The Attractions of a Boutique Startup Accelerator: Introducing Voivoda Labs

8/25/11

Over the past few years there has been a revival in the technology sector, led by the expansion of the mobile, social, and Internet marketplaces. With this expansion, the number of entrepreneurs attempting to create a startup to capture their share of the market has also skyrocketed. These entrepreneurs face the age-old dilemma of how to fund their companies as they grow from early stage through post-revenue and onto mass market acceptance. Self-funding through revenue growth is often not an option and external investment in one form or another is required.

Depending on the stage of development of the company, entrepreneurs may consider going after venture capital firms, strategic partners, super-angels, angel investment groups, friends and family, or startup incubators. All of these groups primarily offer funding in exchange for equity in the company, and sometimes a board seat. If the company is lucky the board member can be hands-on in building the business. Often this is not the case.

For most startup companies, the VC route or strategic investors are just not feasible; they are at too early a stage to even be considered. The angel route also presents problems, as most of these groups do not have an established fund, but are collaborations of individual investors, which requires consensus building before a deal can be struck. Super-angels consolidate the process but they usually are only a monetary resource.

The best way for many startup companies to go is the route of the accelerator or incubator. Though accelerators do not offer the greatest amount of funding, they are most easily accessible and cater to niche offerings, perfect for low market cap startups. In addition to funding, most accelerators bring hands on experience, a collaborative environment, shared services, entrepreneurial business experience, and personal mentoring. Each accelerator has a unique personality, so entrepreneurs need look at a few to find the environment that they would flourish in. Some people prefer a large accelerator such as Y Combinator, which has a specific formula to determine if you qualify for funding and accepts many startups under their wing, while others may prefer a smaller shop such as my organization, Voivoda Labs, which caters to a smaller group of companies.

Many accelerators host their portfolio companies in collaborative, shared office spaces such as RocketSpace in order to put them in an environment conducive to creativity. RocketSpace offers shared office space where startups can collaborate amongst themselves and hosts events such as their JumpStart days where startups can present their pitch before a panel of judges and get advice and comments on their company.

At Voivoda Labs we have seen how these collaborative spaces are beneficial and have taken heed. We offer a wide array of resources such as development work, office space amongst other startups , access to a number of angel networks and super-angels, and mentoring by industry experts. As at other accelerators, the investment we make varies based on the specific startup and includes everything from capital to development resources. Consolidating all of the resources a startup needs under one roof greatly increases the odds of a successful exit, with fewer hiccups along the way.

The current boom in the tech industry has loosened the purse strings of investors and has allowed for many accelerators, both large and boutique, to actively seek out new prospects. This explosion of funding in the tech industry will not last forever, the most important thing for a startup to remember is to seize the day and work toward getting funded while the moment is still ripe.

Emil Babadjov is the Residency Program Director at Voivoda Labs, which has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Europe. Follow @

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  • Jason Riggerov

    Interesting insight on accelerators. I am attempting to cultivate my own tech startup as we speak and am curious what the best way to approach these companies for assistance may be? I have noticed that an elevator pitch seems to be more important than a business plan, as getting your foot through the door is the toughest part. Can anyone give me some advice on this?

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