Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Start-Up Accelerators Get Topic-Specific: Education, Health and Now Cleantech

The Y Combinator model of “start-up accelerator”–assemble a group of young companies at a location for a few months, give them mentorship and tens of thousands of dollars each in exchange for a small stake, finish with a day of pitching to investors–has become an industry itself.

Some 100 similar programs exist, and Y Combinator too is rapidly expanding, with 62 companies expected for its next class (up from eight in 2005).

Now the programs themselves are getting topic-specific, rather than just location-specific. At least three new Silicon Valley accelerators are launching in the next few months, with focuses on education, cleantech and health, respectively.

It makes sense: The act of building a company has its own curriculum, but start-ups in different sectors will undoubtedly benefit from more specific mentorship.

The newest such program is Greenstart, a cleantech accelerator based out of a 7,000-square-foot office in San Francisco that will begin its first session this fall. It launched to the public today. Here’s the pitch:

Greenstart is led by three successful tech entrepreneurs gone green, Mitch Lowe (Jumpstart), Dave Graham (ArizonaBay Technology Ventures) and Dillon McDonald (OpenAuto/Jumpstart), Greenstart aims to cultivate the specific needs of ambitious startups with ideas for minimizing dirty energy. For their first class they seek “new cleantech” companies – those working in software, smart grid, smart sensors, mobile apps, and the clean web – versus capex intensive ideas like solar panels or biofuels.

However, Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech points out that the Greenstart leaders don’t have extensive cleantech resumes, and that most cleantech projects require considerably more funding than the $25,000 Greenstart is offering.

Elsewhere, Geoff Ralston has launched Imagine K12, an education start-up accelerator that Kara covered earlier this week. That program has the explicit endorsement of Y Combinator, which says it will refer future education-specific applicants to Palo Alto, Calif.-based Imagine K12 instead.

Y Combinator’s Paul Graham wrote,

If you want to start a startup building things for schools, we encourage you to apply to Imagine K12, because frankly, we couldn’t help you the way they can. The hardest question we always have to ask such startups is ‘how are you going to get the first users?’ Imagine K12 doesn’t have to ask that.

Also starting this summer is Rock Health, a San Francisco-based accelerator focused on health apps that has relationships with the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, Harvard Medical School, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google