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The Benefits of Startup Accelerators

December 29, 2016

Accelerators Are Your Best Bet As Startup Investing Slows, Says GSVlabs CEO

We mainly focus on mobile, big data, edtech, entertainment, and sustainability, which for us is cleantech. By far, our largest sector out of the 170 or so companies in our portfolio is in edtech. That’s our main area of focus in large part due to our parent company GSV Capital, which has a significant amount of investment experience in that area. We run the gamut. We think of mobile and big data as more of horizontals than verticals, which allows us to get into some emerging opportunities, like IoT, FinTech, and digital health. While those aren’t specific areas of focus, we believe we have the expertise to be supportive in those areas.

When it comes to success stories, our model is a little bit different in that the majority of the companies we work with are a little bit further along, in the seed to series A space.  They have some traction coming to us, and we’re the platform that helps them scale their operations and really grow their business.  Some of our companies have come from our Pioneer Accelerator which we run in conjunction with the Google Developers Launchpad, where we are getting involved in the pre-seed area.  Success for those companies is just getting some traction and funding in the door. I recently met with one of the 15 companies that just finished the accelerator and they have already raised over $150K, which we are super excited about. One of the companies in our accelerator did over $100K on Kickstarter. Their wins are a little bit different than the wins of some of our more established companies where we are helping identify their CTO or bring an investor or Board of Directors on board. It varies depending on the stage of the company, but our goal is to sit down with each of them, figure out their next milestone or pain point, and help them move forward.

Our initial objective in the year and a half that I’ve been with GSVlabs is establishing ourselves and setting up the various verticals. We think that some of the bigger successes are probably six to 12 months away. Beyond our work with startups, we are also working with companies like Intel, AT&T, 3M, and JetBlue to accelerate their identification of new technologies and breakthrough startups.

What are the dynamics you’re seeing in the market in the moment in terms of startups, getting funding, and the nature of things right now?

I think that the biggest dynamic change is that startups are needing to show a lot more traction in the market prior to securing seed funding — those dollars you need to get started. We’re trying to help our companies understand whether they are bootstrapping or growth-hacking, learn how they can develop critical mass, help them get pilot programs in place, and identify pre-revenue to try out their product. That’s so critical, because while there is absolutely a lot of money out there for these opportunities, the money is wanting to get in a little bit later. That is why we’re starting to see what would have been series A rounds that are now seed rounds in terms of the amount put in. People are waiting a little longer to put their toe in the water.

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