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For anyone who has been involved in a startup community for more than a few years you might have the same reaction I do when I hear that another accelerators is starting.  In emoji language it’s usually one of (or a combination of ) these: facepalm🤦🏻‍♂️, shoulder shrug 🤷‍♂️, and expressionless face 😑.  It’s nothing against accelerators.  I just feel like  time and resources are being misdirected, even with good intention.

The Accelerator movement was kicked off by Y Combinator in 2005.  Since that time the ‘Accelerator Industry’ has exploded, jumping to over 170 in the US alone.  The Kauffman Foundation published an excellent report outlining the Accelerator industry and growth,  including some eye-opening stats on the volume of Accelerators that have started in the last 12 years.

A valiant few startup enthusiasts have given it a good try with programs like 10x, but without sustained success.  There are two issues I see with Accelerators and their ability to sustain: defining success and defining a unique value proposition.  The obvious measure of success for an accelerator is to have a company come through, raise money, unicorn up and live happily ever after.  That measure of success has such a low probability that it is a foolish measurement on its own.  The word in the title ‘accelerator’ implies that there is something that will be sped up or shortened through participation.  I’ve never felt it was clear what was being accelerated.  Is it funding?  Failure? Traction?

Beyond the definition of success, I also struggle to see a majority of the accelerators deliver on a clear value offering.  The Brandery had a clear offering in its specific theme around building ‘brand’.  That is and was a unique offering from the start.

YC is elite.  TechStars has focused on retail-specific companies and some other themes.  Themes help narrow the net casting. But I think Fintech71 has the magic sauce.

Here’s a few reasons why we should get excited about Fintech71.

  1. It has a clear theme.
  2. It’s (mostly) privately backed by companies that have a real dog in the fight.
  3. Their value prop is that they can accelerate relationships. “Our mission at Fintech71 is to attract the most-innovative fintech startups and connect them with the top financial services companies in the world.”  My interpretation of this is that Fintech will vet and provide a sandbox for these companies to test relationships.
  4. The program is recruiting the right companies, not just a specific stage or location.

The definition of success piece is still going to be tough.  Accelerator programs are a short 10 week period and it is not clear to me when the clock starts ticking to see if and how it will be successful.  We’re going to track the companies through their progression in the program and report back to you what we hear and see…. but from the starting line, it looks like they might have a winning formula.

Photo Credit Fintech71