A new startup accelerator is born.

I decided to create a new startup accelerator — one specifically built for the realities of 2020 and based around the belief that entrepreneurship is a powerful engine for change all over the world today (not just in Silicon Valley).

Over the past ten years I’ve probably worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs through my teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford as well as coaching them at Miller Center (the leading accelerator for social ventures). In that time I’ve noticed some clear patterns with regard to which ones succeed and which ones fail. I’ve had some students launch startups and go on to great success. Some failed. Some got stuck before ever getting to the launch pad.

I’ve applied my learnings from those ten years (as well as my own career running Silicon Valley startups) in creating the 4thly Accelerator and in deciding who to admit to the first cohort.

These are some of the principles I used in creating the program and choosing the cohort:

  • Global and diverse. I didn’t want a bunch of SaaS startups from Silicon Valley. That would be boring. There’s a big wide world of different kinds of interesting startups out there, and I passionately believe that cross-pollination between diverse participants is a key driver for success. In this cohort we have participants who grew-up in India, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Germany, Ukraine, as well as the US. The 11 startups in the program are currently operating in 5 different countries around the globe.
  • Intensity matters. Many accelerator programs last several months, and participants are expected to travel to the accelerator to live in the area and be on-site during the program. But I wanted to do something that was more intensive than that and I wanted people to not have to leave their families and companies behind. So the 4thly Accelerator is an intensive 60-days, all conducted via Zoom so that the entrepreneurs can immerse together virtually while still taking care of business at home.
  • Equity belongs to entrepreneurs. Most startup accelerators take equity in the startups as a price of admission. I’ve never liked that model much, because entrepreneurs work their asses off to build the equity in their startups and they deserve to keep every percentage point they can. So the 4thly accelerator is strictly fee-based — participants keep 100% of their startup equity.
  • More doing, less talking. When I teach at Stanford, it’s in a typical lecture format. Many accelerators also have lectures, class time, and curriculum they follow. But I wanted this accelerator to not be about reading and thinking; I wanted it to be about doing. Everybody in the cohort is focused on getting everyone else in the cohort to the next level. If someone’s bus gets stuck in the mud, then everyone in the accelerator jumps out and helps get them out of the mud and moving forward again. As Steve Blank says “Action beats inaction, every day of the week”.
  • Have a problem worth solving. I’m a believer that most great startups begin with an entrepreneur who notices a problem worth solving and then falls head-over-heels in love with solving that problem. Those are the kinds of entrepreneurs I want in a program like this.

It’s truly a brilliant group of entrepreneurs in this inaugural cohort, and the problems they are solving range from the efficiency of preclinical drug trials to making electric bikes available to all; from helping parents be their best to combining therapeutic drugs with IoT technology while dramatically improving patient outcomes.

An accelerator is also only as good as the team helping the entrepreneurs, of course, and to fill out the team on my side I’ve recruited Peter Shafer, one of the best problem-solving engineers I’ve ever worked with, and Verónica Montoya, Project Manager extraordinaire. The three of us meet several times a day with the entrepreneurs in the program, keeping them moving forward. Our motto is “no one gets stuck”. If any entrepreneur in the cohort gets stuck, our job is to immediately get out of the bus and do whatever it takes to get them unstuck and moving forward again!

You can see a list of the startups below. At the end of the program, on July 9th, we will have a big “demo day” when all eleven startups will present themselves to the world. Sign up here to receive an invite.

All over the world today, in what the World Economic Forum is calling the 4th Industrial Revolution, startups are a powerful engine of change. I am super excited to be running the first 4thly Accelerator cohort.

ZebraML, St. Petersburg
ZebraML provides a unique new platform for preclinical drug trials. Our technology combines machine learning neural networks with in vivo experiments using Zebrafish (Danio Rerio) to accelerate preclinical trial cycles and deliver meaningful insights to pharma companies around the world.

Ravent, Berlin, Germany
Ravent is a guest interaction platform for the hospitality industry. The Ravent application and its wearables give guests a first-class digital experience while providing hospitality operators BackOfHouse data and order management capabilities driving profitability. The Ravent Go application helps the operator, its staff and partners fulfill customer satisfaction.

Piqls, Los Angeles
Co-founded by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Piqls is a managed marketplace optimized to harness the power of smartphone photography. From individuals to Instagram influencers, from corporate marketing groups to ad agencies, Piqls enables on-demand access to on-location photo shoots — anytime, anywhere.

StrategyLabs, Dallas, Texas
Product and sales teams need actionable data, but it’s often scattered all over the place (both internally and externally). We provide a digital AI platform to help teams gather, organize and contextualize information, so they can build better products and accelerate their business growth.

Living Strategy, Silicon Valley
Living Strategy provides strategic planning products and services for educational leaders to create, communicate and implement an inspirational vision for their school community and the students they serve.

Focus, Moscow
All over the world today, companies are using design sprints to accelerate time-to-market in the development of innovative new products. Focus is a digital platform that uses design sprint principles to help teams to launch any digital product from idea to testing with real customers in just 2 weeks.

BikeOn, Silicon Valley
BikeOn has developed an innovative device that converts any bicycle to electric assist in seconds, with no tools or skills required. The BikeOn product also connects wirelessly to your smartphone, providing data that drives fitness, wellness, and personal health goals.

LetsUnDoIt, Pennsylvania, US
We complement therapeutic drugs with IoT technology to improve health outcomes from life-threatening personal and public health emergencies. By driving efficiencies in response, and harnessing the power of data, we strive to help victims now and prevent fatalities later.

GamePlan, St Petersburg
Football coaches at all levels spend hours reviewing game tapes. Our unique AI-driven platform helps coaches become dramatically more efficient by automatically reviewing game tapes and delivering actionable insights.

Gossip, Inc, St Petersburg
Gossip is a new social media app built around creating and sharing short voice stories that entertain, inform and inspire. Our platform allows users to create voice stories, post them to a feed, add audio effects, and share with friends.

TBD, Moscow
A new digital platform that helps busy parents be their best. Based on research from well-established education experts, our unique app provides tips and techniques designed to help parents drive their kids’ development in a fun and mutually engaging way.



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Bret Waters

Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, run the 4thly Startup Accelerator, and coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center. Also, I love fish tacos.