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March 17, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Harvard Business Review article examines characteristics of successful start-up accelerators

The authors concluded that three strategies characterized the most successful programs.

Faculty members at three different U.S. universities have collaborated on an article in the Harvard Business Review that examines the question of “What Sets Successful Start-up Accelerators Apart?”

Their conclusion reveals three successful strategies for growth as part of an accelerator:

  • Gathering advice in intensive bursts;
  • Facilitating friendly sibling rivalry; and
  • Requiring scheduled transitions.

“These strategies, while forged in the fast-paced world of start-ups, offer broad lessons for leaders in all organizations attempting to accelerate innovation and turbocharge high-impact growth,” the three co-authors write. They are: (1) Susan Cohen, an Associate Professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia; (2) Benjamin Hallen, Dempsey Endowed Professor in Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington, and an Associate Editor at the Strategic Management Journal; and (3) Christopher Bingham, Phillip Hettleman Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The trio found that start-ups participating in an accelerator raised 50 to 170 percent more from investors and were more likely to be alive or acquired than similar start-ups that applied to the accelerators but were not accepted. And their findings were based on visits to dozens of programs and interviews with more than 200 entrepreneurs, program directors, and mentors.


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