Startup Accelerator FAQ

Ready to dig deeper? Here are answers to the questions we’re asked most often.

What kinds of startups are a good fit for the SU Startup Accelerator?

We work with startups that are dedicated to solving intractable global problems (e.g., food security, governance, healthcare, poverty, security, and water, among others), and are aiming to help millions of people through their innovations. In particular, we look for demonstrable use of one or more exponential technologies—such as AI, robotics, synthetic biology, and nanotech (see question two, below). We’re looking for teams with strong science and technology expertise, relevant background in their chosen industry, and a deep dedication to their solution.

We’re actively looking for startups with sufficient demonstrated traction to prove that they’re offering real solutions to the problems they seek to solve. Traction comes in many forms, and good indicators are:

  • People are willing to pay for your solution
  • You have solid research or expertise around the problem
  • You’ve signed LOI’s (or similar) with companies wanting to integrate your technology

What are the requirements for startups to be accepted?

Besides being a mission fit (using exponential technologies to solve global grand challenges), startups need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Team size: A minimum of two full-time co-founders to attend the program
  • Legal status: A US parent corporation (now or by the time you start the program) 
  • Program fit: Clear potential to measurably improve one of the global grand challenge areas 
  • Tech fit: Demonstrated application of one or more exponential technologies
  • Market opportunity (for-profit): Long-term market opportunity in the $ billions with near-term market opportunity in the tens of millions.
  • Expertise and team fit: Team has experience working together and has specific domain expertise in their industry 
  • Product/market fit: Company can demonstrate product/market fit through traction and achieved milestones
  • Strategic capacity: A plan that clearly articulates the company’s values, strategy, and plan to attract the required capital and partnerships
  • Vision: Long-term vision with a clear 6-month roadmap

Why is it important for our company to have two co-founders?

Having two co-founders ensures that your company’s development during the program will translate after program completion. We do not accept solo founders.

Why does my company need to be incorporated in the US?

Your business can be based anywhere. However, if you are not incorporated in the US, we cannot invest money in your company (nor can a VC in the United States). Most companies form a Delaware C entity. We recommend speaking with your lawyer about the best way to incorporate, as we can’t offer legal counsel.

Does my business have to be based in the US?

No, but see the above question.

What are the goals of the SU Startup Accelerator?

The mission of our accelerator program is to network, expand, and accelerate your company.

Our primary goal is to network you with an unparalleled set of advisors, corporates, development organizations, mentors, and funders, and plug you into the worldwide SU community. Among a host of notable achievements, our mentors have: developed the first prototype of Google glass, designed the UX for the Big Dog robot, and funded over 30 medtech companies with a cumulative market cap exceeding $50 billion.

In addition to networking, we will provide you with business and technology experts who will expand your thinking. This expansion phase will help you optimize and redesign aspects of your business for long-term sustainability.

Our program is highly customized to accelerate your company and help you attain your specific goals. We will work closely you to achieve your 6-month aims in an 8-week program.

How much equity does SU take? What comes with it?

In exchange for your participation in the program, we take 7% equity. In addition, we will provide a $100K convertible note with a 20% discount or a $3M cap (separate from the 7%). Program benefits include:

  • Access to all of the programming during the 8-week Accelerator, including: curated mentor matches, introductions to investors, pitch training, exposure to our proven curriculum and methods, media assets, a personalized Accelerator board of advisors, mastermind sessions, and introductions to our corporate network, among other perks.
  • Automatic enrollment in our SU Startup Network, which is a dedicated long-term support program available to you upon completion of the program. The Startup Network will provide access to our funders, mentors, development organizations, AWS and Google Cloud credits, media support, and corporate partners, plus speaking opportunities at our sold-out industry conferences.
  • Promotion to our expanding global community as a featured portfolio startup.

What are exponential technologies?

Exponential technologies include emerging tech in the fields of: artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing (3D printing), synthetic biology, clean energy, medical devices/services, robotics, and more.

These are technologies which are growing at an exponential rate by typically lowering in cost while increasing in performance. A good example of this is outlined in Moore’s Law, which states that computing power doubles every 24 months while decreasing in cost by half. 

Other examples include 3D printing, drones, and robotics, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in society. They were inaccessible 10 years ago and were used exclusively in government, large industrial, and research applications. Today, a six-year-old can print a replacement part for a flying robot in her own home.

The same holds true for biotech and medical devices. For example, the cost of genome sequencing has dropped exponentially, allowing startups to enter into the field of personalized genomics. Similarly, the cost of developing medical devices has been steadily decreasing while hardware is getting more sophisticated.

Lastly, exponential technologies include tech that is spreading at an exponential rate to provide services to needy populations around the world. For example, the proliferation of mobile in the developing world has provided internet access to the most disenfranchised populations, which in turn has enabled access to banking, healthcare and information.

What are the dates for the program?

Our Winter program is scheduled to kick off in February and will run for 8 weeks. Dates will be posted on our website when they are announced.

Our applications for the third cohort opened in September, and we will have our full class selected by mid-December.

What will my day-to-day experience be?

Overall, we aim to keep programming light so that you can focus on doing the work to move your product forward. During the first 2 weeks, we will have more touch points with the entire class. As the program continues, we will shift to more customized engagements with each team.

Where will the program take place? Can I be remote?

The program will take place at our campus at the NASA Research Park Facility in Mountain View, CA. Mountain View is in the heart of Silicon Valley and is within easy traveling distance to San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, and other Bay Area locations.

Due to the intense, hands-on nature of our program, we require you and your co-founder to attend in person. (Frankly, you wouldn’t want to do it any other way!)

What sectors are the best fit for the SU Accelerator?

Companies using exponential technologies for hard sciences, space, energy, healthcare, biotech, and hardware/software will find a home at the SU Accelerator, but we are open to other radical ideas for improving the world with tech. Let us know what areas you believe can generate a massive improvement to a major global problem.

What is an impact-oriented company?

We are looking for companies addressing humanity’s biggest challenges and striving to positively impact millions of lives. You won't find any photo sharing apps here, unless they are to help stop climate change. The grand challenges our companies seek to address include building solutions for learning, water, space, health, prosperity, environment, food, energy, security, disaster resilience, governance, and shelter.

Will you be providing lodging/food/travel?

We will connect you with lodging sources on campus, but we do not provide you with lodging. If you’d like to live off-campus, you can search Craigslist to find good options for short-term housing.

We will be providing food when we have programming during the Accelerator (a few times a week). Otherwise, there are plenty of places nearby to eat, and you can also order food for delivery.

We will be happy to provide you with a visa letter, but we do not pay for your travel expenses.

Is there a monetary cost to attend the program?

There is no monetary cost to attend our Accelerator program. The program is fully covered by the deal terms of the investment. However, you will be responsible for your travel and living expenses

How will we know if we’ve succeeded?

Prior to arriving at the Accelerator, our team will work with you determine your metrics for success. Together, we will use these metrics to evaluate your progress during the program, and we’ll focus our collective efforts to help you achieve them.

In addition, our team will be checking in with you during the program to help ensure you’re on a path to success.

Can I apply after the deadline?

Our deadlines are concrete, so once they close we can’t accept any more applicants. That being said, we will be running another Accelerator in the Fall (dates TBA), so if you miss this deadline or think your team needs more time to refine your product, you’re welcome to apply to our next cohort.