Unlocking the Ripple Effect in Accelerator-for-Accelerator Programs

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In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, accelerator programs have been pivotal in propelling startups to create more impact.

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In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, accelerator programs have been pivotal in propelling startups to create more impact. These programs provide early-stage startups with a comprehensive support framework that generally includes mentorship, financial resources, networking opportunities, and a collaborative environment that fosters innovation, all geared toward catalyzing growth and impact. 

According to a study conducted by The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative,1 accelerator programs contribute to the significant growth of startup revenue, employee expansion, and increased equity and debt investments. The study involved over 2,000 startups from 43 accelerator programs. 

Furthermore, the accelerator industry is expanding rapidly. As of July 2021, accelerator programs in the US had made over 19.8K investments in startups — over double the number of combined investments made between 2005 and 2015.2

In this dynamic landscape, Village Capital stands as a pioneer in the global accelerator space, but to amplify our impact and reach the number of entrepreneurs required to fast-track progress and reduce barriers for 50K impact-creating entrepreneurs by 2030, we know we need to do more. What if we took a step back and were able to provide these same benefits to the organizations that support entrepreneurs? 

Here is why we are convinced that supporting the supporters is key to unlocking exponential positive impact.

The essential role of accelerator programs for ESOs’ transformation 

Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) provide tailored support, guidance, and resources for startups to overcome obstacles and thrive. By doing so, ESOs contribute to the overall resilience and success of the entrepreneurial community.

However, ESOs face challenges of their own. Following the execution of numerous programs across various regions, Village Capital has identified some of the most notable obstacles, including:

  • Raising operating capital to make internal strategic investments in their team.
  • Developing their products and services.
  • Building institutional knowledge and retaining talent.
  • Building the infrastructure to measure, communicate, and enhance their impact.
  • Establishing an entrepreneurial network for individuals to showcase their ideas and services.
  • Formulate a comprehensive, long-term business strategy aimed at achieving financial sustainability.
  • Conducting research and development initiatives relevant to their local market, sectors, and enterprise business models. 
  • Participate in community and ecosystem-building initiatives alongside other ecosystem actors, cultivating a culture of collaboration and unified vision over competition. 

By participating in an accelerator program, ESOs can gain hands-on training in organizational management techniques, learn best practices in program design and delivery, and establish peer connections with other industry leaders. These takeaways enhance their effectiveness in supporting startups.

On the other side of the coin, equipping ESOs with enhanced capabilities, generates a ripple effect on the startups they support, contributing to exponential economic, and social impact. 

Accelerator programs for ESOs are not just about individual organizational growth; they are a strategic imperative for scaling impact.

The Village Capital approach: Pioneering change

Since 2016, Village Capital has expanded its focus by embracing the mission of uplifting ESOs through acceleration programs designed specifically for them. In our journey to catalyze change, we have helped more than 120 ESOs grow and deepen their impact on the entrepreneurial landscape.

Leveraging tools we originally created for accelerator programs focused on startups, but now with a twist to address the specific needs of ESOs, has been crucial for the success of this initiative. These are a couple of our most efficient tools, housed in Abaca –Village Capital’s free web app– that guides ESOs in a structured way that allows them to get introduced to projects that match their investment criteria:  

  • Capital Explorer

A forward-thinking tool that empowers ESOs to make strategic fundraising choices that align with their mission and vision, while also pinpointing relevant resources and capital providers. Using a set of questions about each company and a powerful matching algorithm, it streamlines the process of identifying the right funding for founders, fostering connections with capital providers. It's not just a tool, it's a transformative ally in the dynamic world of impact-creating entrepreneurship.

  • ESO Diagnostic

It serves as a trusted advisor for making savvy business decisions. We map the milestones necessary to raise money to grow a sustainable organization while maintaining quality services and impact. Designed to give ESOs a clear snapshot of their current status, it helps them figure out priorities, track progress across various milestones (like team, programs and services, and business model), and assess their strengths and weaknesses. It serves as a means for organizations to assess themselves in a manner analogous to how a funder would conduct an evaluation.

