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What to seek in an accelerator.

Accelerators are one of the best ways to launch a company or simply boost its growth, but all accelerators are not created equal.

I've had the privilege of participating in two accelerators, each in different states with different ecosystems. There has been a flood of new accelerators pop up, and choosing the right accelerator for your business can be a make or break decision. If you boil it down, founders should look for three things in an accelerator: strategic program offerings, founder-friendly terms and a vertically supportive ecosystem, meaning the individuals, organizations and institutions that cultivate entrepreneurs, ultimately increasing their chance of success.

Every program will likely try to amplify an aspect that differentiates it from other programs. This can be anything from the program's location (Southern California, New York City), the amount of capital investment or maybe a big-box sponsor, the large corporations that sometimes sponsor programs and tend to commit dollars rather than manpower.

These things can all be attractive, but the glitter is not always gold. Sure, Barclays might be sponsoring the program, but is it involved? You might be getting $100K, but if the majority of that gets eaten by rent and cost of living, was it worth the equity? When you're sifting through the options, make sure the strategic offerings that the program amplifies directly and immediately cor relate to accelerated growth for your company.

When founders apply for accelerators, they typically feel lucky to be accepted and think the terms don't matter. WRONG. Founders should understand the full implications of the accelerator terms and thought fully game out fundraising scenarios down the road. This, as well as the acceptance of an accelerator term sheet, is a huge part of any application.

There are many different mechanisms that can be used, like Simple Agreement for Future Equity deals (SAFE agreements), straight equity-for cash deals and forms of convertible debt. Simple is usually better.

Furthermore,ask the accelerator if you're going to be getting a good deal on legal, financial, consulting and other services. Be aware that some deals could have dilution or follow-on funding riders that can sneak up and take a bite out of your equity pie.

Ensuring that your accelerator is bolstered by a vertically supportive eco system is a bit of a nuanced quality, but it's unbelievably important. Growing companies in accelerators is like growing bacteria in a petri dish. You have to have the agar plate, the right temperature, provide enough oxygen, etc. Think about a startup ecosystem in the same way. Is there local legislative support and public investment for startups? Do the industry giants you're disrupting exist locally? Have local corporate partners bought in?

All of these ingredients provide kindling for founders so that whenever they start launching in this new environment, their spark can be fanned into flames.

Apply to many, talk to the director and network with past cohort companies. Having been through two accelerators, I'm confident that the accelerator HubX-LifeSciences possesses these three qualities important for founders.

This partnership between Baptist Health and Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield has the potential to set the standard for payer-provider collaboration across the industry. The cohort companies won't just have front row seats to their ideal customers; they'll have seats at the table with them. This is why I'm excited to be the entrepreneur-in-residence, and I look forward to working alongside world-class founders during the program.

To learn more, please visit HubX.biz.

Spencer@LineGardMed.com

Spencer Jones is chief executive officer of LineGard Med, a medical device startup developing SafeBreak, a device to protect intravenous access devices from accidental dislodgment. He can be reached at Spencer@LineGardMed.com.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Author:Jones, Spencer
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 18, 2016
Words:610
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