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Notes from the Accelerator Assembly Conference


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On March 14, in Madrid, we had a supercharged day, full of energy and stimulating talks about the tech scene in Europe. The Accelerator Assembly Conference, which we were honored to organize, gathered almost 100 participants from 18 countries around the subject of accelerators and tech startups and how the ecosystem can evolve through better communication and closer collaborations.

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Notes from the Accelerator Assembly Conference

  1. 1. Startup Europe’s Accelerator Assembly held its first European conference in Madrid on March 14 2014, dedicated to accelerator directors and managers, policy makers, corporate representatives, investors and entrepreneurs. They all got together to share best practices and strengthen their support for European startups. What is the Accelerator Assembly Conference?
  2. 2. The speakers and audience attending the Accelerator Assembly Conference engaged in productive conversations about: • The evolution of the European accelerator ecosystem • The mentor-driven accelerator model • Research on the state of the European seed accelerator ecosystem and what benefits startups derive from going through these programs • Financing accelerators • How to work with corporations • Plugging the support gaps in the ecosystem • Financing startups • European Commission future initiatives • Conclusions and actionable insights extracted from the talks. What were the main discussion points?
  3. 3. Who were the speakers? Check the full list on
  4. 4. Who were the participants? Almost 200 people applied to attend the Accelerator Assembly Conference. Only almost 100 were accepted, due to the limitations imposed by the venue, as interest for the event exceeded our expectations. The attendants came from 18 countries and were either already managing or planning to found an acceleration program, they were either investors or corporate partners interested to learn more, etc.
  6. 6. • It looks like there are too many startups, because there’s a shortage of funding. • The evolution of the market will decide if there are too many accelerators. • Accelerators will have to become economically viable, because they are competing for the same pool of money. • Success really depends on the objective of the acceleration program, which can be: • Building the ecosystem • Adoption of corporate technologies • Investments and exits •Finding the best founders and helping them build billion $ companies. • Success for corporate accelerators is regarded in terms of the adoption rate of their technologies and building a story around their product. • There is a desire from the EU Commission to interact with the accelerator ecosystem. • There is a narrower funnel to the VCs. On the European accelerator ecosystem:
  7. 7. • David Cohen’s starting point for TechStars was the need to create a better way to do angel investing and improving the local startup community in Boulder, Colorado. • The first program in 2007, $240.000 was the starting point. A year later, 7 out of 10 companies got investment and 2 were acquired. • Techstars is a network, not just an accelerator, and in 2011 they started the Global Accelerator Network (, when they open sourced the model they worked on. • Now aggregates best practices – a resource for people to see what might work in their context. • Regarding virtual accelerators, David is somewhat sceptical that a true deep mentorship model can be delivered virtually. • Pillars for growing the European accelerator ecosystem: entrepreneurs are leaders, everyone is a mentor, tech communities should know how to attract new talent (through companies, universities, accelerators, etc.). On the mentor-driven accelerator model:
  8. 8. The European Seed Accelerator Ecosystem research Carried out by Jed Christiansen, founder of Seed-DB: • 198 active seed accelerators (53 in Europe) • >3600 companies graduated from seed accelerator programs worldwide • the 53 programs in Europe + other 4 independent programs have funded 738 startups • most acceleration programs accept/graduate approx. 5-15 startups per class/cohort. • 57 European accelerators (including some independent programs) have generated 2034 jobs. • these 738 startups have generated 3500 – 4000 jobs. • Startups need: access to ongoing capital, scaling support, larger exposure to angel, seed and VC networks, etc. • The majority of accelerators assessed that they increased the value of the startups going through the program by 3 times. All the research is available at: On the research done on the European tech ecosystem:
  9. 9. Startups' view: What do founders get from attending an accelerator program research Carried out by Jed Christiansen, founder of Seed-DB: • What accelerators do for their startups: • mentorship / coaching / feedback • network / alumni / prestige • investment & financial benefits • connection to investors. • Accelerators drawbacks: • mentorship – one of the most difficult, but also sought after benefits of a program • Demo Day focus is perceived by some as a distraction • logistical issues. • In spite of these drawbacks, 100% of the founders interviewed for the study said that they would choose to go through an accelerator. The complete research and best practices for accelerators are available at: On the research done on the European tech ecosystem:
  10. 10. • The financing options will evolve along with the transformation of accelerators. • The policy’s mission: everything that is great on a policy level is everything that is successful financially, in a persistent and sustainable way. • The idea of some level of professional curation and supervision is very exciting for investors. • There’s a lot of appetite among high net worth, mass affluent individual investors to get financial exposure to some of the great things that accelerators are doing. • An alternative form of funding: working with big brands and angels from big brands. • Transparency towards investors is incredibly useful. • Define your place in the value chain. So you don’t face too high of a competition. On financing accelerators:
  11. 11. • Giants need to interact with new technologies, which they cannot develop on their own, because they are too slow. • We need to create an additional layer on top of the phenomenon that is the European accelerator ecosystem. • If we can’t provide an exit layer on top of that, all this enthusiasm and energy will get stuck. We need to create IPOs and exits. • We aslo need to create a pragmatic connection between the best startups from all over Europe and the big corporate partners that can help them grow. • People involved in corporate incubators or accelerators should have a background as entrepreneurs. • In corporations you can have a lot of entrepreneurs, although that might not be directly visible. • It’s not easy to apply insights gathered from 20 year olds, but corporations try to act faster and keep up with the market. On how to work with corporations:
  12. 12. •The ecosystem needs to start filtering and increasing the quality of the startups that get into accelerators, which is why pre-acceleration programs are very important. • We need to bring young entrepreneurs together and inspire them. • We also need to create international events so that regional companies can get exposure. • Practically, we need to create mechanisms for the ecosystem to build experience. •Providing support for continuity is key, so that entrepreneurs won’t give up once the initial enthusiasm has worn off. • We need to make entrepreneurs feel like they’re part of a community. • Going into founding a startup too early is a problem, which is why pre-accelerators are very important. We need to give people tools and let them do what they want. • It’s about facilitating connections and having interesting conversations with smart people. It’s not about volume, it’s about quality engagements. • VCs are a niche activity and they’re not for everyone or for every startup. • We have to push people to dream big, but not everyone has to build billion dollar companies. • We need to find ways to make interesting startups be more visible and reduce the noise. • We need more accelerators that can add more knowledge in the ecosystem, who can shake things up. On plugging the gap:
  13. 13. • We need to reach out to companies which are interested in being closer to innovation. • After an accelerator, usually startups need more money, because an acceleration program gives them time more than anything else. • Accelerators offer visibility to attract investors, but going through various accelerators is not the best strategy to attract investors. • The percetange of startups who get funding after an accelerator is 10% lower in Europe than in the USA. • A nice combination you can have is: crowdfunding (providing market validation for your business proposal & your capacity as an entrepreneur), investment from a business angel and maybe even public funding, all adding up to 300k to half a million euros. • Getting funding online is still in its very early stages, a “listing” stage, when everyone has a platform, and no one really has traction. • About crowdfunding: • it can sometimes mean raising money at a very high price for that startup; • it’s a positive marker for VCs, if done right; • it’s a social process and the fail rates are terrible; • it’s a new link in the value chain of funding startups. On financing startups:
  14. 14. • The Startup Manifesto ( – these are not actions to be carried out by the EU Commission, but by the accelerators and corporate partners involved in the ecosystem. • There are many startup successes in Europe, but we need to talk more about this, especially in the general media. • Get organized and make your voice heard, not only with EU institutions, but also with local governments and European investment funds. • The EU can consult with key people in the ecosystem to get their input on future legislation, but there is a need for representation. More can be done. • Encouraging investors to put their funds in tech: •Investors tend to reinvest in the field they got return on their investment from. •The EU wants the tech industry to consolidate and not be wiped out by the next big thing, once the economy recovers. • Connecting local ecosystems so that startups feel like they belong to all the European ecosystems; reducing fragmentation. • EU will give funds to accelerators and investors, not for them to give the money to the startups, but for them to use and integrate the local ecosystems. •The Accelerator Assembly should become self sustainable in the coming years. On the European Commission’s future initiatives:
  15. 15. Born out of the European Commission’s and Vice President Neelie Kroes’ leadership towards supporting web entrepreneurs, the Accelerator Assembly network is a key part of the EU initiative called Startup Europe. Launched in July 2013, the Accelerator Assembly is an industry-led network, delivered by Bethnal Green Ventures, Seedcamp, Seed-DB and Startup Weekend, with the support of Nesta, How to Web and TechStars London. For more information about the Accelerator Assembly network, organisers, supporters and how to join please visit the website. What is the Accelerator Assembly network?
  16. 16. Startup Europe is the European Commission action plan aimed at strengthening the business environment for web and ICT entrepreneurs in Europe and contributing to innovation, growth and jobs. Startup Europe is a Digital Agenda initiative supported by Vice President Neelie Kroes promoting web and ICT entrepreneurs to start their business in Europe and to let them flourish in Europe. To learn more about the different actions launched within Startup Europe, please visit: startup-europe. What is Startup Europe?
  17. 17. See you at the next event! For more information check out: