What if we could harness the power of technology to solve the world’s biggest problems? Hunger, water shortages, health, security, poverty, environment… Could this be the modern-day gospel – or perhaps a “Terminator”-like nightmare scenario just waiting to happen? I guess it depends on your perspective, but the founders of Singularity University (headquartered at NASA's research campus in Silicon Valley) believe that investing in what they call "exponential" technologies could provide the answers to the greatest challenges faced by the world.
To that end, they’ve established the SU Labs Startup Accelerator, which is designed to enable startups that develop technologies such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology.
The accelerator program provides a hothouse-like environment that allows startups - both for- and non-profit - to flourish, transforming their prototypes or early proofs-of-concept (POC) into a reality that can then be pitched to potential investors. The program, which was launched in 2014, is a competitive one, and registration for Fall 2015 has already closed, indicating that startups are recognizing the accelerator's potential to help them succeed.
Going to Startup School
The accelerator provides startups with a 10-week program that is designed to prepare the startup to release its product or service – from prototype or early POC to scale. The course features a one-week bootcamp that provides workshops, sessions and exercises to prepare the startup, and then four two-week sprints that focus on different areas of the startup’s business. These 8 weeks are divided into four themed two-week long sprints, and each sprint then goes through a design review process where the startup pitches their idea to a group of experts, enabling the team to receive feedback on their process. The final week of the program is Demo Day Week, where Singularity University’s staff prepares the startup teams to pitch their ideas to Silicon Valley top investors and corporate partners.
Establishing Global Connections Early On
Using its international reach, the accelerator enables the startups to connect with business, product and marketing development leaders, exposing startups to a community of Fortune 1000 companies (who are members of a Corporate Executive Program); thought leaders from Singularity University’s Google-sponsored Graduate Studies Program; alumni of the international program; and members of the X-Prize/SU/Deloitte joint effort, the Innovation Partnership Program.
Seed Funding for Accelerator Startups
In addition to the training and access, startups are also funded by the accelerator program through the SU Labs Startup Accelerator Seed Fund (the fund invests solely in the accelerator startups), which is run and operated by venture capital firm Bridge 37. The $100,000 seed funding is provided in the form of a convertible note with the stated purpose of investing into every startup selected to join the SU Labs Startup. This includes the complete accelerator program, co-working space at NASA Research Park, and a structured program offering, in return for 7-10% equity in the startup. Non-profits/501(c)(3) organizations receive $50,000 in unrestricted grants.
So what do you think? Will Singularity University's vision of a better world through technology become a reality?