IBM doing seed-stage acceleration the right way: IBM SmartCamp

Posted: May 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Back in April, I posted about the IBM SmartCamp initiative taking place this year. I recently connected with Eric Apse, the IBM Venture Capital Group partner for the Boston area, who is leading the program in that city, to learn more about the initiative. IBM SmartCamp will run on June 3rd in Boston. Dates for other cities are on the program’s blog.

In short, it’s one of the most innovative efforts that I’ve heard of to align startups with a larger enterprise. IBM has really thought this one through. While there’s certainly a lot of potential upside to IBM if it helps accelerate high potential startups through this program, the success of the program is also being measured from the participating startups’ perspectives, so IBM has their priorities in order.

Eric provided some details on how the program will work. SmartCamp is being run in select cities with strong entrepreneurial communities. In each city, there is a one-day program, bringing the selected startups together with a number of mentors and advisors. The program is structured interaction with the 25 mentors – 45 minute rotations with 5 mentors per rotation. Then at 3pm, the companies will present in a competition format. (The company that wins from each city will be invited to Dublin, Ireland, for a global competition in November – the winner there is deemed the world’s ‘smartest startup’.) Then following each of the city program days, the companies get 12 weeks of mentoring through IBM – TechStars will be helping to offer mentoring in Boston, Seedcamp in Europe.

During the mentoring, IBM places the startups in contact with internal connections that are aligned with the companies. The goal of these interactions is focused on helping the startups figure out the right go-to-market strategy. Internally, IBM is also putting together a cross-discipline board of Smarter Planet stakeholders to review the ventures and make decisions on which startups align with IBM’s initiatives and thus further partnerships should be made.

I asked Eric about how SmartCamp is being measured by IBM. After all, most business initiatives are measured by specific metrics and I was curious what IBM would be using to determine whether SmartCamp had been an effective investment. Eric explained that there were no specific metrics for SmartCamp’s success. Instead, IBM is more focused on what kinds of success IBM can drive from the program, whether that success is funding for a participating company, a partnership with IBM, or another kind of success for a participating venture. Certainly IBM is keeping a close eye on the ventures to figure out which would be best for IBM to partner with or acquire, but they’re taking a very long-term view on the success of the initiative, more around on how IBM can access these markets through startup partners over the long term.

Eric said that this is very similar to how IBM’s Venture Capital initiative has been running for over 10 years, taking a milestone-based approach towards measuring its success.

On the whole, I was extremely impressed by what I learned about IBM’s SmartCamp initiative. The relationships with the mentoring programs (i.e. TechStars, Seedcamp), give the participating ventures important opportunities to get advice and feedback, in addition to powerful networks. And the internal connections to Smarter Planet stakeholders will be important for the participating companies, as well. But, I think the most telling aspect of the program is how it is being measured by IBM.

Instead of the typical corporate world, quarterly management dashboard, IBM is taking the right view on the program. Seed-stage acceleration isn’t something that works on Wall Street’s calendar – it takes time, and there are many twists and turns in the road, as I’ve learned first-hand. But, over the long term, you can build a program that helps convert ideas into sustainable ventures and transformative products with the right mentors, connections, and process. It appears that IBM has put a lot of thought into what kind of process would be most effective – not only for Big Blue, but also for the participating companies. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs are going to find that hugely valuable for their ventures.

IBM’s startup accelerator: IBM Smartcamp

Posted: April 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

As a former IBMer, I’m always interested in the latest news on what Big Blue is working on. When the press release discusses ways to inspire innovation, I always make it a priority to read through it. Recently, one of my Google Alerts dug up a new article on a new global program to encourage entrepreneurship that IBM is launching…

IBM is getting into the accelerator space with IBM Smartcamp, part of the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program – they’re looking to provide mentoring to startups that have less than $1m in revenue and align with their “smarter planet” initiative. This is a global program that will be run in 7 cities, with one company selected from each city to travel to Dublin in November. (The list of companies selected in 2009 is on the program’s Ireland blog.)