Our experience supporting the supporters

For over three years, we have successfully implemented accelerator-for-accelerators or train-the-trainer programs in Africa and the United States:

  • The Uganda Ecosystem Builders 2020 program, led by Village Capital and supported by Argidius Foundation, sought to enhance the capabilities of ESOs in Uganda. Participants were immersed in a dynamic experience, including advisory support, where they had the opportunity to pitch for a share of the USD 200K grant pool, fostering organizational capacity and elevating the overall quality of support for startups in Uganda.
  • The NextGen Ecosystem Builders Africa 2020 program, a collaboration between Village Capital and the African Management Institute, with support from the DGGF, focused on training mid-level managers within ESOs in Africa. The program addressed challenges faced by ESOs in talent management, capital absorption, impact measurement, and operational efficiency. The goal was to transform mid-level managers into leaders, equipped with the skills to overcome barriers and achieve exceptional outcomes for entrepreneurs across the African landscape.
  • Resource, a collaboration between Village Capital and the Black Innovation Alliance, is a US national initiative aimed at boosting the efforts of ESOs led by and focused on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous founders. Resource’s ESO accelerator has trained two cohorts of ecosystem leaders on how to build a more financially sustainable organization, as well as help connect them to potential funders. It also provided milestone-based financial support tied to organizational development. Since 2021, Resource has helped 23 participating ESOs raise over USD 23M in operating capital, showcasing the tangible impact of an ecosystem-focused strategy and fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial community.

Having successfully implemented effective strategies to foster sustainable support for ESOs, we launched our first ESOs accelerator programs in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2023, marking a significant step in globalizing our approach:

  • The Colombian Ecosystem Builders Program, led by Village Capital and supported by Argidius Foundation, focused on the country’s agriculture and food sectors, addressing issues in both rural areas and low-income segments while empowering ESOs in the Caribbean Coastal Area. Through our initiative, all participating ESOs received USD 2K to support their operations and three peer-selected ESOs received USD 25K each. With the provided training and equity-free funding, these organizations will implement efficient tools, better support entrepreneurs’ needs, and contribute to building the essential infrastructure for a thriving startup community in Colombia.
  • The MENA Ecosystem Builders Program, an initiative launched by Village Capital with the support of the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF). In the MENA startup ecosystem, similar to many emerging markets, there’s a challenge of fragmentation and duplicative support services, making it difficult to measure their impact. While the growth of early-stage businesses is proven to enhance job creation and contribute to regional development, ESOs require sustained support to effectively nurture these early-stage ventures. This program selected locally-led ESOs based in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, supported them to better address impact gaps, showcase the strength of their strategies, operations, and quality services, and drive capital to youth-led high-growth potential ventures.
  • The Palestine Ecosystem Building Initiative, a joint initiative between Village Capital, Intersect Innovation Hub, the entrepreneurship arm of Bank of Palestine Group, and SPARK, funded by the European Union, took place between July and September 2023, supporting eight organizations, including accelerators, business incubators, and innovation hubs. In the Palestinian Territories, over half of graduated young people are unemployed. Furthermore, restrictions on movements and goods means that jobs are few and far between,3 which is why developing a solid entrepreneurship environment in the region is crucial. These locally-led ESOs received intensive training on topics such as financial sustainability, organizational strategy and growth, while exposing organizational leaders to a global network of mentors, investors, and industry experts.

Accelerating impact through the accelerator-for-accelerators programs

The lessons learned from the implementation of these programs can be leveraged to inform and shape future initiatives, ensuring that they remain responsive to the ever-changing needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Opportunities lie in further international collaboration, continuous adaptation of successful strategies, and a commitment to fostering sustainable and impactful entrepreneurship globally.

Accelerator programs for accelerators represent a crucial evolution in the realm of entrepreneurial support. By addressing the unique challenges faced by ESOs, these programs contribute to building resilient ecosystems that drive positive economic and social change. 

It’s a forward-thinking strategy needed to shape the future of impactful entrepreneurship on a global scale.

1. The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (2017). Accelerating Startups In Emerging Markets: Insights from 43 Programs. https://www.galidata.org/assets/report/pdf/Accelerating%20Startups%20in%20Emerging%20Markets.pdf

2. Kendall, Ryan. (2021). The Rapid Rise of Startup Accelerators. https://medium.com/the-resultid-blog/the-rapid-rise-of-the-startup-accelerator-47e8e1f7da34

3.  Spark. (2023). Palestinian Territories. https://spark.ngo/middle-east-and-north-africa/palestinian-territories/