Entrepreneurship tourism is here. Where do you want to go?
There is no shortage of business accelerators in the world.
According to National Business Incubation Association, there are around 1250 of them in the US (as of Oct 2012).
Wikipedia cites 900 as the number of them in Europe, while the Silicon Valley-headquartered Founder Institute alone runs in 45 countries and 79 cities.
The Memo’s team are even ‘Journalists in Residence’ at Telefónica’s London accelerator, Wayra.
An accelerator is a sort of bootcamp for entrepreneurs, often offering some funding in exchange for equity in the entrepreneur’s company, mentorship by specialists in the entrepreneur’s field, office space, and often a demo day, where the entrepreneurs pitch their companies to investors.
Programmes generally run for 12 weeks, and often have a high barrier to entry. Entrepreneurs all have their own reasons for joining them:
If you’re going to put all that work into starting a company, why not do it in a city or country you’ve always wanted to experience?
Puerto Rico and Costa Rica are certainly popular spots.
After being accepted at a top local program, one New York-based event planning platform called Fiestah was on the DreamIt accelerator when they discovered they’d also been accepted into Startup Chile.
What did they do? Both. Why not launch in two markets? And why not skip a numbing New York winter for sunny Santiago?
While New York is a world capital to finance, media, fashion and advertising, you don’t find a lot of farmland there.
The accelerator itself was the draw, and the although the team worked long hours, they appreciated that they could leave the office at 3am and still find places open for a nightcap or meal.
New York is not only the city that never sleeps.
There’s also the location factor: a company that was founded in one place may be entering a crowded space, whereas once they move offshore to a lesser-served area, they may get traction. And interest.
Entrepreneur Thikshan Arulampalam is a testament to how globe-trotting is helping to change the entrepreneurial landscape.
Sri Lankan-born, he lives in New York, where he co-founded Bundlhub – a marketplace for selling, swapping, or donating unwanted or used goods.
Think Craigslist meets eBay meets Oxfam.
But when Thikshan met with investors in New York and Silicon Valley (who offered great advice), no one was ready to open the purse strings.
It was then while attending SLUSH, a conference in Helsinki, that he connected with a headhunter who introduced him to Accelerator Business City, the Slovenia-based accelerator where Bundlhub is now part of the cohort.
Introductions are always best. There are scams out there, and the last thing you to be is a stranger in a strange land.
The US is always a popular destination for entrepreneurs globally where there is no lack of accelerators, or investors.
“Global companies that we work with are coming to the US because the US is the largest market in the world,” Murat Aktihanoglu, founder and managing director of NY-based Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, told The Memo.
“They are not trying to be in multiple markets. They are just moving to the largest market.”
While not all business accelerators – or ecosystems – are the same, there’s usually something to get out of the program, whether you go near or far. Usually.
But nine out of ten entrepreneurs do fail.
Phil Krim and Neil Parikh were co-founders of separate companies, but they were both cohorts at a New York based accelerator.
They also happened to be seated next to each other in the accelerator’s offices.
After successfully completing the programme, each decided that he didn’t want to pursue his company. Instead, they teamed up to found Casper, the mattress company that happens to be one of the fastest-growing consumer brands of all time.
Sometimes it is location, location, location.
“There are cohorts from Italy and Chile here, too, who participated in other accelerators,” said Thikshan.
“For most of them, the reason they joined another programme was that when they started at the previous one, they were in the ideation stage. Like us, most are also looking for multicultural input and exposure outside their comfort zone. “
After finishing the programmes, most entrepreneurs want to either head to the US or home, Thikshan noted, whether they receive funding or not.
At the end of the day, there’s no place like home.
Bonnie Halper has been on the tech scene since ’94 – as an entrepreneur, recruiter, reporter and all-round industry expert. She founded New York’s StartupOneStop in 2009, was the founding Editor in Chief of AlleyWatch and is co-founder of Ladies Who Lead.
Keep up with her quick-witted insights from NYC.