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Posts Tagged ‘accelerator’

Accelerator Driven Treatment of Nuclear Waste

September 24th, 2012 09:21 admin View Comments

Science

quax writes “In the wake of the Fukushima disaster the nuclear industry again faces massive opposition. Germany even decided to abandon nuclear energy altogether and the future of the industry is under a cloud of uncertainty in Japan. But one thing seems to be here to stay for a very, very long time: The radioactive waste that has half-lives measured in thousands of years. But there is a technology under development in Belgium that could change all this: A sub-critical reactor design, driven by a particle accelerator that can transmute the nuclear waste into something that goes away within about two hundred years. Could this lead to a revival of the nuclear industry and the reprocessing of spend reactor fuel?”

Source: Accelerator Driven Treatment of Nuclear Waste

Neutrino-Powered Financial Trading In Our Future?

August 4th, 2012 08:20 admin View Comments

The Almighty Buck

An anonymous reader writes “In a new feature on the future of high-frequency trading, Wired suggests that neutrino-powered financial trading systems may be coming soon, which would enable extremely low-latency information to be transmitted directly through the center of the Earth between major financial exchanges. If finance becomes the killer app for neutrino communication technology, it may ultimately make Neutrino SETI feasible. Quoting: ‘It is only a matter of time, perhaps a few decades, says Alexander Wissner-Gross, a Harvard physicist, before some hedge fund decides it needs a particle accelerator to generate neutrinos, and then everyone will want one. Yes, they travel slower than light, but they indisputably can tunnel through the earth, cutting thousands of miles off an intercontinental message. And just a few days before the Battle of the Quants, right before the bad news about faster-than-light neutrinos, researchers announced they had sent a message by neutrino from the Fermilab accelerator in Chicago to a detector a kilometer away. According to Dan Stancil of North Carolina State University, the signal traveled at “very close to” the speed of light. Unfortunately, the data rate was only about 0.1 bits per second, meaning it would be useless for much more than sending a yes/no signal. “With the right modulation scheme, this could be increased by at least one or two orders of magnitude,” Stancil said, adding “I don’t know of a compelling commercial application.” But we’ve all heard the (apocryphal) story that Thomas J. Watson of IBM predicted “a world market for maybe five computers.”‘”

Source: Neutrino-Powered Financial Trading In Our Future?

Android 4 Coming To the Raspberry Pi

August 1st, 2012 08:24 admin View Comments

Android

SmartAboutThings writes “Raspberry Pi … might be getting a functional Android port real soon. According to a post on their official blog, they have managed to port almost all the basic functions of Android 4.0 on Raspberry Pi, besides audio support. This comes after the Raspbian OS has been released for Raspberry Pi, and it promises to be 40% faster.” For anyone hoping for source to the graphics accelerator, you’re still out of luck: everything video related is still implemented using a blob.

Source: Android 4 Coming To the Raspberry Pi

Why an Accelerator Could Be Right for Your Startup

July 2nd, 2012 07:00 admin View Comments

Although there is some debate on whether or not startup accelerators really turn out the success stories they promise, new accelerators are popping up all over, and startup entrepreneurs are clamoring to get in to one.

So, just how hard is it to get accepted by an accelerator? Is the application process onerous? Is it even worth the effort?

To find out, I talked to a few startup entrepreneurs about their accelerator experiences.

Kyle Judah Kyle Judah and his partner Jason Woodward started their online venture, RecoVend, in August 2011 after seeing how inefficient, offline and non-collaborative the buying process was at colleges and universities. They created a streamlined platform for collaborative purchases for products and services for post-secondary schools.

As first-time entrepreneurs, the RecoVend founders knew they would need lots of mentoring to avoid the pitfalls in the early stages of a startup. “Applying to a startup accelerator helped us gain access to incredible mentors — entrepreneurs, investors, community members — who had all been there and done that before us, and helped us realize what we need to do to build and grow a successful company,” says Judah.

