But what to do when the idea is raw, unstructured, and in need of assessment and guidance, not to mention resources and skills?
Here comes a tech startup accelerator. It’s a program or even an entire organization that helps startups ideate, validate, establish, boost, or even pivot their product and lead it on an entrepreneurial journey. Typically, an accelerator offers scheduled educational programs, mentorship support, networking, connection with investors, seeding opportunities, and work space.
As for participation charges, there are several models:
- Some accelerators take no fees and are totally no-cost.
- Others take a fixed price for a set period.
- The third option is taking a startup’s equity.
In the context of launching and maintaining tech startups, Atlanta is one of the most advantageous and nurturing cities. We’ve already described Atlanta tech events and hubs to visit. This time we’ll dive deeper into Atlanta’s accelerating ecosystem.
Ideation and pre-seed tech startups acceleratorsBefore a tech startup launches, there’s always an idea to validate and greenlight. There are at least five pre-accelerators in Atlanta for tech startups that will help identify, assess, and sharpen a business plan. If you’re searching for accelerators for a growing company, feel free to skip this section and move to the one about later stages below.
Atlanta Ventures StudioA subdivision of Atlanta Venture, one of the biggest Atlanta’s venturing communities, Atlanta Ventures Studio (or AVS for short) exists to build and launch B2B companies from the ground up. The platform offers a startup community, mentorship and educational programs, coworking space, peer meetings and events, communication with tech startup experts, and financial advice.
Even if you don’t join the AVS, Atlanta Venture is a valuable go-to platform as it provides free helpful tools for the entire entrepreneur journey, such as ROI Calculator Template, a Strategy Plan, a Startup Budgeting Template, and a Social Media Calendar Template.
Example of an ROI calculator provided for freeHow it works. The program exists within a repeatable and continuously strengthened framework. The course starts at creating and verifying a business idea via customer discovery. Later, the Studio Entrepreneur launches the business and runs it as a CEO. Then, the company gets a primary investment to develop an MVP, launch, and leverage a Product/Market fit, as an Atlanta Ventures’ portfolio company.
Participation and Access. All future participants have to do is submit the application form, which also requires classifying the company’s stage and journey. The platform is best suited for fresh entrepreneurs who may have an idea but no assessment on it and no resources to build and launch a company.
The program is the best fit for teams with no idea, teams with a rough idea to be validated, and early-stage startups of tech products, open-source software, and digital marketing campaigns focused on world-changing activities.
Goodie Impact Pre-AcceleratorThe Goodie Impact Pre-Accelerator is an intensive, cohort-based program for tech product founders to help them start a business. It’s usually part-time and basically lasts for three months. It includes workshops, ideation labs, hackathons, and special events. The program also finds and engages volunteer developers, designers, marketers, and coaches to develop ideas into growing and influential enterprises.
Upon graduating from the pre-accelerator, participants obtain a functioning product, landing page, logo, revenue model, and marketing plan to start operating and fundraising.
How it works. A pre-accelerator schedule includes a round of events and workshops aimed at identifying and refining the startup ideas as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
- Impact Co-founder matching - At this stage, industry experts present indications on public challenges, prospect technical and nontechnical candidates meet and discuss establishing teams and apply to the program.
- Ideation - This is a two-part design thinking lab where startups identify particular problems, conduct Customer Discovery, and outline features for their tech product.
- Hackathon for developers - In this 48-hour round hackathon, volunteering programmers enter the startups to transform their prototypes into operating solutions.
- Skill development - In this part, entrepreneurs and experts improve their skills through a series of workshops and mentorship activities by the Pre-Accelerator’s partners.
- Marketing + Prototyping - During this 48-hour hackathon, UI/UX designers, digital marketers, web designers, and graphic designers enter the startups to convert their ideas into prototypes, logos, and landing pages. They also develop and adopt a plan to draw their first round of users.
- Founders gatherings - These are a series of small group meetings for entrepreneurs to identify, discuss, and banish their anxieties and fears.
