New research provides a “closer look” into startup accelerator programs around the world

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Startup Accelerators: A Field Guide (Published by Wiley, January 2020 Hardcover $40.00 | 368 Pages ISBN: 9781119638599) is a new one-stop guide to the inner workings of startup accelerators, packed with insightful data, real-life case studies and reflections of startup founders, accelerator program managers, accelerator investors, and entrepreneurship educators. Authors: Associate Professor Dr Naomi Birdthistle, Dr Richard Busulwa and Steve Dunn.

Accelerators introduce startups to powerful networks of investors – e.g Airbnb graduated from the Y Combinator Accelerator in 2009 with their first investment of $600k from a VC firm associated with the program. Now Airbnb is valued at $31B and preparing for the most anticipated IPO of 2020.

Accelerator programs have exploded around the world as the new startup growth institution, spawning successes such as AirBnB, DropBox, Reddit, Stripe, Zenefits, Uber and Pillpack, - many to billion-dollar valuations.

More than 6 million entrepreneurs start a new business in the United States every year, but for every Airbnb, Uber or Reddit, a staggering number of startups don’t “make it”. Up to 20% of startups don’t survive the first year alone. Up to 50% are no longer alive by year 5, and up to 90% ultimately fail. Startup accelerator programs aim to help startups circumvent the different challenges, dilemmas, and pitfalls at different stages of the startup journey - improving their odds of ‘making it’.

Accelerators compress years’ worth of learning by doing insights into rapid, intense and immersive learning programs of approximately three to six months. Accelerators also introduce startups to powerful networks of customers, partners and investors – for example Airbnb graduated from the Y Combinator Accelerator in 2009 with their first seed investment of $600,000 from one of the VC firms (Sequoia Capital) associated with the program. Now Airbnb is valued at $31 billion and preparing for the most anticipated IPO of 2020.

When co-author and startup co-founder, Steve Dunn first stayed in an Airbnb whilst travelling around Europe on a shoestring budget in 2013, he wanted to learn more about how three guys from San Francisco took their idea of ‘laying down a couple of air mattresses in their apartment for cheap rent’, through a startup accelerator, and into a $31-billion-dollar empire.

After Steve returned home to Australia from his overseas trip, he began sending off applications to accelerators in the USA, hoping to get into a program and land a large investment deal to get his startup off the ground just like Airbnb and many other startups had done before him. Steve’s startup soon got accepted into the 10Xelerator program run out of the Ohio State University (USA) and he relocated to Columbus for the three-month program to begin perfecting his product and to prepare his startup for investment.

But Steve’s startup didn’t raise an investment from the program, and so he returned to his family in Australia with no money but he learned a lot during the process. In hindsight, Steve realised he entered the accelerator unprepared. He began researching about different accelerator offerings, networks and acceptance criteria and then teamed up with his co-founder/co-author, Dr Richard Busulwa, and University researcher Professor Dr Naomi Birdthistle, to compile their findings into a guidebook that was just published by leading academic publisher 'Wiley', combining entrepreneur, investor and academic views of accelerators.

“After we wrote the book, I realized we were nowhere near ready to take our startup to the next level in the first US-based accelerator”, Steve said, “I had no idea what I was getting myself into, there is a lot to know and do before getting into the right accelerator and even more to make the most of it”.

Steve said he hopes the book demystifies the end-to-end accelerator experience for aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators and startups, and helps them make the most of this new startup growth institution like AirBnB did.

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Steve Dunn
since: 09/2019
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