Straightforward Applications

Judah and Woodward applied to the Betaspring startup accelerator in Providence, Rhode Island, after meeting the accelerator’s partners while participating in a startup pitch contest held at Babson College. “The application was fairly straightforward, just a Web application where you answer some questions about the founders, the company, the idea and your progress to date,” explains Judah. “They asked us to include some short videos talking about [ourselves] and the product. Once we applied, we were asked to come to the Betaspring Experience Day event, where we got to hear talks from some incredible Betaspring mentors.”

At the event, the founders had their first interview with a Betaspring partner and discussed the changes they were making to their product. They were asked back for a second, more in-depth interview with the other partners. Then came a final round of interviews where “they spent an hour doing a really deep dive into our product, vision and progress,” recalls Judah. “We were informed of our selection for the spring class the day before Christmas – the perfect gift!”

Impressing the Judges

If you live near St. Louis, Missouri, you might take a look at Arch Grants, a startup accelerator that hopes to create a vibrant startup culture in the city, and also offers startup funding in the form of grants. Through a business plan competition, Arch Grants selects promising startups to receive $50,000. Many startup entrepreneurs are curious about what the judges at these competitions look for.

Brad Pittenger, the CEO of IT solutions provider XIOLINK, reviewed more than a dozen business plans as a recent Arch Grants judge. He says he focused his review primarily on the management team (Did the team members have experience that made them appropriate for the venture?); the concept (Does it make sense? Is it innovative?); and the presentation of ideas (Were they organized? Succinct? Did they understand the marketplace?). Of the 420 applicants from 11 different countries, 15 winners were chosen and awarded $50,000 each.

i/o Ventures, located in San Francisco, is an early stage startup program that focuses heavily on mentorship, and works closely with startup entrepreneurs from product launch to the next stage of company development. Participants get a chance to work alongside high-profile entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley. i/o has two classes per year and accepts five companies per class; applications for the fall sessions can be found at ventures.io/apply.

Relocating Can Be a Requirement

Once a startup is accepted, the first step is moving the team to the Bay Area. “We require our teams to be in or near San Francisco to take full advantage of all the program has to offer,” says i/o’s Cory Mikell. After an orientation, where the startups hear a very candid look at what it’s really like to run a startup from industry veterans, “the next three months will be a whirlwind of building the product, constantly iterating and weekly office hours,” says Mikell. “Mentors work one-on-one with all of the teams throughout the program, onsite and offsite.”

Fervent Testimonials

Is it worthwhile to join an accelerator? “Hands down, Betaspring was the best thing we could have done for our company,” says RecoVend’s Judah. “We have come so far, both personally and professionally, in such a short time, and the progress we made while in the program has put RecoVend on a totally different trajectory. We’re now working with over 10 colleges, including some of the most elite in the country. We’ve met our investors, advisors and mentors all through the Betaspring network.”

Judah believes one of the greatest benefits of an accelerator program is the sense of community you gain from being around intelligent, ambitious peers who are at the same stage of their business as you are.

That’s not to say it’s easy.

“It is a full-time commitment over three months – we were probably working 80 to 100 hours a week – so if you aren’t willing to do what it takes and make the investment of time and energy, then it isn’t an experience for you,” cautions Judah. “If you can commit to it, do it! You’ll see huge returns on your investment of time and energy.”

Source: Why an Accelerator Could Be Right for Your Startup

Is There a Better Way to Evaluate Startup Accelerators?

June 22nd, 2012 06:30 admin View Comments

This guest post comes in response to Tim Devaney and Tom Stein’s ReadWriteStart post, “Startup Accelerator Fail: Most Graduates Go Nowhere,” one of our most buzzworthy stories this week.

The emergence of accelerators has been vital to spurring innovation and entrepreneurship over the last several years, and their continued expansion is essential to creating companies, jobs and market competitiveness. In evaluating the “success” of accelerators, it’s important to consider a range of variables and not focus solely on the number of exits or whether their graduates raise money.

