Red-hot start scene: from Silicon Valley to silicon alley, accelerators, incubators, tech hubs, and co-working spaces are popular destinations for startups and small businesses.

Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Position:TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
 
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POWER COUPLE AND TECH STARTUP FOUNDERS COURTNEY AND TYE CALDWELL are making significant strides in the shared economy with their beauty app, ShearShare, which connects barbers, cosmetologists, hair stylists, and other beauty professionals to salon owners who have booths to rent in their shops by the day. This beats signing a long-term lease, which is industry standard. ShearShare is popular among both pros and newbies--recent beauty school grads who are still trying to build their clientele. The app now counts locations in 76 cities and eight countries. Even Kevin Hart's barber used ShearShare to locate a chair in London.

The idea came about after the 15 -year owner of Salon 74 by Tye rebranded his Plano, Texas-based business. "For six months no one was knocking on my doors," explains Tye. But he started getting calls from stylists in cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles seeking temporary chair rentals. "I didn't see my salon as being a borrowing system." Then again he thought, why not.

The Caldwells outsourced the app's development to a company in Silicon Valley. They adopted a minimalist lifestyle--cutting back on expenses, saving money, and paying off their mortgage--to come up with just under $100,000 in seed capital. ShearShare launched Feb. 21 on Google Play. Around that same time, the couple was one of 20 startups selected to pitch on the main stage at the Startup Grind Global Conference in San Francisco.

Startup Grind, a Google for Entrepreneurs startup community partner, mentors startups in its program and hosts monthly event series in more than 185 cities as well as fireside chats with successful local founders, innovators, educators, and investors. For the Caldwells, connections made through Startup Grind were invaluable. "The program helped us to be able to do a quick-fire pitch on stage," says Courtney. "We have had meetings with four different venture capitalists." Also, Startup Grind was the Caldwells' first foray into incubators and accelerators. The big three--Y Combinator, Techstars, and 500 Startups--started eyeing ShearShare's founders to submit an application and to interview for participation in their programs.

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Studies show that the survival rates of companies that go through an accelerator are three times that of companies that don't. What's more, research shows that companies that completed an accelerator program grew faster than companies that didn't. Nearly 700 U.S.-based organizations are categorized or self identify as an "accelerator" or "accelerator/incubator," through databases (Pitchbook, Seed-DB, Global Accelerator Network, and Accelerate). But less than one-third fit this more restrictive definition of an accelerator. Most accelerators are characterized by an open application process: the selective acceptance of various entrepreneurs, short, fixed-length classes with graduation and demo "pitch" days, and the provision of mentors and seed funding, according to Equidate Chief Legal Officer Gil Silberman.

People sometimes use the term business accelerator as another word for business incubator. According to the National Business Incubation Association, there are more than 1,250 incubators in the U.S., which fundamentally provide a physical office space, networking opportunities, and basic business services.

Then there are co-working spaces, cooperative working spaces for founders to get work done and network, which have taken firm hold in the community of tech startups and entrepreneurs (see sidebar). One such example, Opportunity Hub, founded in Atlanta in 2013 by Kingonomics (BenBella Books; $21.23) author Rodney Sampson, grew to a 17,000-square-foot multicampus entrepreneurial center that offers co-working, intense entrepreneurship, investment, and code school curriculum and programming aimed at diverse founders...

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