Ascend AtlantaAscend Atlanta is a program spearheaded by JP Morgan Chase in partnership with Morehouse Center for Entrepreneurship, TechSquare Labs, Village Micro Fund, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, and Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs and focused on assisting minority-led businesses to compete in the US market.
Participants enter the market via strategic alliances and customers obtained through Georgia organizations. Access to financial resources is also provided through fundraising and connections with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), equity funds, and other opportunities. Ascend Atlanta also provides management education. It offers ideation sessions, customer discovery workshops, product development guidance, and industry-related mentorship. These activities then result in shaped business models, strategic growth plans, and customer acquisition.
How it works. The accelerator supports businesses in three different directions.
Ascend Atlanta programs
- Tech Startups Program boosts early-stage and growing entrepreneurs from finding a product-market fit to helping them grow their revenue and generate new jobs. The program includes All Microbusiness programming, Pre-Accelerator exercises, and access to mentorship activities in Residence Network.
- Microbusinesses Program is aimed at the Southside of Atlanta micro-business community to scale their capacity, strategy, and revenue. The program covers monthly sessions on inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment ecosystem exploration.
- Small-to-Midsize Businesses Program is intended for established enterprises scaling their revenues and size. It offers all Tech Startup programming, the Market Acceleration Program, and personal access to mentors, corporations, and funds.
Founder InstituteThe Founder Institute Accelerator provides a 14-week program for entrepreneurs that are preparing to go for seed funding. At the same time, the founders may or may not have a team, company, validated idea, product, strategy or plan. The program offers a structured process, expert mentorship, and a global network to boost a company or its idea first.
Founder Institute overview
Upon graduating from the Founders Institute, each alum (in addition to a well-established enterprise, notable product growth, and scaling team) gets a list of valuable privileges, such as a local network of qualified investors, Advisory Board with their mentorship, valuable number of leads and customers, and a plan of further actionable steps.
How it works. The accelerator’s in-person Core Program includes the following stages:
- Orientation includes introduction to the cohort and the learning methodology.
- Vision helps outline a sustainable business view.
- Customer development phase addresses customer feedback.
- Revenue module supports estimating a revenue model.
- Branding and design stage presents feedback on the branding.
- Mentor Idea Review lets you assess the core business on a mentor panel.
- Legal and IP stage gives insights into the legal infrastructure.
- Go-to-Market and Scale is where you get to refine your strategy to launch or scale.
- Product Development stage gives feedback on the product roadmap.
- Mentor Progress Review lets you verify your progress on a mentor panel.
- Hiring & Onboarding stages address the issues of hiring and nurturing talent.
- Growth phase deals with the company in relation to growth.
- Equity & Funding addresses the challenges inhibiting fundraising.
- Showcase lets you celebrate and pitch to a live audience.
Apart from that, FI provides continuous support and post-graduate programs.
Post Core Program resources
Participation and Access. The accelerator is intended for founders and teams that want to get their business to traction or funding. The Institute is also open to full-time employed founders, solo-founders, founders of established but young companies without significant funding, revenue, or traction, and founders striving to build a robust business in various ways such as bootstrapping, funding, and others.
To participate, you first submit an application. Then, you undergo a Predictive Admissions Assessment. It includes tests for emotional stability, fluid intelligence, open-mindedness, and degree of agreeableness. Once the application is reviewed, you get a status letter – Accepted, Reviewing, Finalist, or Declined. You may also get more detailed information on the Admission Process page.
Growth and seed startups accelerators
Unlike pre-seed accelerators that give startups the core basics for growth, seed accelerators provide opportunities for seeding investment throughout their programs and upon graduating.