Guest author Arie Abecassis is co-founder of AppStori, a crowdfunding startup for entrepreneurs of mobile apps, and a Venture Partner at DreamIt Ventures. He’s been actively involved in the New York tech community as an entrepreneur and investor, and currently sits on the boards of SeatGeek, Adaptly and BiznessApps.

As the capital markets have evolved in the last several years, accelerators have taken on an important role in attracting, qualifying and supporting innovative startups that may otherwise have a difficult time getting noticed by potential users, partners and investors. One can readily make the argument that the rapid expansion of these programs has been appropriate, as market disruptions caused by technology are creating real opportunities to better serve businesses and consumers.

Startup Accelerator Fail: Most Graduates Go Nowhere” argues that most startup accelerators are failures because very few of their graduates go on to raise venture capital or stage successful exits. But those metrics don’t tell the whole story.

Startup Exits Are Great, but There Are Other Positive Outcomes

Many ventures that work their way through accelerator programs create value in other ways. They can serve as a stepping stone to the next venture, they can lead to finding jobs at other organizations that can exploit the same product knowledge or expertise, or they can remain bootstrapped until they get the value proposition or business model right (what, no funding?). Furthermore, most accelerators have cropped up in the last couple of years, which makes exits a questionable metric, given that it takes four to six years for the average M&A exit, and eight to 10 years for the average IPO.

Is the “Quality Gap” of Accelerators Reality or Perception?

Top-tier accelerator programs such as YCombinator, TechStars and DreamIt (disclaimer: I’m a venture partner) have done an incredible job of building an impressive group of portfolio companies. They have been great role models for the industry at large, but a bit more perspective is required to fully appreciate how broadly value creation is, and will be, playing out. Older programs have the benefit of having more companies in their portfolio as well as greater maturation for these companies. Since the majority of programs have surfaced in the last 24 months, it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. In addition, as accelerators build their brands and market themselves more effectively, they will be able to attract their share of the talent pool. How awesome is it that we’ve seen programs like the Ark Challenge pop up, where the focus is to retain the local talent and leverage competence in areas such as logistics and retail?

Given the Objectives of Accelerators, How Do We Measure ROI?

While achieving ROI is certainly an objective for accelerators and is important in assuring sustainability, there are other objectives that drive their formation as well. Typically, local entrepreneurs are catalysts in funding and operating a program, in large part because of their community ties, as well as their interest in “giving back.” So the ROI is not purely economic. That said, there’s increased interest on the part of institutions – including corporations, venture firms and hedge funds – to explore how they can get more involved with these startups on the ground floor.

The next several years will be very exciting for accelerator programs, and they are likely to be standard fare across many more geographies and industries. Like the gold rush of the 1800s, the early settlers have seen early returns. But make no mistake about it, there’s lots more gold in them hills.

Join in on the great conversation around these issues that the original post sparked on Hacker News.

Source: Is There a Better Way to Evaluate Startup Accelerators?

Startup Accelerator Fail: Most Graduates Go Nowhere

June 21st, 2012 06:01 admin View Comments

Startup accelerators continue to grow in popularity. There are now more than 200 around the world attracting twice as many applicants as they did just two years ago. But there’s a dirty little secet: A lot of accelerators are just spinning their wheels.

Last year, Aziz Gilani, a director at Houston venture capital firm DFJ Mercury, ran a study of 29 North American accelerators for the Kauffman Fellows Program. He found that 45% of them produced not a single graduate who went on to raise venture funding.

Aziz Ahmed Gilani Not Enough Exits to Evaluate

But wait, it gets worse. The original goal of Gilani’s study was to evaluate accelerators based on the number of exits achieved by their graduates. That aim proved to be “delusional,” he says. “There were not enough exits to evaluate. The only two accelerators that had any meaningful exits were Y Combinator and TechStars.”

But wait, it gets worse. Hoping to find some standard by which to judge accelerators, Gilani added a third criterion, VC perceptions. His team assembled a panel of 10 VCs and asked them a series of questions. Have you heard of this accelerator? Would you invest in a startup from its program? Again, he came up empty. “A good chunk of accelerators did not register on any of the criteria,” Gilani says.

