It’s hard to believe it has been three months since I came onboard as managing director of Extreme Startups. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a mentor practically from its inception and have been thinking about how best to disrupt the accelerator model for a few years now.
In starting or running five digital products companies over the past 15 years I’ve learned that the best way to disrupt an industry is to take a focused market driven approach with a team of entrepreneurial rockstars to co-create a bold vision in real-time.
Market Driven Approach
So I started a la Steve Blank and got out of the building… and then the country. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to lots of people – our board, founders, alumni, mentors, investors and other accelerator leaders. From attending BDC backed accelerator rallies to diving deep into other international startup ecosystems including NYC, SF, Las Vegas and London’s Tech City with the goal to push the new vision’s thinking.
I’ve asked a lot of questions and spent a lot of time thinking about the landscape, challenges and killer opportunities to change the game. This is a critical time for accelerators. The market is flooded with hundreds of programs that graduate founders that are simply not VC fundable. Founders often enter these programs thinking or even being told that magically they will create a valuable business in 3 to 6 months that will get funded at a demo day. Most spend their time trying to launch their first commercial ready product and prepare for a vanity day pitch. The data points to the fact that most graduate without enough funding if any at all and lose momentum. We’re proud that 14 out 15 grads from Extreme Startups were offered the BDC note at the end of the program with other follow-on financing as well, but that’s just our baseline benchmark if we truly want to create meaningful global businesses.
Building Our Entrepreneurial Leadership Team
We don’t allow sole founders into our programs for a reason and the only way to win globally is to find other entrepreneurial rockstars who can extend the vision. So I’m excited for you to meet Lauren Robinson, an ex-investment banker and international program developer. She joined the team as Head of Operations & Learning to spearhead the launch of the Founders Academy and help scale globally via curriculum development partnerships. Some of you have met Lauren recently I will write a post on how our collaboration came to be and our fresh ideas in the near future.
Our First Big Change – Three Integrated Programs
Our track record to lead and move fast in both our local community and on the global stage is a direct reflection that we operate just like our startups. And we’re proud to continue on that path by launching a major market-driven programming evolution that I believe sets the stage for our future.
We’re moving from a singular 12-week cohort program to three integrated programs centered around an innovative new founder development curriculum. Our new three-program approach is firmly rooted in advanced digital product management training and we feel that will result in more startups securing institutional seed capital.
The programs, which allow for both continuous and multi-entry points, are:
- Founders Academy – Mentor-driven product leadership curriculum for founders working on early stage ideas.
- Venture Advisory track – High potential startups competing to get funded.
- Advanced Cohort track – Our funded startups that focus on optimizing product-market fit within a 16-week program.
Like Extreme itself, the goal of the new programs is to supercharge founders development and help secure institutional seed capital.
Cohort Showcase in New York
Lauren and I are currently in New York for the launch of the new cohort at VentureOutNY, which has selected all four of our Advanced Cohort track companies to participate in an investor-curated showcase in Manhattan. We earned 4 of the 8 spots.
I think that says a lot about the caliber of talent we’re supporting.
The companies being featured are:
- Candid – a visual commerce platform that tells a brand’s story through the eyes and photos of its biggest fans.
- ExecNote – a sales automation platform that is changing the way sales teams sell to enterprise CEOs.
- FameBit – a one of a kind marketplace that matches and connects brands with accomplished video influencers.
- SqueezeCMM – a platform that helps companies measure, analyze and compare the effectiveness of content and social media channels.
We will be profiling all of these companies in detail this month.
Here’s the news release we posted today. Stay tuned and buckle up. I hope you’ll join us for this red bull infused ride!