The Catalyst Space Accelerator works collaboratively with the Air Force and Colorado SBDC TechSource to provide relevant business development training to accelerator companies. They also connect these entrepreneurs with users, decision makers, and potential new customers in the DoD and commercial realms.
Name of Accelerator: Catalyst Space Accelerator
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Program Director: KiMar Gartman
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives?
Sponsored by AFRL/RV, Catalyst Space Accelerator (CSA) is a 12-week, semi-residential program designed to increase the Air Force’s awareness and rapid acquisition of innovative space technologies currently being developed and commercialized in the private sector. Additionally, the CSA works collaboratively with the Air Force and Colorado SBDC TechSource to provide relevant business development training to accelerator companies and to connect these entrepreneurs with users, decision makers, and potential new customers in the DoD and commercial realms.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
Catalyst Space Accelerator is unique in that “Customer Discovery” is greatly enhanced by its location in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a major hub in the aerospace industry. CSA is able to provide access to Air Force Space Command, Space and Missile Systems Center, 14th Air Force, Space, and Naval Warfare Systems Command, and the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate.
This allows cohort companies to easily improve their technology outcomes by consulting with multiple DoD users and decision makers. Furthermore, the Air Force provides a Sherpa for each accelerator company. Sherpas serve as a connection point between the companies in the Accelerator and DoD users and stakeholders. These DoD connections are what sets Catalyst Space Accelerator apart.
What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
It’s difficult seeing startups struggle to get the resources they need to be successful, whether it is funding, relevant connections, or third-party technology assessments. It is exciting to be able to provide these resources to the companies selected for Catalyst Space Accelerator.
What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
The most exciting part about working with entrepreneurial startups is being involved in cutting-edge, innovative efforts with founders who see a better way and have made many sacrifices to bring their innovation to market.
Tell us about your success stories; Which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
We have had 15 companies go through Catalyst Space Accelerator in two separate sessions. One is focused on Terrestrial Weather and the other on Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). Six out of seven of the companies in the Terrestrial Weather Accelerator have been able to secure follow-on funding in the form of Air Force Small Business Innovation Research grants and a NASA contract.
It’s too early to give metrics on the funding success of the PNT cohort. One company in each cohort pivoted their technology in response to feedback received from user and stakeholders during the Accelerator, saving the company thousands (possibly millions) of dollars in research and development of a technology that was irrelevant or duplicative.
What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
Founders of startups are very busy people. Choosing the right accelerator can greatly accelerate a founder’s efforts to push his/her technology to market. Three things startups should consider in signing up for an accelerator are as follows.
Does the accelerator offer what the company is currently in need of?
For example, a commercial-facing company wishing to branch out to the DoD market sector would benefit from attending the Catalyst Space Accelerator.
Is the company able to engage in accelerator activities to the extent that their participation is worthwhile?
Some accelerators require three months of on-site engagement, while others have a primarily VTC-based program. Both have their pluses and minuses. It’s essential that a startup be able to meet the engagement requirements to maximize their success. Catalyst Space Accelerator is a semi-residential program requiring on-site attendance every other week, Tuesday through Friday.
Is the startup able to meet the financial requirements of participation in the accelerator?
Some accelerators require equity in the business as payment for the accelerator while others have a pay-up-front fee. The Catalyst Space Accelerator does not take equity but implements a success fee where a startup receives $15,000 to participate and pays back a total of $50,000 on revenue generated over the three years following the accelerator from direct or indirect connections made through participation in the accelerator.
What else would you like to share?
One comment we hear over and over again from cohort participants is the difference in the culture at Catalyst Space Accelerator compared to some other accelerators. Our culture is very technology-oriented as opposed to profit-oriented. Many members of our cohorts are grateful for the lack of emphasis on profit and thrilled that their technological ambitions get a front-row seat here at CSA.
Are you familiar with accelerators you believe should be spotlighted? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below.