Business accelerators like Y Combinator and TechStars have come to occupy a critical geography in the tech landscape, and today two professors are announcing the results of their survey to determine which ones have come out on top at South By Southwest.
“The goal of the seed accelerator rankings project is to start a larger conversation about the accelerator phenomenon, its effects and its prospects for the future,” according to a presentation by Professor Yael Hochberg, a faculty member at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Read more in TechCrunch.
I think it is fair to say, AlphaLab operates at a high level of organized chaos. While we are busy working with our companies, recruiting for the next cycle, hosting community events, building our mentor network, and interacting with one of our 60+ alumni companies, we are constantly focused on the core objective, which is to equip entrepreneurs with the tools they need to build businesses. Some elements of our 20-week program are relatively straightforward – funding, office space (and lots of free food), access to world-class mentors, and a growing number of dedicated AlphaLab alumni and investors. But others are more subtle, like our educational sessions and programming. Kicking off the 12th cycle, we were excited to hit the ground running and wanted to be sure our calendar was teed up to deliver.
Founded in 2008, and one of only 10 accelerators worldwide, our program development has been organic; informed by market trends, specific company needs, and alumni feedback. But with a handful of companies in different markets, various stages of growth, and driving hard towards product/market fit, commonality isn’t always obvious. Furthermore, our companies’ time is valuable, so programming is limited to 2 events per week and scheduled around convenience (lunch, happy hour, etc.) Within those constraints, we asked ourselves: How can we deliver the most value? And here is what we came up with:
Week 1-2: Nuts & Bolts of running a company
During this time we provide an orientation of the AlphaLab program, introduce our companies to their mentors, and host a number of foundational education sessions which cover topics like mentor management, accounting, LEAN startup principles, and agile development.
Week 3-6: Building a Product People Love
The main objective of this piece of the program is to understand key components of product development including design, testing, and customer engagement. We rely on our alumni and mentors to lead sessions and provide their candid perspectives on building an awesome product.
Week 7-11: Business Model & Acquiring Customers *we are here (2/25/2014)
During this time we are still focusing on customer engagement (so important), customer acquisition/sales, and building a business model that scales and sets the company up for success.
Week 12-16: Raising $$$/ Finance
Our programming objectives during this time include understanding fundraising basics, approaching angel investors, and building a sound financial model. We heavily lean on the investment community to guide companies on these matters and host a number of angel/VC office hours, and an angel investor panel.
Week 17-20: Demo Day & Life after AlphaLab
Last few weeks we keep the calendar wide open to allow companies to focus on their business and prep for Demo Day. For this cycle we will be hosting a “Life after AlphaLab” panel led by our alumni and all other events will be squarely focused on preparing for Demo Day!
Our Summer/Fall 2014 application recently opened and closes April 4th. We will be hosting a number of events to introduce the AlphaLab program and the many benefits we provide. During our open app times, one of the more common inquiries we receive from serious candidates is to describe a day in the life of an AlphaLab company. Stay tuned for a series of “Day in the Life” posts over the upcoming weeks!
1 in 3 shoes bought online are returned, and when Shoefitr started as an AlphaLab company in 2010, they set out to fix that using 3D scanners.
Since then, the company has grown:
- From no traffic to an application that is served 30 times / second, all day, every day
- From scanning shoes in a South Side apartment to managing a distributed 24/7 scanning process at 5 warehouses in 3 countries.
- From a founding team of 3 to a team of 20.
Co-founder and CTO Breck Fresen will discuss the engineering challenges facing Shoefitr and lessons learned about everything from algorithm development to managing AWS infrastructure.
Please join us on Thursday, March 13th. RSVP as space is limited.
I am pleased and excited to announce that Aaron Tainter has moved back to Pittsburgh to join Innovation Works as AlphaLab Program Manager. Aaron has been actively involved with AlphaLab beginning with our first class six years ago and his background and venture capital experience will provide tremendous value to the AlphaLab companies.
During his 5 years at Meakem Becker Venture Capital, Aaron developed strong expertise in identifying and working with early stage Internet/software companies across the country. He is skilled in assessing both B2C and B2B business models, including more complex marketplace models and developing financial models for early stage startups. An alumnus of CMU’s Tepper School of Business, Aaron also brings operations experience from Bristol Myers Squibb. Aaron is excited about the growth of the Pittsburgh ecosystem during the past several years and also has an understanding of the national landscape that our companies play in.
Aaron’s connection with the Pittsburgh startup community also includes the Open Coffee Club Pittsburgh which has become a regular event at AlphaLab. A little known fact is that Aaron and Alan Veeck brought the Open Coffee Club model to Pittsburgh in 2007; I remember going to the first coffee club at Crazy Mocha in Sewickley where six of us talked about startups over a coffee table. In addition, my introduction to ShowClix founding team came through Aaron who recognized Josh and Lynsie’s talent and referred the company as a high-potential seed investment for Innovation Works.
Please join me in welcoming Aaron back to Pittsburgh and come meet him tomorrow, February 6th, at Open Coffee Club Pittsburgh.
Twice a year, Innovation Works opens its doors and rolls up its sleeves to a group of promising entrepreneurs who receive $25,000 in funding, hands-on guidance from industry mentors and free office space from which to work on the South Side.
What a difference 20 weeks can make in the growth of these fledging companies.
Read more on POPCity.