San Antonio has a growing number of startup technology companies. Many cities rely on accelerator programs that provide numerous services to help a startup develop successfully. A new San Antonio accelerator will be launching Wednesday night and it could have quite an impact.
In little more than eight years, technology accelerator programs have proliferated and more than 700 self-described accelerators exist across the country. These programs have become important in growing technology sectors but there is a lot of confusion over what they do and when they are appropriate.
“It’s not surprising to me that there is a lot of confusion around not only what accelerators do about their effectiveness.”
Ian Hathaway is an economist for the Brookings Institution, and he says of those 700 accelerators, only about 180 of them measure up to his and other prominent researchers’ definition. Accelerators offer early funding, intense mentorship, they’re for a fixed period and they occur with a group of companies going through simultaneously.
Essentially they’re trying to whip a company into shape and get them ready for a demo day - where they can pitch investors...and early evidence says they work.
“There is a small body of research that shows leading programs do in fact achieve their stated aims,” he says.
Hathaway also says there is evidence these programs attract more investors to an area. So it was disappointing when San Antonio lost its only accelerator program last October. Techstars—a leading program out of Boulder Colorado—closed its San Antonio office after 5 years.
Now a new accelerator called RealCo wants to fill the void.
“We have in San Antonio several programs focused on helping entrepreneurs get that idea off the ground,” saus Teresa Evans, a cofounder of RealCo. “But what we don’t have is many opportunities to provide funding, mentorship and one of a kind programming in a real-time manner.”
That is where RealCo comes in. Evans along with Chris Saum and Codeup cofounder Michael Girdley make up RealCo. Companies can get up to $125,000 in funding from RealCo, who take an ownership stake in return for levels of funding.
Chris Saum says RealCo is different from traditional accelerators in that they tailor a little more and stay with a company for as many as 15 months.
“You know we really saw a lot of problems with entrepreneurs were facing post their three month accelerators, so we wanted to extend that program and help them get investor ready.”
RealCo moved into the 7th floor of geekdom a few weeks ago and has space for 10 companies.
Dauber is a sort of uber for dump trucks. It’s software tracks independent dump trucks and works to keep them busy because they are only profitable when they are hauling…and in his experience in construction CEO Brian Jones saw that the trucks were empty a lot of the time.
Jones says he signed his 12 month old company up for the accelerator because he and most of his team come from contractor backgrounds and this is new territory for them
There’s a whole world of the startup industry that fundraising getting in front of the right people attracting new talent that we expect RealCo to help us with.”
Jones says RealCo is keeping his company in San Antonio.
"If we didn’t have this in San Antonio a company like ours, looking to grow in the tech industry would probably be looking towards Austin or Houston to get the support we needed.”
Jones believes his company is already making progress with the help of the RealCo, but Brookings’ Ian Hathaway says accelerators vary dramatically.
“Some in fact were found to have negative effects, so it’s just like anything in life. There are different levels of quality of startups just as there are different levels of quality of incubators and accelerators as well.”
While the technology community rallies behind RealCo, the accelerator still has to prove themselves in a competitive national technology scene.