be participating in this program.

So not only do you get some funding but you also get mentoring and coaching by your potential customers. If you are an early stage Fintech entrepreneur, it sure seems like a fantastic opportunity.

The program runs from May 2nd to demo day on July 22nd. Applications are DUE SOON, on January 31st. If you want to apply, here is the application form, and here are the details.

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XX Combinator

Tereza, an AVC regular and active community member, wrote a blog post yesterday proposing that someone start XX Combinator, a Y Combinator style startup accelerator focused on women in their 40s.

Here’s the basic argument:

Y Combinator participants are for the most part very young — in their early 20’s. This is not when women would be most inclined. Women who start businesses like to know what they’re doing, and be trained and experienced in it. That takes up our 20’s. We have kids in our 30’s. Our entrepreneurial sweet spot is around age 40. Conventional tech investors are not really into this group and the metrics they look for are really hard for these people to hit. Most of the (few) women’s businesses that go big were funded by friends & family or strategics, not traditional angels and VCs.

She also points out that the Y Combinator program is purposefully focused on hackers and that is not a term often attributed to women. So Tereza proposes that XX Combinator come pre-populated with hackers, kind of like Betaworks is.

XX Combinator is a cute name and makes the point well. But I suspect a different model is required if this were to work. First, it is not so easy for 40 something women to move to silicon valley for three months. Second, if you have a team of hackers in-house, then you are an incubator more than an accelerator program.

But Tereza is right about a bunch of things. First, there aren’t enough women entrepreneurs. There aren’t enough women VCs. There aren’t enough women developers. The startup ecosystem is largely a man’s world and as a result, we see a lot of certain kinds of businesses and not enough of others. People are drawn to scratch an itch. If it is a 20 something developer, then they are scratching a certain kind of itch.

I know what Tereza is working on. I’m not sure if it is cool to talk about it here so I won’t. But it is the kind of idea a women in her 40s would be working on. And it is not an idea a 20 something man would likely work on all by himself.

Tereza is not alone in her evangelism. The Gotham Gal, who talks to and works with a lot of 40 something women entrepreneurs tells me that this group is “breaking out.” She told me about a conference in NYC this fall that she is involved in that is targeted at this group. And she told me last night that TED is working on a conference for women. Brad Feld wrote a great post yesterday about this topic. And he links to an excellent Eric Reis post that also articulates the need for more diversity (especially women) in the startup sector.

So maybe the time is right for an effort to build one or more efforts focused on helping women get started. These startup accelerators need a leader. Y Combinator has Paul Graham and his partner Jessica. Tech Stars has David Cohen and his partner Brad Feld. Seedcamp has Reshma and Saul. Betaworks was started by John Borthwick and Andy Weissman. So we need entrepreneurs to create these efforts, not committees, governments, or companies.

And we need entrepreneurs with a plan to deal with the realities that Tereza lays out. If there are entrepreneurs out there with the idea, the plan, and the passion to do this, please contact me. I’d be happy to help get something like this rolling.

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