While IBM isn’t providing funding at this time, the fact that they will connect the startups with mentors inside the company could be pivotal for the right venture.  Further coverage here in the Boston Business Journal and in the NY Times.

It’s good to see Big Blue acknowledging that accelerators are an effective way of supporting innovation in focused areas of interest.  With the profile that IBM is giving to this initiative and the applications that this should attract, I expect the program to be transformative for the startups selected to participate.

Apply via the SeedCamp site:

Help for Startups! – A semi-complete list of startup accelerator programs

Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , , , , , | 209 Comments »

This is a post I’ve had a running draft of for some time. I’m happy to be getting it out of my draft bin and out onto the web!

Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital spoke at DreamIt Ventures this summer. During his talk, Josh mentioned how he expects to see an increasing number of DreamIt/TechStars/Y Combinator-style locally-focused “seed stage startup accelerator” programs in the coming years.

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Between the research that led to the founding of the Lion Launch Pad at Penn State and my research into startup accelerator programs before joining DreamIt Ventures this summer, I’ve talked with / read about a number of programs.

But I wasn’t really sure how many programs were out there, nor have I been able to find a comprehensive list anywhere else. The programs certainly don’t all operate in the same fashion, so there is a lot of diversity as far as terms and offerings, but in general, I think everyone can agree that it’s a good thing for startups that so many are taking an interest around the globe in helping early stage ventures get off the group and take flight.

So, here is the list I’ve been compiling – I’m sure I’m forgetting a few – what else is out there?

Global Seed-Stage Startup Accelerators

  1. Ann Arbor, MI – SPARK Business Accelerator
  2. Atlanta, GA – Shotput Ventures
  3. Athens, Greece – OpenFund
  4. Austin, TX – Capital Factory
  5. Austin, TX – TechRanch Austin
  6. Bangalore, India – iAccelerator
  7. Bangalore, India – The Morpheus (formerly Morpheus Venture Partners –
  8. Bangalore, India – Upstart.in
  9. Barcelona, Spain – SeedRocket
  10. Belfast, Northern Ireland – StartVI (Start 6)
  11. Berkley, CA – Berkley Ventures
  12. Bloomington, IN – Sproutbox
  13. Boulder, CO / Boston, MA / Seattle, WA – TechStars
  14. Boston, MA and other cities – IBM Smartcamp
  15. Boston, MA – Start@Spark
  16. Cambridge, UK – Springboard
  17. Champaign, IL – iVentures10
  18. Chicago, IL – Excelerate Labs
  19. China – Innovation Works
  20. Copenhagen, Denmark – Startupbootcamp
  21. Dalian, China – China Accelerator
  22. Dallas, TX – Tech Wildcatters
  23. Detroit, MI – Bizdom U
  24. Dublin, Ireland – NDRC’s Launch Pad
  25. England – The Difference Engine
  26. Greenville, SC – NextStart
  27. Hamburg, Germany – HackFwd
  28. Houston, TX – Houston Tech Center
  29. Italy – H-Farm
  30. Italy – Working Capital
  31. Jordan – Oasis 500 (launching in August – no specific site yet)
  32. Lexington, MA / Menlo Park, CA – Summer@Highland Capital
  33. Lexington, KY – The Awesome Inc. Experience
  34. Limerick, Ireland – The Greenhouse
  35. Lisbon, Portugal – Maverick/SeedCapital
  36. London, UK – Seedcamp
  37. Los Angeles, CA – LaunchPadLA
  38. Madrid, Spain – Tetuan Valley Startup School
  39. Menlo Park, CA – Lightspeed Venture Partners Summer Grants
  40. Montreal, Ca – BOLIDEA
  41. Montreal, Ca – Flow Ventures Accelerator Program
  42. Montreal, Ca – Montreal Startup
  43. Mountain View, CA – Y Combinator
  44. Nashville, TN – JumpStart Foundry
  45. New York, NY – FirstGrowth Venture Network
  46. New York, NY – The Hatchery
  47. New York, NY – NYC SeedStart
  48. Orange County, CA – OCTANe LaunchPad
  49. Orem, Utah – BoomStartup
  50. Phoenix, AZ – Gangplank
  51. Philadelphia, PA – DreamIt Ventures
  52. Philadelphia, PA – Startl – partners with DreamIt Ventures –
  53. Pittsburgh, PA – AlphaLab
  54. Portland, OR – The Portland Ten
  55. Providence, RI – Betaspring
  56. Redwood City, CA – Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs (SVASE) Seed Program
  57. San Francisco, CA – The Start Project
  58. San Diego, CA – Springboard program at CONNECT.org
  59. San Francisco, CA – i/o Ventures
  60. Seattle, WA – Founders Co-op
  61. Silicon Valley – PayPal Startup Accelerator
  62. Singapore – Neoteny Labs
  63. Singapore – Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI)
  64. Sydney, Australia – SeedAccelerator
  65. Taipei, Taiwan – appWorks Ventures Incubator Program
  66. Toronto, Canada – Extreme Venture Partners University
  67. Tokyo, Japan – Open Network Lab
  68. Utah – Startup Utah
  69. Vancouver, Canada – BootupLabs
  70. Washington, D.C. / Durham, NC – LaunchboxDigital
  71. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada – Impact Ventures
  72. Wilmington, DE – BetaFish (on Facebook)
  73. Zeeland, MI – Momentum
  74. Multiple Locations – The Founder Institute
  75. Unknown Location – Youniversity Ventures

