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Accelerators head-to-head: Collider vs Techstars

Ahead of their ‘tech trailblazer’ presence at this year’s Centaur Festival of Marketing​ on 11 and 12 November in London, Tech City News caught up with Techstars London and Collider to talk about the increasingly crowded accelerator space.

What makes your accelerator different?

“The number one difference is our market focus – advertising and marketing technology or madtech – in a way this focus is vertical, but we would also say it’s horizontal, every corporate needs to market and advertise,” explains Andy Tait, cofounder at Collider. “Everything we do flows from that.”

“First, all of our investors are from the industry – they’ve either come from major corporate backgrounds in a marketing or digital function, or are entrepreneurs that have built their own businesses in this space.

“Second, when we choose startups to work with, we ask them how they solve real problems for major brands – the types of enduring problems that are going to help our brands and agencies sell their products and services.

“That gives us real alignment with our brand and agency partners which is highly beneficial to them as it makes the testing and adoption of innovation focused and efficient for all involved.

“We also make sure our startup coaching is highly focused, another area that sets us apart – we give dedicated one to one coaching to all startups for continuity. For us it’s about quality not quantity and we are very selective about the coaches we choose.

“Usually it’s the Collider founders – that’s myself, Rose and David – that do the one-to-one coaching and mentoring is by our investor group. This ensures that we minimise conflicting advice, as this can be difficult for founders to navigate.”

“The things I would say that differentiate Techstars are the quality of the network and our global ecosystem,” Max Kelly, MD at Techstars London says.

“Right now we have 3,500 members in the Techstars network – that’s all the Techstars founders who deal with all the companies, the mentors for the programmes and then the investors in the companies.

“One of our major strengths lies in our internal capability and what I mean by that is that because of Techstars truly global ecosystem, no matter where you are, you always have access to the connections you need.

“The other interesting thing is that this number – 3,5000 – actually doesn’t include the startup programmes.

“Techstars recently acquired UP Global, including the organisation’s Startup Weekend, Startup Week, Startup Next and Startup Digest programmes.

“The 3,500 also doesn’t include the people involved with Techstars Ventures – the venture capital arm of Techstars.

“And that’s what we do, we cradle from inspiration to IPO. It’s why entrepreneurs get involved in the network. The depth of our network and the support our companies get across their entrepreneurial journey is something that sets us apart.”

Are there too many accelerators today?

“Great question – the flippant answer is we will never know,” Tait says. “It’s actually very encouraging that accelerators are becoming a sector in their own right.

“And when you have a new industry or sector that is growing, you do have a rush of people running in and that’s what is happening at the moment.

“First you have the massive expansion and then it’s about consolidation. And I think it’s better to have a lot of activity than too little activity. It’s a good sign there is a lot going on and we’re confident in our unique position and great team delivering Collider.”

Kelly disagrees. “Yes is the answer – what I would say is that there are a number of very good ones out there serving different purposes but there are so many others who aren’t – and really, if they’re not supporting companies through the journey effectively – mentoring, understanding, helping the business, and if they’re not supporting it during its funding or growth periods, then it’s not a true accelerator.

“It’s just people who are looking to gain some portion of equity for low input.”

Why do you think corporates are getting involved?

“They can’t afford not to,” Tait says. “Trying to catch up with technology is much more expensive than just doing it from the outset. Technology is going to impact every industry – it is really critical that brands are right on top of what’s coming up and that they are engaging with that. You need to be in the game, it’s too expensive to sit on the side-lines.”

“That’s an interesting question – a lot of corporates can be allergic to creating new innovation, but the truth is, business models are being turned on their heads,” Kelly agrees. “For example, if you’re in the financial services sector, you’re going to a see a dramatic change in the next 5 to 10 years – this is a change that must be embraced, otherwise you’ll get left behind.

“When it comes to corporates embracing innovation through startups, what we are seeing with some corporates is that they are investing at the late stage. Others are in fact incubating new companies – startups – themselves and are bringing in new people to create these startups internally.”