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Finally, an accelerator for early-stage and lifestyle companies

In the early stages of business development, founders often have three core needs: validation, guidance, and funding. Where can they find all three?

🤔 Is this Maslow’s hierarchy of early-stage startups? 🤔

While some later-stage founders with a significant amount of validation can find guidance and funding through a single resource, such as an angel investor, many still need help finding a one-stop solution for all three needs.

Enter accelerators.


What is an accelerator?

Accelerators are the one-stop shop to help founders meet their core needs in a structured manner. While each accelerator is unique in its structure, the majority of programs offer a way for MVP-stage founders to:

  • Receive educational resources

  • Strengthen their validation metrics

  • Access 1:1 guidance and mentorship

  • Secure a venture capital investment

Most accelerator programs bring in a cohort of high-potential founders for several weeks and create a boot camp environment where they go through workshops, feedback sessions, and exercises to strengthen their business concept and product. The icing on the cake for many founders is the opportunity for funding at the end of the journey. The leading accelerators, such as Y Combinator and Techstars, give all participating companies a fixed amount of funding. In contrast, groups like Founder University have financing available for only a select few cohort members.

On paper, accelerators seem like a no-brainer for many early-stage startups, and in many cases, they are. A reputable accelerator is a great option to explore for founders seeking an all-in-one program to grow, scale, and validate their product (and is willing to give up a portion of their equity to do so).

What about early-stage companies?

Accelerators must be perfect for pre-seed and small businesses, right? Wrong.

The most notable accelerator programs are highly competitive and typically not structured for very early-stage companies. While the exact numbers may change each year, recent sources claim that Techstars receives around 30,000 applications annually and accepts about 1% of startups into the program. YC gets approximately 20,000 applications each year and accepts 1.5–2.5%.

The high level of competition and the nature of the venture-style investments offered by each program make the top-tier accelerators unavailable to most founders that are not already at a seed stage of development. This means that the winning applicants typically have an MVP in hand, some early revenue, and previous funding sources.

The intense competition for major accelerator seats presents a challenge for the earliest-stage founders, who arguably need more access to education, guidance, and feedback than those that have already validated their idea and product. And since most accelerators operate very similarly to a pre-seed venture fund, where do lifestyle and small businesses go to receive this type of education and funding opportunities?

Pre-Accelerator Options

On the venture side of things, groups such as Antler have emerged in the pre-accelerator scene. Antler is the “day zero” program, bringing in high-potential founders at the earliest stage of the company ideation and development process. Antler’s cohorts are structured as in-person think tanks, allowing entrepreneurs with very early venture-backable ideas or high founder potential (think someone with 10+ years of experience working at a startup or major tech company) to come together, share ideas, and compete for venture funding.

Antler is rapidly growing globally, with more than 5000+ founders going through their residency programs at very early stages of development. The residency program offers an exciting opportunity for companies that need early support and don’t yet fit into the “mold” of the larger programs.

What about companies that don’t fit the “VC mold”? Where can they go?

What happens if you’re not ready to explore venture capital for your company or don’t plan on being “the next unicorn?” As discussed in a previous blog, not all companies can or should seek venture capital to grow. Just because you aren’t building a venture-scalable company doesn’t mean that you don’t have the same early needs for validation, guidance, and funding.

Unfortunately, the programs available for small businesses and non-venture companies are very limited, mainly because most accelerators are seeking to invest.

Enter The Lab, a pre-accelerator operated by The Scientific Startup that provides validation education, mentorship, and a grant funding competition for extremely early venture companies and small businesses that would never be eligible for a traditional program. While there is a clear distinction between the resources needed by these two business types when it comes to growth planning, the early stages of ideation, market + customer discovery, and concept validation are relevant for any founder going from zero to one.

The Lab is a 10-week program that teaches all entrepreneurs how to measure twice, launch once.

We focus on science-backed market research, ideation, customer discovery, and validation techniques that can be used to launch this company and the next. We also offer a total of $10K in grant funding (three prizes) to the winners of our pitch competition at the end of the program to help seed your businesses. Everyone in the cohort has a stake in the “fund” through your membership fees and shares the opportunity to select the winning companies. We believe in giving founders tangible outcomes after completing the program, some of which include:

  • Clearly defined early success metrics and OKRs (20 customer conversations, a validation strategy, GTM plan, etc.)

  • A toolkit for ideation and concept validation

  • 1:1 mentorship and support from our community of founders, funders, and curious minds to answer questions about business development

  • Access to resources and partners to help with the next stage of business development (development shops, funding sources, and community resources)

  • A polished pitch that can be used to secure capital and acquire partnerships

We are dedicated to opening doors to entrepreneurship and education for underrepresented founders and businesses that don’t fit the typical “venture capital” mold.


Curious to learn more? Apply to the program and let’s 🚀 together. Use the code [BLOG500] in your referral box to keep the early application price!

If you’re past the application stage but recognize the need to develop this type of program, please consider participating in our crowdfunding campaign to help raise grant funding for founders of all backgrounds and company types.

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