    Social Entrepreneurship

  77. Boulder, Colorado – Unreasonable Institute
  78. Philadelphia, PA – GoodCompany Ventures
  79. India – Dasra Social-Impact

    University-Affiliated Startup Accelerator Programs

  81. Finland – Aalto University – Aalto Bootcamp
  82. Arizon State University – Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative -
  83. Babson College – Summer Venture Program (no specific site avail)
  84. Berkeley Entrepreneurship Laboratory
  85. College of the Atlantic – Sustainable Ventures Incubator
  86. Cornell University – eLabs
  87. Couri Hatchery at Syracuse University
  88. Duke University – DUhatch
  89. University of Michigan – RPM10
  90. University of Michigan’s “Techarb” Business Accelerator and
  91. University of North Carolina – Carolina Launch Pad
  92. Penn State University – Lion Launch Pad
  93. University of Pennsylvania - Wharton Venture Initiation Program
  94. RIT Student Business Development Lab (part of the Venture Creations program at RIT
  95. Santa Clara University – Global Social Benefit Incubator
  96. Stanford University – Student Startup Lab
  97. Syracuse University – Start-Up Accelerator
  98. Syracuse Student Sandbox at the Tech Garden
  99. Union College – U-Start
  100. The University of Texas at Austin – Texas Venture Labs
  101. Virginia Tech – DayOne Ventures
  102. University of Waterloo – VeloCity “Dormcubator”
  103. Wayne State University – SmartStart Business Development Program
  104. Yale University – Yale Entrepreneurial Institute / Yale Startups


Other Useful Resources:

  • Map of Seed Accelerator programs around the world: On Google Maps
  • List of Application Deadlines for programs: here


** In the comments, there was a program from Kettering University suggested. I see this program as more of a conventional incubator than what I have come to term a seed stage accelerator program. For this reason, (nothing against the program) I have not included it in the list (there are far too many conventional incubator programs to try to compile a list of those), though if you are in Flint, MI, hopefully the program is able to be of assistance.

Again, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list and there are others out there.  Let us know – where else can startups find help!

Sources: Numerous blog posts and tweets + Jed Christiansen’s dissertation appendix + great tips in the comments! The New York student programs were listed at

Edited: From the comments below and the thread over on Hacker News, there have been some great suggestions for the list. I’ve updated the list with the applicable programs. Further programs added in April 2010. Added IBM Smartcamp. Updated April 22 with program from comments. Updated on April 24 to include deadpool. Updated May 14 to include the additional resources (count at 93). Updated June 11 with new programs (count at 102).

  1. merged with Launchbox Digital in April 2010
  2. Inactive per comment below and their site.