Boulder, Colorado, is buzzing with founders from different sectors. Its wide-open spaces and the neighboring Rocky Mountains take away the rat-race feeling of the busy cities. Founders are settling in good numbers. Tech and creative talent are also in good supply, making it a good hub for startups. Maybe this is why Boulder boasts a large number of incubators and accelerators focused on supporting entrepreneurs.
Trying to get your startup off the ground in Boulder, Colorado? Use our guide to the best accelerators and incubators in Boulder to learn how.
What is an Accelerator?
What is an accelerator? An accelerator is a program where business owners are trained, mentored and given capital to grow their ventures. Other resources also may include office space, access to high-end technology or software and joining networks to grow their influence.
What is an incubator? When children are born but still have not developed fully, they are put in incubators until the doctors are sure their organs or whatever was not fully developed are now fully functioning. That is what incubators do to startup businesses. Incubators are buildings that house businesses without charging much rent. The business can carry out its operations there till they can afford its own place.
Some accelerators also have incubators, but note that an accelerator is a program that can run for 2 to 6 months while an incubator is a building.
What Types of Companies are Accelerators for?
It is essential to know whether your company qualifies for a particular accelerator. Accelerators help companies get off the ground by providing them with advice and startup capital. You, like many other founders, might find yourself asking whether an accelerator is suitable for your company. Before you make a decision, we recommend that you think through the following:
- Are you able to dedicate the time, energy and effort the program requires? How successful an accelerator program is with your business depends on what you put into it. An accelerator program is for a company that will put in the needed time, effort and dedication.
- Can you clearly see how the program will help your business? Accelerators impact each business differently. Weigh this by looking at the individual needs of your company. What are you looking for? Capital, customers, advisers, partners, mentors, investors or future hires? Accelerator programs are for companies that know what they want and identify the solution within the program.
- Do you have a plan for how you will manage your business while also participating in the program? It will have to be an act of balance because you cannot drop your business and go. Plan for how much time the program will consume so that you get the best out of it. Having a co-founder is perfect because one of you can attend while the other ensures things are running. An accelerator program is for companies that have a plan for it.
- Why are you interested in an accelerator? Are you genuinely interested in the learning process, or is it a quick path to money? Be sure you're in it for the right reasons, and not just to follow a trend or because you expect a get-rich-quick result.
How to Pick the Right Accelerator
Turning your idea from what it is in your mind or office to a marketable product or service is a challenge. As a rookie entrepreneur, you will need a guide and not someone taking advantage of you. In light of this information, many accelerators were created to assist entrepreneurs in executing their ideas. This is noble, but it should be noted that accelerators are not for everyone. So how do you pick the right accelerator for your business?
- Does the accelerator fit your business stage? Select an accelerator that is in sync with your startup's current stage.
- Find out the tech capabilities. Can you write code, or do you need a team that can do that for you? Can the accelerator give you the kind of technical backup you need?
- Does the accelerator fit your industry? This could turbocharge your industry know-how.
- Are you going to develop new professional skills, or does the accelerator understand what you already know? Choose a program that complements your skills.
- How much time is needed? Because you need to plan for your time, choose a program that you can comfortably fit into your schedule.
- Ensure that the accelerator program you settle for offers ongoing support even when the program is completed.
Top 9 Accelerators and Incubators in Boulder
Here are the best accelerators to add to your shortlist in Boulder, Colorado.
1. Best Accelerator for Healthtech Startups: Boomtown Accelerators, founded 2014
Boomtown accelerator specializes in media, ad tech and the Internet of Things (IoT). The program runs for 3 months. There is no access to capital, but selected companies receive between $35,000 to $50,000 in exchange for minimum equity of 6%. Boomtown has 82 companies in its portfolio with 3 exits. Some of the notable companies associated with the accelerator are adJelly, ParkiFi and FansUnite.
