FastTrack Accelerator

Validated your idea with real customers and ready to start building an awesome product?

Everything you’ve done to date has been about identifying a real problem and defining your target market. Once you’ve found a problem worth solving, then it’s time to build a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) to get the job (or some of the job) done for your customer.

The hard part is figuring out what the minimal set of features/services should be?

Our 15-week FastTrack Accelerator helps you to test the market quickly with rapid tests and prototypes and build a solution that is based on real customer feedback.

APPLY NOW

Applications are open until Oct 19th at midnight.

  • We start 1st week of November and run until the middle of April.
  • No meetings over winter or spring break.
  • We accept 7-9 teams into the program.

Test your assumptions and the market.

Successful startups test their assumptions, toss out the ones that are inaccurate, and focus on the ones that are true.

As part of the Accelerator, you will:

  • Document and test critical assumptions that could “tank” your business.
  • Develop design criteria that inform what features you should include.
  • Rapidly prototype potential solutions and get real customer feedback.
  • Test customers’ willingness to buy what you’re selling.

Build a sustainable business model and go-to market strategy.

Today’s smart entrepreneur builds lean business models (not 40-page business plans). Key to building a viable business is having a high-level articulation of what you do to whom, why they care, how you deliver value, and how you make money.

At the completion of the Accelerator, you will have:

  • Created a formal business entity
  • Crafted a unique value proposition
  • Defined a viable business model
  • Sketched out a marketing and sales plan

 

Without participating in the LaunchBox Accelerator program, I’m pretty confident I would have hundreds of watches sitting in my attic collecting dust and credit card debt collecting interest.”

Zack Rackovan
Founder, Ardor & Forge

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We take no equity. We charge no fees.

All our services are free of charge. We take zero equity in your business and charge no rent to use our facility.

funds

Access to seed funding.

Startups will have access to up to $3000 to help with customer discovery.

location

24x7 access to our facilities for 1 year.

Get 24×7 access to our facilities, free Wi-Fi, printing, and coffee to burn the midnight oil for 1 year. (Did we say free? We did.)

multiple-users-silhouette

A focus on customer experience.

In today’s experience economy, companies that provide a high-quality end-to-end experience for their customers have an advantage over those who focus only on the point specific usability of their products.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The FastTrack Accelerator is best for startups who have validated their idea by systematically testing their assumptions through customer discovery and are ready to build a solution and test the market.

We focus on early-stage startups in any industry and are look for scalable ideas that have an unclear, or unknown business model.

We are looking for teams who…

  • …have 2 or more co-founders or team members.
  • …have validated the problem/need they are trying to solve/meet.
  • …can clearly define who their customer is (past just demographics).
  • …have a scalable idea.
  • …are willing to dedicate a minimum of 8-12 hours a week to work on their startup.

Our programs are best suited to non-traditional businesses where the business model is unknown or unclear.

If you are looking to open a traditional business, we do offer many resources to help you:

You can set up appointment here. All clinics are co-located in our down town facility.

It’s preferred.

Because we are looking for businesses that want to scale (versus sole proprietors), at this stage of building your business, you will need more than just yourself to get your startup up and running.

The number of applicants varies, however, we typically see between 30-60 applicants for each program cycle.

Nope. If you have done significant customer discovery and can clearly articulate 1) the problem/need your customer has, 2) exactly who they are and where they hang out (virtually and physically), 3) what solutions they’ve tried before, and 4) what motivates them to continue looking for a solution, then you’re ready for the FastTrack Accelerator.

If you aren’t able to do the above, then the Idea TestLab would be a great place to start.

Note that teams who successfully complete the Idea TestLab are fast-tracked into the Accelerator interview process.

  • 15, 2-hour group sessions with hands-on programming that leveraging the latest lean startup processes to help accelerate entry to market
  • Weekly 1-on-1 coaching sessions
  • 24×7 access to our facilities for 1 year, with team space in one of our dedicated team rooms
  • Access to our extensive network of advisors and experts, including Mentor Meetup “speed dating” event
  • Opportunity to participate in special events with alumni, investors, advisors, and mentors
  • Access to up to $3000 in funding for customer discovery for qualified teams

A lot depends on who you asked and what you asked them. A good way to see if you have a clear understanding of your customer is to see if you can clearly articulate the answers to the 5 questions below?

  1. What are 5 key characteristics of your target customer (not demographics only)?
  2. What is the job (problem/need) your customer is trying to do (solve/meet) and why are they unable to solve it sufficiently today?
  3. What are the best channels for reaching your target customer?
  4. What other solutions have your customers tried, and what do they say about those solutions?
  5. What assumptions are you making about your customer that could “tank” your business if your wrong?

