How valuable is the accelerator experience for startups?

VentureBeat has coverage of a study done that seeks to quantify the value of joining an accelerator program like the HTRLaunchPad and it makes a pretty compelling argument for their value:

“Direct involvement may be the most important factor, even if it cannot be easily quantified. A 2007 Kauffman study found that angel investors can get outsized returns if they offer a high level of diligence and direct involvement. Thus, we think its critical that entrepreneurs and VCs consider an accelerator by whether its leadership has done their homework on their prosective members’ underlying markets, and by whether they have teams ready to dedicate time and resources to help their business.”


 “Based on these historical results, we found that companies in accelerator graduating classes from before December 2009 returned 11.3x on capital invested. These are fantastic returns for entrepreneurs, VCs, and accelerators.”

Bear in mind that the programs studied typically took an equity position of 6-9% in exchange for an investment of $15-20k. The numbers also reflect a couple of huge gainers (AirBnB, Dropbox). We don’t currently take equity positions in our startups.

What is a Business Model Canvas?

The Business Model Canvas is a work sheet
The Business Model Canvas is a work sheet

The canvas is a central tool for capturing what you learn during your customer discovery process. You start by making a best guess at filling out each section, knowing you’re almost certainly mistaken. Then you go out and talk to people, focusing initially on defining your problem, solution and audience (Value Proposition, center box). Getting this right is the ultimate goal of the HTRLaunchPad process because accurately defining a value proposition means you’ve found your scalable, profitable business model.

But there are nine boxes on the canvas and each contributes to your knowledge base. You may, for example, be discussing pricing and find that the market wants the service bundled with other services by a third party (channel). Even if this was not the focus of your conversation it is valuable and what you learn should be added to the Channels box on the Canvas.

As you proceed there is going to be a lot of erasing and rewriting of your work sheet. Things you assume are correct early on get revised or completely changed. And during the process the Canvas serves as a snapshot of the knowledge you’re accumulating and the progress you’re making. It may even tell you that you’re not making progress and have to consider a change in plans (pivot).

When you’ve had your 120-150 conversations your Canvas will represent your business model. You should have a much clearer idea of how you market, operate, generate revenues, your financial requirements and more. It all fits into the Business Model Canvas which becomes, at that point, a model for your operational business plan.

It’s a deceptively powerful tool that forces entrepreneurs to succinctly define all the important pieces of their business on one page.

Mentor/Advisor Intro To The 2014 HTRLaunchPad Teams Friday 2/21

Tomorrow, Friday Feb 21 at the Brainery in Village Gate (entrance between Empada Steak and Dark Horse Coffee, go straight, turn left, it’s on the right). The session runs from 3-5pm.

This is the second Mentor/Advisor Training session and will include brief intro presentations by the new startup teams chosen for the 2014 HTRLaunchPad.

Mentor Brainstorming: Identifying the most useful actions for successful mentoring

We held our first 2014 Mentor Advisor session last Friday Feburary 14th and one of our activities was an open brainstorming session facilitated by Charles Pfeffer of the 2014 Advisory board. Participants shared rapid-fire suggestions for useful (and non-useful!) mentor actions. Plus two experienced mentors from last year contributed insights:

HTR Mentor Group’s Brainstorm

Share wisdom:

  • Be a guide
  • Guidance
  • Consistent Guidance

Share Experience:

  • Transfer knowledge and experience
  • Convey experiences
  • Avoid mistakes someone else has already made

Share real life examples:

  • Share stories and experiences rather than just give advice

Share expertise:

  • Know your stuff

Share connections:

  • Connections
  • personal connections and network building

Understand deeply:

  • Understanding the “why” not the “what”

Don’t solve the problem:

  • Let the student lead the process and be supportive
  • Don’t do the work. Guide the student to do it.


  • Be a sounding board
  • Someone to listen to ideas
  • Listen intently before giving advice
  • Let student come to the conclusions themselves


  • Learn yourself
  • Learn


  • Discover potential
  • Provide Structure
  • Organize (regiment, accountability)
  • Challenge
  • Stretches me
  • Ask Questions
  • Think from the end
  • Truthful
  • Call “bullshit” diplomatically
  • Committed to success
  • Cares about my progress

Be available

  • Bring a fresh perspective
  • Provide an outside viewpoint
  • Suggest talking to multiple people to get unique perspectives

Emotional support:

  • Encouragement
  • Encourage teamwork
  • Encourage Collaboration
  • Caring
  • Respect
  • Compassion


David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto – Courtesy of Richard Glaser

Be socratic
Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back)
Be authentic/practice what you preach
Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
Listen too
The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way
Be responsive
Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
Clearly separate opinion from fact.
Hold information in confidence.
Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
Know what you don’t know. Say, “I don’t know” when you don’t. “I don’t know is preferable to bravado.
Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide, but never tell them what to do. Understand that it is their company, not yours.
Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
Be optimistic.
Provide specific, actionable advice. Don’t be vague
Be challenging/robust, but never destructive.
Have empathy, Remember that startups are hard.
Fred Dewey (offered in call prior to 2/14)
Hold regular weekly meetings
These are CRITICAL
If you have to move it, reschedule don’t cancel
Recommend Mon or Tue meetings
What homework did you get?
What are you doing this week to accomplish it?

Understand key principles of the Launchpad methodology and organize your mentorship around that
What are we here to do?
We’re here to let the customer tell us what to build.

Come to as many Friday afternoon meetings as possible
make them sacred
Be there to here the feedback
Record the presentations and the feedback


Mark Your Calendars for the UVANY Venture Forum, Rochester March 4!

UVANY Venture Forum, Rochester: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know about Venture Capital & Private Equity Investors

When: Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 5:00p.m-8:00p.m.

Where: ARTISAN Works, 565 Blossom Rd., Rochester, NY

What: A panel of CEOs from leading growth companies in the Rochester area will discuss: “What they don’t tell you about raising venture capital and private equity” including key considerations once you get the investment capital and how the capital helps fuel growth.

Who: Panelists include:

  • iCardiac, Mike Totterman
  • vNomics, David Chauncey
  • Arnold Magnetics, Tim Wilson
  • Biomaxx, Chris Modesti

Moderated by Will Hoy, Harter Secrest

Also hear introductory remarks by Richard Glaser on “The New Rochester” and One Minute Entrepreneur Pitches from companies including: 5D Innovations, City Whisk, TouchStream Solutions and others following the panel discussion.

Register for the event at: or at