Accelerators have been around since the mid-2000s, providing startups with seed capital and mentorship in a fast-paced, short-term, intensive program covering everything it takes to build a business. While I’m sure you’ve heard of a few “rockstar” programs – like TechStars, Y Combinator and 500 Startups – Accelerate Baltimore (AB) is a locally-grown, competitive and powerful program that has produced some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region, not to mention one that has made significant economic impact right here in Baltimore.
Each year, with support from the Emerging Technology Centers (ETC) and the Abell Foundation, Accelerate Baltimore works with six startups, providing seed funding, mentorship and customized support to help the companies grow and bring their ideas to market. Applications are open until December 1, when the list of companies is narrowed down from a competitive applicant pool to 12 to 15 startups who are invited to pitch to an experienced advisory committee of local entrepreneurs and investors. After what is always an intense debate, the committee selects the final cohort: six companies and their founding teams committed to taking their business to the next level.
Then it’s off to the races. The ETC staff and mentors get to know the AB companies inside and out — the founders, their stories, where they want to go and who they want to become. Together, we set ambitious goals and start getting them connected with the resources and people they will need to achieve success.
Expectations — and the stakes — are high. AB companies work hard, day and night, and they take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. At the end of the program, AB companies compete in front of the region’s most esteemed investors for the final award, an additional $100,000 in follow-on funding for the company that has demonstrated the greatest growth and most promising business model.
At the ETC, we work to transform Baltimore, one entrepreneur at a time. And with our ever-growing tech ecosystem, our job only gets better. So yes, you should definitely apply.
But what does it take to make it as an AB company?
It’s hard to know from just an application and a single pitch interview, but we do our best. The most important thing to convince us of as you complete the application process is that $25,000 will move your business forward and that you, the founders, are the ones who have what it takes to make it happen. This program is all about the founding team. Can the team take full advantage of everything that AB puts in front of them? Can the founders turn their idea into a company, take their product to market and make their company into a business?
When I look back, now that we are in the sixth year of Accelerate Baltimore, it makes me wonder out of the 28 graduates, what did the 71 percent who are still in business do differently during the program? What did they do that made them successful, where their peers fell behind?
I think it’s a very small, fundamental point. The founders knew that being part of the AB cohort was not about the money – it was about the opportunity – about taking nothing and turning it into everything.
Here are a few key reflections that AB graduates have shared.
- Mentors matter. As an AB company you have access to industry experts, seasoned entrepreneurs and every business support service you could imagine. Ask them to coffee. Go meet with them. Show up to their program sessions. You never know who will join your team, become a customer and change your life.
- Be present. Starting a company can be a lonely road but the rewards are great. AB is a cohort-driven program. Having the opportunity to face challenges, solve problems and pull an all-nighter at the ETC with all the other AB founders by your side is an incredible motivation.
- Embrace the hustle. The ETC team is always there for you as an AB company. But they also set the bar high and hold you accountable to your goals, making it easier for you to stay on track. And, there is no hustle like the team hustle, when you know everyone has your back and won’t be ashamed to pick you up by your bootstraps.
The other important detail to note is that as an Accelerate Baltimore company, you become part of a community — one that is bigger than just the ETC and one that lasts longer than the 13 weeks you’ll spend with the cohort. AB graduates establish themselves as some of the most driven entrepreneurs in our region. They drive Baltimore forward.
Our graduates work in every industry from cybersecurity like Point 3 Security and Rakkoon to edtech like Allovue and ClassTracks and everything in between with gaming tech, adtech and health tech companies like Loople, NewsUp, Fusiform, FitMango, Full Society and BrinkBit. (Find some advice and takeaways from our graduates here.)
We want to add you and your company to this list. The entire ETC staff, mentors and entrepreneur community are ready for you to Accelerate Baltimore.-30-
6 takeaways on tech and civic change from AccelerateBaltimore’s opening ceremony
AddVenture helped Baltimore-area student entrepreneurs work on their startups this summer
Applications are open for Loyola’s Baltipreneurs Accelerator
Conscious Venture Lab is moving to Impact Village in Port Covington
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Baltimore