Excelerate Labs to Become TechStars Chicago

by: Melissa Joy Kong

Excelerate Labs, an intensive summer accelerator based out of Chicago, IL, will become the new TechStars Chicago.


For the past three years, Excelerate has served as an summer accelerator for startups, driven by proven entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. Led by successful entrepreneurs Troy Henikoff (SurePayroll) and Sam Yagan (Sparknotes, OKCupid), the accelerator selects ten companies each spring to take part in a 13-week intensive summer program, culminating in a demo day to pitch in front of investors. This rebranding news comes just as Excelerate opens up applications for their fourth class. Each year, the accelerator takes on only ten new companies out of hundreds; the acceptance rate for the most recent class was  2.5%, with good reason. Last year, Forbes listed Excelerate as one of the top 3 accelerator programs in the nation, so there is no shortage of talented applicants.

Excelerate Labs set out on a mission to “invest in the very best companies and help them reach the next level.” The goal is to do that by providing access to top capital, connections, and community. Excelerate invests $25,000 in each company, in exchange for 6% common stock. On top of that, ever since 2011, New World Ventures has committed an additional $50,000 in convertible debt to each company. To date, the first 30 companies have raised a combined total of over $30 million.

Perhaps most notably, the accelerator attracts some of the best entrepreneur and investor mentors in the world, including: Chuck Templeton (Opentable), Jeff Hoffman (Priceline), Mike Evans (Grubhub), Brad Feld (Foundry Group), and David Cohen (TechStars, Bullet Time).

That Excelerate was able to attract the attention of the last two mentors on this list at the very beginning was an early foreshadowing of the change now taking place: the successful Chicago-based accelerator rebranding itself as the newest TechStars program in Chicago. Cohen, TechStars Founder and CEO, even personally invested in three of the Excelerate alums: SpotHero, GiveForward, and Tap.me (acquired by Media Math).


TechStars is regarded as the #1 startup accelerator in the world. The program is extremely selective, accepting only about 1% of the companies that apply. Before today, TechStars offered five programs in top startup locations: Boston, Boulder, New York City, Seattle, and Cloud (a thematic program for startups focused specifically on cloud computing and infrastructure) in San Antonio. Chicago will be the sixth.

Similar to Excelerate, TechStars usually accepts around 10 companies for each program location, per class. Each TechStar company has access to a bit more capital, though—$118K in total, through $18K in seed funding and an optional $100K convertible debt note. The accelerator is supported by over 75 different angel investors and VC firms, as well as top-notch mentors.

With the best startup support system in the world, it should come as no surprise that the average TechStar company raises over $1M in outside venture capital after leaving the accelerator. You can find the stats here.

Of the rebranding, Excelerate Labs CEO and Co-founder Troy Henikoff says, “We are excited to combine Excelerate’s deep roots in Chicago with TechStars’ vast alumni and mentor networks. TechStars Chicago will be an even stronger force in Chicago and will add incredible firepower to the TechStars platform.”

About the author Melissa Joy Kong @melissajoykong
Melissa is the Editor in Chief at Technori. Previously, she served as the founding Editor in Chief at Studentbranding.com. Melissa started her media career at Time, Inc. doing marketing for Fortune Magazine and new product development for: People, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, NFL, MLB, and Nickelodeon. Originally from NYC, Melissa now happily lives in Chicago, the best city around. She's blogging every single day in 2013 at melissajoykong.tumblr.com.

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