Atlanta's International Startup Accelerator
The platform is intended to promote promising international startups access to the US market. The International Startup Accelerator (ISAAC) is aimed to bear and raise global market leaders with robust links to the Atlanta metropolitan area. It’s a community-based organization run by a non-profit corporation. ISAAC focuses on several fields, including:
- Infrastructure & Transportation
- Data & Connectivity
- Financial Services & FinTech
- Hardware & Software
- Advanced Industry & Manufacturing
- Health & Life Sciences
ISAAC offers office reservations, mentorship, networking, and training courses tailored to a company's needs and scopes.
How it works. ISAAC has a three-phase approach with all stages to be completed.
- Bootcamp offers day-long workshops in different non-US locations. The seminars cover the basics of the US market, including business development and marketing, fundraising, taxes, accounting, legal environment, immigration, HR activities, and others. Information on the next program levels is also provided.
- Academy is a two-week program. It enables entrepreneurs to join mentoring events and hear from industry experts. At this stage, startups are also encouraged to network and pitch to potential investors. Depending on the progress during the Academy, startups may proceed to become ISAAC Residents. The decision on Residency is made by ISAAC judges.
- Residency is ISAAC’s essential program. It allows the promising and progressing international startups to enroll in the US market during a comprehensive 3- to 9-month program. During the initial 3-month stage, Residents join a training course to qualify their Startups for an expansion in the US market. Upon finishing it, participants can apply for an additional 6-month mentoring stage. In addition to numerous networking events, the program submits a relevant in-market time to recognize the company’s business plans. When completing this phase, the graduating companies are ready to tackle the US market.
Participation and Access. The accelerator is aimed at non-US mid-sized and later-stage startups with a strong history to enter the US market.
Participation in all phases of ISAAC programs is free of charge and doesn’t require any equity as compensation. However, participants have to pay for costs such as accommodation, traveling, etc. To participate in all rounds, entrepreneurs should contact ISAAC.
EO Accelerator from Entrepreneurs’ Organization is an educational program for businesspeople striving to get their product passed the $1M revenue mark and become part of the EO. Enrollment is provided via firsthand learning, introduction to mentors, leaders, peers, and experts. The program grants a chance to take charge of one’s own business.
The accelerator provides quarterly full-day education events, personal education, accountability groups, access to global mentorship and networking, goal setting and tracking tools, and access to local and global EO events.
How it works. The accelerator works by establishing and strengthening four fundamental elements of entrepreneurship through a sustainably formed curriculum.
- Strategy - Entrepreneurs get the basics on how to recognize their customers, develop a clear brand vision, develop the primary goal, and convert it into consistently increasing revenue.
- People - The program teaches how to recognize the right talents for a company and grow their commitment to common goals.
- Execution - The accelerator provides approaches on how to set objectives and achieve them by accomplishing day-by-day exercises. The so-called execution habit greatly contributes to successfully accomplishing a fundamental goal.
- Money - Participants recognize how to track their expenses and match them with the profit they obtained from it.
Participation and Access. The program is focused on first-stage entrepreneurs, owners or founders of a functioning business with total yearly revenues between $250,000 to $1 million. The Fiscal Year of EO Accelerator lasts from July 1 to June 30. A full year of participation costs $1750, not including any local fees that may apply. The program’s schedule is determined locally. Programs either have open-ended start dates, quarterly start dates, or run two streams a year. Graduation from the program is now about 24 months, about how long it takes to reach the $1m mark. The accelerator takes no equity but encourages joining EO when reaching a $1M in revenue. To apply for admission, complete an application, check sales criteria, and then outreach the regional EO officer.
Techstars Atlanta empowers entrepreneurs with the resources and network to build sustainable enterprise technology companies and long-lasting brands. It provides a blend of mentorship, rapid interaction cycles, fundraising preparations, and networking activities to help teams boost their businesses.
In addition to mentorship-driven acceleration, companies get access to investors’ connections, Techstars resources, lifelong access to the Techstars worldwide network of entrepreneurs with over 10,000 mentors, 10,000 investors, 1,600 alumni companies, and 200 staff members included. Also, Techstars offers access to over $400k of cash equivalent hosting, accounting, and legal support, with other credits and perks estimated at over $1M.