So he added more criteria, including the amount of equity an accelerator takes and the size of its alumni network. Finally he had enough data to come up with a ranking. At the top: TechStars, Y Combinator and Excelerate Labs. (Disclosure: Gilani’s firm is an investor in TechStars and Excelerate.)

An Accelerator Quality Gap

“Rather than say there are too many programs, I would say there is a quality gap,” Gilani says. “Some accelerators are run by experienced entrepreneurs who have deep ties to funding sources and have sold companies before. And those programs have done very well.”

Here’s how accelerators typically work. They run 12-week programs to get startups quickly from concept to product. They offer seed money and mentoring in exchange for equity, normally about 7%. Programs culminate in a demo day, during which graduates pitch their startups to investors.

“Experienced entrepreneurs who can get funding on their own have to question whether it’s worth giving up 7% equity to join one of these programs,” Gilani says. “If you’ve never done a startup before, I think a top program is a no-brainer. If you can get in, you should do it.” (TechStars and Y Combinator typically sift through some 1,500 applications for a handful of spots each session.)

Three Questions for the Second Tier

But what about a second-tier or third-tier accelerator? “When you’re a young startup and you don’t have a lot of cash, you have one currency, your equity,” Gilani says. “So treat an accelerator like any other service provider. Be rigorous in your diligence. Or make the decision not to join one.”

Ask three questions of your accelerator:

  1. Will it help you get follow-on funding?
  2. Will it help you form partnerships with other companies or accelerate your growth?
  3. Does it have proven mentors who will help you get traction?

If the answers are no, it’s probably best to steer your startup in another direction.

Niche Focus

Gilani expects the accelerator trend to move toward industry-focused programs – an accelerator for the cloud, for example, or energy – and he says smart startups will gravitate to accelerators with expertise in their target field.

Avoid those accelerators that have been established recently with a “spray and pray” strategy to graduate a lot of startups and hope one of them hits it big. The best accelerators know their business takes more careful nurturing.

“You could say this has been a gold rush with no gold,” Gilani says. “It takes years for companies to get traction and get an exit, so if you’re trying to optimize for making money now you’ll make some pretty terrible decisions. I would be very wary of any accelerator that thinks it will make money in the short term.”

Source: Startup Accelerator Fail: Most Graduates Go Nowhere

New Startups Pitch In Berlin At HackFwd Build Event [TCTV]

December 23rd, 2011 12:45 admin View Comments

HackFwd, the pan-European accelerator created by Lars Hinrichs, the founder of LinkedIn competitor XING, recently held its open PitchInBerlin session, where startups are invited to enter the programme. It’s a sign that HackFwd, one of the few accelerators in Europe to stress the need for technical co-founders, is opening up to new teams. I went to the event in Berlin and interviewed all the startups pitching on the day, as you’ll see in the below video.

We’ve covered how HackFwd works before in this interview with Hinrichs but it’s clear now that their HackFwd “Build” events, held four times a year, are becoming mini conferences, with several key European players attending and a few international ‘stars’ of the tech scene, including most recently Om Malik of GigaOm. Previously held at other locations, they will now be held always in Berlin, as was the previous Build event in October, which we reported on here.

Source: New Startups Pitch In Berlin At HackFwd Build Event [TCTV]

Microsoft To Back Kinect-Based Startups

November 20th, 2011 11:50 admin View Comments

Businesses

angry tapir writes “Microsoft has announced a program designed to help 10 developers or startups launch businesses around products for Kinect, the controller that senses motion and voice. Developers with Kinect applications for the Xbox or Windows are invited to apply to the Kinect Accelerator program, even though Microsoft does not yet allow the sale of products based on Kinect for Windows.”

Source: Microsoft To Back Kinect-Based Startups

The Sandpit Emerges As Startup ‘Sales Accelerator’, Puts $0.8m Into SoDash

July 5th, 2011 07:04 admin View Comments

The Sandpit, a new London-based “sales accelerator” for new technologies, says it is taking a 25% stake for “up to £500,000″ over the next two years in SoDash, a web-based tool that helps organisations to manage their activity on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Sandpit has an option to purchase a further chunk and also has the exclusive commercial rights to the product, enabling the tech team to focus on development. SoDash is a spin-out from Artificial Intelligence specialists Winterwell.

