By: John Jackovin, BrokerTech Ventures Accelerator Executive Director
In the world we live today, diversity is becoming intentional and that is a great thing. Diversity makes us stronger, and when I think about this as it relates to BrokerTech Ventures (BTV), we really believe diversity is the key to the future. We not only welcome differences; we encourage them. Those differences are what makes BTV stand out from an ever-increasingly cluttered accelerator landscape. But, that’s not all.
The Accelerator Evolution
To understand how and why BTV is different, I want to take a quick look at the evolution of accelerators.
In 2006, YCombinator (YC) became the first big name accelerator to hit the market. They were based in the Bay area and had deep connectivity into the valley’s Venture Capital (VC) community. YC focused heavily on product development, market fit, and traction. They have grown considerably over the years — not by expanding the number of cohorts, but rather by adding more to each class, which can now be in the many hundreds of startups.
In 2007, Techstars rose from Boulder, Colorado, a small town outside Denver and has been growing ever since. Techstars’ method for growth has been expansion all over the globe and by partnering with companies looking to get in on the Techstars brand for their own innovation purposes. The accelerator focuses on early-stage startups who need mentorship and education along with a very strong emphasis on pitching. I had the opportunity to go through this program in 2014, and it was intense, but hugely beneficial.
Global Accelerator Network
In 2010, the Techstars’ playbook was used to start the Global Accelerator Network (GAN). In simple terms, GAN licenses the Techstars’ playbook to independent organizations who want to replicate what Techstars is doing, just without the Techstars name. Out of the GAN, came the next evolution in accelerators — industry-focused accelerators.
The benefit of these different programs is their focus. Whereas Techstars and YC take in all sorts of startups, the GAN programs focus on one area and, in doing so, can provide a focus when it comes to curriculum and mentoring.
The BrokerTech Ventures Difference
This leads us to BTV. Why are we different? How are we different, and how do those differences make us stronger?
Diversity of Opinion
BTV is made up of 30 partners, agencies, wholesalers, and carriers from all across the U.S., all of which are diverse in their location, areas of focus, lines of business, and how they engage with BTV. Each partner is deeply involved in the accelerator and actively engaged in all facets of the selection process.
Speaking of the selection process, BTV (like all other accelerators) collects startup info for review, but here’s where we’re different. Once we narrow the process down, we do something a bit unique. BTV holds an event called the Selection Series. Our event brings together 100+ employees from our BTV partners for a 2-day, in-depth Q&A session with each of our startups. This format gives our partners the ability to dig deeper into each startup and allows us to better identify the final startups for the accelerator.
Other accelerators do something called mentor madness, where startups meet with 80-100 potential mentors. The goal is for each startup to be assigned 1-4 mentors who help you down your path to startup success. BTV is a bit different in that we hold “BTV Mania.” This process allows our startups to actually meet 30 prospective clients in 2 days. We’ve found that this enhanced focus helps our startups greatly as they work to make their ideas, programs, and solutions more valuable to the direct people who will be using them.
Our BTV startups also meet with all of our partners, and while there are certainly mentoring opportunities, the real magic is in what materializes beyond mentorship. Our partners actually engage the startups to either use or distribute the product or service. For early-stage startups, this allows them to quickly achieve product-market fit. For later-stage startups, this helps them accomplish 3 years of business development efforts in 3 weeks. For B2B insurtech startups, there is literally nothing that can accelerate you more than distribution.
So, is BTV Really an Accelerator?
Yes and no. BTV is an accelerator in the true sense of the term. We rapidly accelerate startups. We also invest a small amount of capital in each startup ($50,000 SAFE). So, in those regards, we are an accelerator.
On the other hand, we are not a 90- or 100-day program. We don’t predominately focus on education and mentorship. The only required in-person part of the program is BTV Mania. So, I guess the answer is yes, maybe…yes, we are.
While BTV might be different from other accelerator programs, we feel these differences strengthen our program, partners, startups, and the insurance industry in general. And because of those differences, we’ve created a very solid foundation that is designed to last.