To Accelerate or not to Accelerate: that is the question

While it will be impossible for some time yet to prove that Accelerators are effective, the likes of Google and Microsoft are busily betting on their future.

Nothing better illustrates the dilemma that innovators face than the fact that it will be impossible for several years yet to prove the value of Accelerators – short periods of intensive development for selected cohorts of teams, working closely together, along with a host of supporters – yet it is a model being rolled out by leading companies.

Engagement, enthusiasm, funding, alumni and followers all give a rosy feeling to the Accelerator concept; and in spite of their rapid proliferation in the UK and Nesta’s admirable financial support of early adopters, Nesta’s experts are deeply cautious about its future.

Yet September saw Google announcing that it is building a network of tech entrepreneurs in seven North American Cities. A spokesperson commented that they have been incredibly impressed with the catalyzing impact that tech hubs have had – helping startups to grow, and creating jobs in local communities in the process. The aim is to ‘create a strong network, providing each hub with financial support alongside access to Google technology, platforms and mentors, and ensuring that entrepreneurs at these hubs have access to an even larger network of startups.’

September also saw Microsoft offering technology startups in the B2B, consumer and gaming sectors the chance to apply for its Accelerator programme in London. The chosen entrepreneurs will take part in a 12-week programme to help grow their businesses through mentorship, access to resources and technical assistance. The Accelerator is looking for 10-15 startups developing technologies in financial services, electronic retail and commerce, gaming, big data or enterprise software. Microsoft will not be taking any equity in the companies, but will maintain relationships with startups through an alumni programme after they “graduate” the Accelerator. During its pilot the Accelerator will be based at Central Working in Shoreditch.

Microsoft also feels that startups are suffering due to a severe skills shortage. The companies are struggling to find talented developers to work with in the UK, which is preventing business growth. This developer shortage can be blamed on the increase in B2C companies that have ventured into the software business taking the talent with them. Microsoft actively tries to solve these problems by running roundtables and workshops to introduce developers to new Microsoft technologies.

Despite the skills shortage there does not seem to be a shortage of energy in the developer ecosystem. “There’s still plenty of buzz and excitement around it.” And that is the dilemma.

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