But who are these Sandpit guys?

Coming out of London, The Sandpit is a new kind of tech startup investment vehicle formed by serial entrepreneur Simon Campbell, formerly CEO of Viapost. He bills it as a form of early stage VC/incubator. It takes 10-30% of a company, wraps sales and marketing around it, and takes it to market – so this is quite a bit different from a normal Seed or VC deal.

But let’s take a look at the issue this ‘sales accelerator’ is addressing.

You are familiar with the story. An amazing hacker engineer creates a great product… which then fails miserably to get any traction because they don’t have the commercial skills to market it or perhaps even sell the product into other companies that might buy the service and create a revenue stream. Ad to that the process of trying to raise venture backing, which is extremely time consuming, and you have a recipe for disaster. In an ideal world they find co-founders who can do all that stuff. But this often doesn’t happen, and the product misses out on its day in the sun.

What Campbell has done has created, if you like, a sales and marketing accelerator for tech companies allowing the tech founders to focus on the product, cover some costs and put marketing around the product to generate real revenues – instead of trying to go fundraising immediately. Having an income – and let’s not forget that even Saul Klein of Index Ventures once said “customers are your best form of financing” – means the startup can either grow without needing investment or get a much higher valuation when it does.

SoDash’s early development was supported by the Scottish Enterprise’s SMART:Scotland programme, and by the University of Edinburgh’s EPIS programme. The technical team is staffed by former AI researchers from the University of Edinburgh.

Source: The Sandpit Emerges As Startup ‘Sales Accelerator’, Puts $0.8m Into SoDash

GammaRebels Aims To Be The YCombinator For Central Europe

July 4th, 2011 07:18 admin View Comments

As we’ve said before, there is a veritable explosion of private tech accelerator programmes springing up all over Europe. The latest to join the wave is GammaRebels, a new program based in Warsaw, but aiming to attract international startups, with the focus on CEE (Central and Eastern Europe).

What makes this worthy of note is that the people involved have been stalwart startups for the last few years. Most notably is Chris Kowalczyk, who was previously a cofounder with Codility, consults with UbikBC.pl, knows all the Seeedcamp guys and is a referrer at HackFwd.com. In addition there is Piotr Sienkiewicz, who was the the cofounder of the first commercial software distributor in Poland, and Kamila Sidor, the lead organizer of first Startup Weekend in Poland. The official language for the programme will be English, not Polish etc.

Here’s the gen on the programme:

The accelerator offers a predefined equity investment of up to €5,000 (PLN20,000) in exchange for 10% equity, mentoring support and office space during the program. This is a low stake and a high percentage compared to Springboard in the UK and Seedcamp, but then the costs in Poland are lower.

The three month programme kicks off on 1st August and wraps at the end of October with a Demo Day in Warsaw, although some organised pitch sessions may take place in parallel with local events like to EPS in Cologne or E-nnovation in Poznań).

Mentors are being drawn from C-level execs, often from country managers of the likes of Intel in Poland – there is a lot of exec and CEO talent in these countries that often doesn’t drift towards Western Europe much. Something to take note of.

People called “liason mentors”, who run accelerator programs in various countries will also be involved, including David Bizer from HackFWD, Germany; Jon Bradford of Springboard in the UK; Alex Farcet of Startup Bootcamp; and Paul Bragiel – v/o Ventures, in the USA.

“We believe that cooperation among accelerator programs makes startups ecosystem more effective and is very much beneficial for the startups in the program” Kowalczyk tells me. Smart move.

Why Warsaw? Well, there’s a large pool of technical talent, graphic designers and marketing specialists are a lot cheaper than in London, and the cost of living is also cheaper than London – although it’s on par with Berlin…

Source: GammaRebels Aims To Be The YCombinator For Central Europe