If you are unable to clearly answer all the questions in detail, based on real data from potential customers (not your friens and family), or if others can’t easily understand what you’re talking about, then the Idea TestLab would be a great place to start.

If you have talked to numerous potential customers and can answer the questions based on what you’ve learned from those customers, and others can easily understand what you’re talking about, then the FastTrack Accelerator may be the best program for you.

If you’re not sure, set up a time with us to talk about it.

If you already have a prototype or working product, that’s great.

The Accelerator program can help you to better define your market, the appropriate channels to drive traffic, the right types of statistics to be tracking, and how best to update or modify your solution based on customer needs.

One question to ask yourself, is whether you have built something based on a deep understand of your target customer, their needs, the solutions they’ve already tried, and the value they are looking for?

If you have a product in the market, how many customers do you have paying for it? That’s a big clue as to whether you may need to reassess what you’ve built.

If you can answer the following questions, then the FastTrack Accelerator may be the best program for you.

  1. What are 5 key characteristics of your target customer (not demographics only)?
  2. What is the job (problem/need) your customer is trying to do (solve/meet)?
  3. What are the best channels for reaching your target customer?
  4. What other solutions have your customers tried, and what do they say about those solutions?
  5. What assumptions are you making about your customer that could “tank” your business if you’re wrong?

If you are unable to clearly answers the questions above, or others can’t easily understand what you’re talking about, then the Idea TestLab is probably a better place to start.

Maybe. We’re not trying to evade the question, but that really depends on you, what you’ve learn along the way, the amount of time you’ve dedicated to your business, and whether you are able to create value for your customer.

We can tell you, however, that by the end of the Accelerator, you will have an opportunity to:

  • create a legal entity (e.g., LLC),
  • learn from experts in business, industry, and startup culture,
  • get help with company and product naming, brand messaging, and marketing, and
  • test the market through smokescreens, A/B testing, and rapid prototyping.

Yes. It’s not automatic, but qualified teams in the FastTrack Accelerator will have access to up to $3000 for customer discovery purposes from the NSF I-Corps program.

No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.

Applications for the 2018-2019 FastTrack Accelerator are due by Oct 19th at midnight.

Teams will be notified by Oct 25th if they have been invited to interviews with the Selection Committee.

Interviews will be held Oct 29th and 30th here at the LaunchBox.

  1. Startups apply online by the deadline.
  2. A Selection Committee comprised of local business owners, representatives from Invent Penn State, entrepreneurial faculty at Penn State, a recent graduate of the LaunchBox accelerator, and a representative from an undergraduate entrepreneurial club, review all applications and provide feedback against a defined set of criteria.
  3. We invite 12-15 startups to an in-person interview at the LaunchBox facility.
  4. We extend invitations to 7 – 9 startups to participate in the program.

It is our expectation that all participants are serious about, and dedicated to, building their startup.

Teams in the FastTrack Accelerator should be prepared to spend between 8 – 13 hour a week during the course of the program (November through April).

Time commitment includes 2 hours a week in group bootcamps, 1 hour a week in 1-on-1 mentoring sessions, and 5- 10 hours preparing for and executing on you defined milestones.

It is our expectation that startup founders are dedicated and excited about starting and growing their businesses. To get the most out of the program, we recommend having all the founders and team members attend all the sessions.

Minimally, at least one founder must be present at all group meetings and weekly 1-on-1 mentoring sessions.

We realize that events, interviews, and other activities may conflict with some scheduled meetings, when you cannot reschedule a conflicting event, we’ll work with you on an individual case-by-case basis to keep you up to speed.

All sessions will be held here at the LaunchBox and all team members participating in the Accelerator are expected to attend.

Bootcamp meetings are held from 6-8PM on Wednesdays on the following dates:

  • Nov 7, 14, 28
  • Dec 5
  • Jan 16 (Mentor Meetup) 23, 30
  • Feb 6, 13, 20
  • Mar 13, 20, 27
  • Apr 3, 10
  • Demo Day is Apr 17

Weekly 1-hour mentor sessions will be scheduled with each team at the beginning of the program.

Note: there are no meetings during Winter and Spring break.

PROGRAM LEADER

Lee Erickson

Lee brings 25 years of business experience to her job as LaunchBox coach. As the co-founder and CEO of Erickson Barnett, a full-service marketing agency, she worked with B2B technology startups and some of the world’s largest venture capital firms. She also brings hands-on experience with customer discovery and design thinking sprints to help startups drive innovative solutions that solve real problems.

We're looking for serious entrepreneurs who are ready to build and grow startups.