New MSU Business Accelerator Open to Startups Across the State

As if top-ranked basketball and football programs weren’t enough—forgive me, my blood runs green and white thanks to early indoctrination by my Michigan State University alumni parents—Spartans now have another cool thing to celebrate: the announcement of a new MSU-backed business accelerator.

The Conquer Accelerator will offer to five startups a comprehensive, 10-week development program beginning in May. Paul Jacques, the accelerator’s director, said Conquer is open to any business—even non-tech startups—seeking to overcome obstacles to commercialization and willing to undergo an intense mentorship and customer discovery process. There is no MSU affiliation required. Despite that lack of pre-requisites, Jacques sees Conquer as a tool in the university’s arsenal for student startups hoping to pursue outside investment.

“We’re encouraging student startups to apply, but it would be nice to see a mix” of MSU and non-MSU startups in the accelerator, Jacques said.

Conquer will offer each participating startup $20,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity. Ideal candidates are those companies with a minimum viable product or prototype, and two or three people on the team. (Student startups hoping to get into the accelerator have ideally already gone through MSU’s Hive and Hatch programs, and completed a Business 201 course.) Conquer is also sector-agnostic.

Jacques said Conquer startups will learn about topics like fundraising, technology, and sustainability from more than 40 mentors, many of them alumni, including Detroit/Ann Arbor Xconomists Chris Rizik and Henry Balanon, the Mercury Fund’s Adrian Fortino, Ted Serbinski and John Hill from Techstars, Divas and Dorks founder Christen Rochon, and Detroit Innovate’s Patti Glaza. Each week, Conquer startups will participate in a demo day-style pitch session, with a final, formal pitch event to be held at the end of the summer.

“We put them through a pretty intense program similar to Y Combinator or Techstars,” Jacques said. “We want to tear apart their business plan—customer discovery is the biggest part. We want to make sure people are interested in their idea. And we also want to encourage them to continue to grow and hire in Michigan.”Jacques said applications to join the first cohort are due Feb. 5, 2016; click here to apply.

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