East Lansing accelerator launches in Grand Rapids

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Conquer Accelerator runs cohorts of five businesses every year. The program will have graduated 25 teams as of August. Courtesy Conquer Accelerator

Conquer Accelerator recently announced its first program launch in Grand Rapids.

The 10-week accelerator plans on running the program in its newest location this year starting Sept 14.

Conquer Accelerator began in East Lansing in 2016 as a collaborative effort with parent organization Michigan State University Foundation and its subsidiaries Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures and University Corporate Research Park.

“We had a lot of success in East Lansing, and we saw a need for our type of program, not just in Grand Rapids but across the state,” said Thomas Stewart, Conquer Accelerator program manager.

Conquer Accelerator runs cohorts of five businesses every year. The program will have graduated 25 teams as of August.

The accelerator program supports rising startups by providing $20,000 in funding, access to 40-plus mentors, access to follow-on funding and other essential resources. With collaboration between the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority and the Conquer Accelerator team, the program aims to expand community outreach and support startups in the area.

“This program really aligns with the first priority of the SmartZone, which is to provide access to resources for startups,” said Jonathan Klooster, economic development coordinator for the city of Grand Rapids.

Klooster added the city has underwritten the program for 2020, so there is no cost to startups wishing to participate.

“The SmartZone board wants to be very intentional about making sure this opportunity is open and available to everyone,” he said.

Conquer Accelerator provides high-tech startups in the city of Grand Rapids with intensive programming, focusing on completing tailored, goal-driven benchmarks all while working with mentors on topics like fundraising, technology and longevity.

“We really try to keep a broad framework in which we can customize the training to the company,” Stewart said. “Even in the startup stage, people are in a lot of different places. We try to take people as they come to us and work within that framework.”

Stewart praised existing accelerator programs in Grand Rapids like Start Garden, as well as regional entities like Lakeshore Advantage, and said Conquer Accelerator will be working close with these organizations to ensure the programs complement one another, and there’s no redundancy.

“I work with the teams almost on a daily basis,” Stewart said. “It’s a lot more hands-on approach than some of the other stuff out there.”

Applications for the first Conquer Accelerator Grand Rapids are now open until Monday. The program runs Sept. 14-Nov. 20. Visit conqueraccelerator.com for more information on the application process and program requirements.

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