By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.
Dan Marcum and Jack Sisk clearly view the inaugural autoXLR8R as a success, but that belief does not mean they’re approaching planning for 2014 with an eye toward doing everything the same way.
In fact, they are examining everything from the length of the accelerator to the way content is packaged and presented and even the possibility of expanding the concept to other states.
“We are focused on putting a network of autoXLR8Rs together in the Southeast,” Marcum told teknovation.biz during our recent interview. “We would still run one in Tennessee, but we are exploring options in other states.”
One possibility would be an accelerator every quarter. Another would be something akin to an “Accelerator on Demand.”
No decisions have been made, but both Marcum and Sisk clearly see continuing demand for the autoXLR8R concept.
“Industry people understand accelerators,” Sisk said. “They know they have to innovate . . . develop product.”
He cites the skunk works concept and says a great source of new ideas for both original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers are the companies that participated in the autoXLR8R.
As they explore revisions to their model, Marcum and Sisk clearly recognize that the one-size model truly does not fit all start-ups.
“Some (start-ups) get it in six weeks, but others take 13 weeks or longer,” Marcum says. “Can we change from 13 weeks and graduation to something else?”
He clearly believes the 13-week model will change, underscored by his own experience as leader of the Southern Middle Tennessee Entrepreneur Centers.
“We’re still doing accelerator-type work for the 2012 companies,” Marcum says in reference to that cohort and the fact that a start-up’s need for mentoring does not end with graduation.
The autoXLR8R planning team was particularly complimentary of LaunchTN and its activities like “The TENN,” an effort to identify the state’s top 10 start-ups and bring additional opportunities to them.
“LaunchTN is bringing real national attention to Tennessee,” Marcum says, adding that the organization’s emphasis on accelerators like autoXLR8R “has caused higher education institutions to emphasize commercialization more.”
Underpinning all of the current examination by Marcum and Sisk is the reality of the value proposition for accelerators.
“As venture capitalists, we’re looking for early deal flow,” Marcum says. “We invest in the jockey, not the horse.”