SOCAPtv: “Demystifying Accelerators” w/ Jenny Everett of ANDE

Posted by on October 8th, 2015

Jenny Everett is the Deputy Director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). On Wednesday morning of SOCAP15, she discussed the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative and their goal to understand whether or not accelerator programs actually work.

Presenting just up the road from Silicon Valley, a place often credited with “creating the modern-day accelerator,” Jenny takes a look at how the accelerator model has exploded across the globe by a wide spectrum of organizations working to support the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs. While these programs are expansive and time consuming, a big question remains: Do they actually work?

As a sector, Jenny points out that there’s a lack of information about whether these programs are effective, but the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative is working to change that. It’s a partnership attempting to build “a longitudinal data set” of entrepreneurs who have applied to accelerator programs and who will have their successes tracked for three years post-application, regardless of acceptance to a program. The collected data will address a spectrum of contributing factors, including the presence of mentorship, the length of the accelerator program (3 months, 6 months, etc.), the platform of program attendance (in-person or online), the type of program (whether or not it is an impact accelerator), and other attributions like men-led vs. women-led businesses – all of which bring up questions that there are currently no clear answers for.

To answer these and other questions, the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative has collected data on 3,000 enterprises, with the following program commonalities:

Through this data, the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative is already starting to see trends, helping them understand what works best in the accelerator arena. Their early findings show:

  • Ventures with women on their foundational team are less likely to attract equity investors, but significantly more likely to report positive revenue and have higher philanthropic investment.
  • A small minority of their sample are actually using assessment tools like B Lab and Iris. Could this be due to lack of awareness or accessibility to early-stage enterprises?
  • Founders with entrepreneurial experience are significantly better at attracting equity.
  • Ventures with founders who hold patents, copyrights, and trademarks are more likely to gain equity investment and report positive revenue and employment.
  • There is a bias among program selectors towards ventures with more established track records.

Are Programs Successful?

Well, that depends on how an organization gauges success. This slide from Jenny’s talk highlights some different interpretations:

This question of success gets even more diverse when you talk to funders about their individual goals, as this next slide illustrates:

Again, while these organizations are all supporting accelerator programs, they each have different end goals.

So Do Accelerators Really Work?

In regards to for-profit accelerators, this question may not be relevant. As long as they can generate revenue through their programs, they can still function. However, for those interested in more than just financial impact, this is an important question to consider. Overall, Jenny points out the need to understand and identify “the right programs, that work in the right situations, for the right entrepreneurs.”

The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative hopes that through further participation, they can continue to generate key data and create an understanding of the efficacy of accelerator programs globally.

For Jenny’s full presentation, and for more SOCAPtv programing from SOCAP15, visit