Austin’s Top Tech Accelerators


Weslie Oeftering
Austin’s Top Tech Accelerators

When I first heard of tech accelerators, I assumed it was just a fancy term for venture capitalism. I quickly learned that I was wrong. Tech accelerators are programs that give startups access to tools they need to succeed but are very hard to come by. They are like co-working spaces, but with a very specific purpose: growing your startup by providing you with mentors, employees and educational events. If that weren’t enough, tech accelerator programs are usually low cost. Which begs the question: what’s in it for them?

In exchange for the benefits you receive from the program, a tech accelerator usually takes a very low percentage stake in your company (around 1 percent), with the rights to invest during your company’s next funding round. That way, it is in the accelerator’s best interest to help you succeed.

These programs do not sponsor just anyone that walks through the door, though. Startups still have to apply to these programs, and the process is usually competitive – especially in a market with such high-caliber talent like Austin. Luckily, there are lots of versatile programs to choose from in Austin that can suit different companies’ needs, so your odds of getting accepted are much greater. We’ve compiled this list of Austin’s top tech accelerators to make your research a little easier.

Capital Factory

Capital Factory’s six-month tech accelerator program provides startups and entrepreneurs with their WeWorkesque co-working space, hosting credits, a StartupEvangelist, and a network of over 150 mentors and investors.

Additionally, a Startup Evangelist is essentially a PR professional that Capital Factory provides your startup. They are your biggest advocate when it comes to spreading the word about your company; they attend trade/roadshows, speak on your behalf at presentations, pitch to media outlets, write blogs, etc.  

What sets Capital Factory apart is its second location in Downtown Dallas and its roadshows in San Antonio and Houston. This gives companies access to a much larger network of people who can help them succeed. Their network of mentors come from all sorts of industries, such as artificial intelligence, the military, and healthcare.

Sputnik ATX

Sputnik ATX goes all in on their name. If you don’t know, Sputnik-1 was launched by the Russians in 1957 and was the first satellite to ever orbit the Earth. Basically, it changed the game. Suddenly, there was a whole new world of possibility to invest in. “Sputnik” also means partner in Russian, which what Sputnik ATX aims to do – be Austin’s startups’ “partner for take-off,” with the caveat that the startup is as innovative as Sputnik.

Sputnik ATX’s accelerator program lasts about four-months, either January to March or July to October, depending on which cohort you apply to. Acceptance into the program provides you with $100,000 of funding, a co-working space, their curriculum on how to grow your company (value proposition, fundraising, customer engagement, etc.), and “C-level” mentors.

Importantly, Sputnik ATX accepts all types of startups, not just tech. Therefore, while the level of assistance may very well still be top-tier, it would lack an exclusive tech focus.

Tech Ranch

Although its website is not nearly as fancy as others on this list, Tech Ranch can still hold its own. University Business Incubators (UBI Global) ranked Tech Ranch in the Top 20 Global Accelerators in 2016. Not only does it offer mentors in Texas, but around the world in locations such as Canada and Tokyo.

Another way that Tech Ranch sets its self apart from other Austin tech accelerators is that it has options for startups who are not quite ready to dive into a six-month program. It offers four types of programs that last from one day to six months.

Interestingly, you do not have to apply to the first three programs, Venture Start, Venture Forth, and Venture Forth Pioneer. They are all paid programs with different pricing structures. For example, Venture Start and Venture Forth are $225 and $1100, respectively, and paid as a lump-sum upfront. Venture Forth Pioneer costs $97 monthly, and rather than earning you access to their curriculum, it earns you access to their network of entrepreneurs and mentors.

Tech Ranch’s fourth program, Venture Builder, is their version of the more traditional accelerator programs. In their program, an entrepreneur in Tech Ranch’s network dedicates 25 percent of their time to help you create and solidify your marketing strategy, product roll-out, financial and business plans, advisory board, and investment opportunities. Due to how “end-stage” focused the program is, Tech Ranch only accepts “mid-stage” startups to their Venture Builder program.

Austin Technology Incubator

ATI is The University of Texas at Austin’s tech accelerator program. Don’t worry though, your company does not have to be affiliated with UT in any way in order to be eligible to apply – but they are highly selective; last year, they only accepted 8 percent of applicants into the program.

Part of the reason they are so selective is that their program is completely customized based on the needs of their participants. Their program is “made-to-measure, not off-the-rack.”

Accordingly, their website is a little sparse on details but it gives you access to the network of almost every other accelerator on this list! If that, in addition to the $223 million in funding that their Class of 2016 raised, is not enough incentive to apply, then I don’t know what is.

As you can see, each of Austin’s top tech accelerators has something special to offer. Applications can be lengthy, so its best to do your research to decide which one you think could help your startup the most.

About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a top PR agency in Austin with satellite offices in Denver, Houston and Antwerp that provides PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

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