How it works. Techstars Atlanta drives the businesses through several programs. Its core program is a three-month mentorship-driven accelerator which includes the following:
- Network building is about finding three to five mentors ready to assist with product development, market fit, and to give worthy insights for fast company growth.
- Market traction encourages teams to collaborate with mentors and reach the next one of the established goals.
- Business acceleration enables determining the fundraising strategy and prepare to meet with investors. This stage also educates how to transmit a vision to prospective investors.
- Demo day provides a means of exhibiting company progress made in three months.
- Techstars for Life is a postgraduate stage with such networking events as Techstars BizDev Days, Techstars Investor Days, Techstars FounderCon, as well as regular mentorship, monthly alumni events, and access to valuable resources.
A demo day with pitches from 10 startups taking part in the 13-week programFor startups in particular, there are also shorter programs. For instance, Startups Weekends are aimed at strengthening the community and building a company within 54 hours by matching them with mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors. Startup Weeks are five-days of scheduled events by investors and local leaders for startup communities to inspire their success.
Participation and Access: The accelerator enthusiastically welcomes startups of all scales – from a company with no more than an idea and a dream to a company with fully developed products but requiring assistance with a business model, introductions, and financing. The accelerator also accepts companies that have already raised some funds.
First, a team has to submit an application or fill in the General Interest Form. The applications are typically reviewed within seven weeks. The applicants also have to record a team video team to show everyone’s interest and commitment to Techstars values. A final group of companies to be accepted is usually notified within eight weeks before the application closure. For participation, teams are supposed to give 6 percent of the Token Reserve and 6 percent equity in the company. Get more detailed information on the entire application process.
The FarmThe Farm Startup accelerator is a cohort-based 12-week program powered by Boomtown Accelerators, a Colorado-based organization. The Farm Accelerator accepts mostly early-stage startups, who are not well-established in their field.
In addition to a customized development plan and a mentorship network of technology, business, branding, and strategy experts and investors, participants get support estimated at over $1 million and $35,000 in seed investment.
How it works. The Farm Accelerator provides a range of tools and activities to encourage entrepreneurs in creating robust and thriving businesses.
- Founding - Participants get insights on their target customers and market and establish their financial modeling and funding strategies. Also, they recognize how to match a vision and mission with branding, marketing, and fundraising activities.
- Strategy - The program allows entrepreneurs to work with assumption validations and outline and sharpen the strategy differentiation. Also, participants can establish and improve their branding and storytelling to attract more investors and customers.
- Team - This program is intended to connect participants with the appropriate mentors from accelerator networks as well as unite them with alumni networks. The accelerator also provides insight on legal and financial matters, branding, and venture capital.
To participate in the program, at least two C-level representatives of each startup are required. Access is provided by the application. For now, submissions are closed. While participating in the program, the teams are expected to stay in Atlanta. Also, it’s highly recommended that alumni extend their stay in Atlanta for another few weeks to build and strengthen business partnerships. In exchange for all resources provided, each participant is supposed to give 7 percent of the company’s common stock.
Accelerators vs IncubatorsSometimes people confuse accelerators and incubators. An incubator helps startups shape an idea and prepares them for pitch meetings. You can work with an incubator for as long as you like, they often don’t have a clear program or structure of communication.
You go to an incubator when you need to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, clarify your idea, or elaborate and sharpen a business plan. Incubators provide a working space, facilities, and sometimes hold events. The biggest advantage is networking, community, a collective mind, and an opportunity to pitch a product.
An accelerator is a booster for the growth of already existing ideas and teams with a business model and purpose.
You go to an accelerator when you need to validate your idea and receive guidance, sharpen skills, and acquire resources. Accelerators provide educational programs, technology consulting, working space, and access to investor and alumni networks. The biggest advantage is mentorship and seeding opportunities.
We hope our tips and described opportunities were helpful. What stage are you at? And which option are you considering? Don’t hesitate to share in the comments section.