"The most important role the accelerator program can play is that of the ultimate connector. The community and connections that the accelerator operators, mentors and program professionals offer is critical to the success of the companies."
Name of Accelerator: ETC’S (Emerging Technology Center) Accelerate Baltimore
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
President and Executive Director: Deb Tillett
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.
ETC’s Accelerate Baltimore is in its fifth year. The goal when started was to attract startups and create business and impact for the city of Baltimore. ETC’s core business was basic startup incubation, but in 2012, we added co-working and the accelerator.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
The accelerator cohort operates for four months in a collaborative community of other successful startups and, along with seed stage funding, are offered four additional months (for free) in the ETC incubator program. The program is run by me, formerly an entrepreneur, who knows their journey. We have tried to iterate and innovate our program year on year.
What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
Interestingly, it is getting them to understand the importance of getting the product out there and going after customers. Most accelerator/incubator managers stress the importance of the “investor pitch”. We are starting to pivot to stressing the “sales pitch”. Get the MVP out the door, find the customer and sell hard. Revenue beats investment every time.
What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
I laugh when I say this, but I love their passion and the creativity. I get to tell them all what to do – then I don’t have to do it!!! Seriously, as someone who has been down that journey, I know execution is everything and watching these founders go from idea to implementation and know they’re “doing it” instead of the talking about it, is everything. It is fun to watch the growth over the four month period of time.
Tell us about your success stories; which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
- Allovue was started by a young TFA (Teach for America) woman who had an idea for a startup. She incorporated February 1, 2013 and was chosen for our program February 15, 2013. She taught herself some basic coding and quickly dove head first into the program and now three years later has closed on a $6 million dollar round and has active paying customers in a difficult market segment – Ed Tech.
- PrintLess Plans, a company started by two African American engineers who developed a software/hardware solution for architects and their drawings and plans so they can be delivered electronically to a foldable viewing screen to cut down on waste and errors in the field while on the job. The architectural drawings are updated instantly while on the job site, wirelessly through a smartphone or tablet.
What are the most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
- Will the finite period of time and the seed funding really move the business/idea forward?
- The commitment is full-time and should be viewed as your number one priority during the length of the program.
What else would you like to share?
The most important role the accelerator program can play is that of the ultimate connector. The community and connections that the accelerator operators, mentors and program professionals offer is critical to the success of the companies. Again, I will stress the commitment on the part of the entrepreneur is critical – it truly is all or nothing.
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