2. Best Accelerator for Entrepreneurship: Techstars, founded 2006
Techstars is a globally recognized accelerator program. It aims to empower entrepreneurs who are bringing new technologies into the market. It is a lifelong program even though initially it takes 3 months. There is no access to capital, but there are terms of investment. Techstars offers a $100,000 convertible note to each company. It also contributes $20,000 to cover living expenses during the program. In return, Techstars takes 6% token reserve and 6% company equity until the financing raises to about $250,000.
3. Best Accelerator for Social Impact: Uncharted, founded 2009
Uncharted helps entrepreneurs navigate social problems. They are given all they need to attack the matter from all angles. What are the terms of investment? Rockefeller Foundation and The Unreasonable Institute work together on this and plan to give 10 grants of $300,000 each. Uncharted has 26 investments and 4 exits. The notable names associated with this program are Solidarium Mercado de Artesanato e Servicos Digitais, Prospera and StaffInsight.
4. Best Legal Cannabis Industry Accelerator: CanopyBoulder, founded 2014
CanopyBoulder is a seed-stage accelerator. It works in partnership with The ArcView Group and is mentorship-driven. This is an accelerator program that deals with products and services in the legal cannabis industry. The CanopyBoulder program takes 4 months. Participating companies are handpicked to receive intensive mentorship and capital infusion. You have no access to capital, but the round of investments totals up to $300,000. It has 100 investments and 2 exits. The notable names associated with CanopyBoulder are Hemp Business Journal and WeGrow.
5. Best Product/Market Accelerator: UpRamp Fiterator, active 2016 -- 2019
UpRamp Fiterator was an accelerator program that helps companies find a fitting market or product within the global cable industry. It was a non-resident program combined with C-level mentorship where deep subject-matter experts helped companies through the startup stage. The entire program lasted 9 months. There was no access to capital, but UpRamp requested 3% equity in exchange for access to valuable opportunities. While UpRamp is no longer active, its parent company, CableLabs, has seen plenty of success elsewhere and is always striving to find new ways to "Invent the Future."
6. Best Accelerator for Recreational Outdoor Companies: Catapult Outdoor, founded 2018
The Catapult Outdoor accelerator program specializes in recreational outdoor retail companies. ICELab started this accelerator in partnership with Active Interest Media (AIM) and other big names in Colorado. The entire program takes 3 months, and there is no access to capital. Catapult has 3 investments, no exits and no notable names associated with it.
7. Best Accelerator Umbrella Organization: Global Accelerator Network, founded 2010
Global Accelerator Network is an accelerator network offering startups access to accelerators, investors and partners. GAN has helped over 9400 startups and counts members in over 120 countries globally. Some notable names associated with it are Smart Drivinc, CityMile and Lifedb.
8. Best Sports Tech Incubator: Black Lab Sports, founded 2014
Black Lab Sports is an incubator helping companies solve challenges faced by teams, athletes and their fans. The incubation period is 3 months, and even though there is no access to capital, the program has managed to raise $640,000 in funding in a single round. It has 8 investments, 1 exit and no notable names.
9. Best Accelerator for University Students: Catalyze CU, founded 2014
Wondering what you can do with your summers as a student-slash-business owner? Apply for the Catalyze CU accelerator program. This 10-week program is especially for students, faculty and staff. It offers world-class mentorship with equity-free grants. It’s an excellent opportunity for participants considered to have the most promising tech ideas. Catalyze CU does not take equity and it does not invest. The program has 7 companies and no notable names associated with it.
Great Tech Future Ahead with Boulder Accelerators
An accelerator or incubator is the perfect way to get your business off the ground. And Boulder is a great place to be a startup due to it’s large talent pool and strong tech presence -- as well as the amazing incubators and accelerators it offers in spades. Want to learn more about other local rankings across the United States? Check out the Best Tech Startups in Miami or the Best Tech Startups in Chicago.
Read also: BEST ACCELERATORS IN TORONTO, RANKED