Over the last decade, business accelerators have begun to proliferate across the United States. These organizations aim to identify, mentor, and financially support startups through high-intensity, short-term programs offered in exchange for equity. Governments at all levels have begun to notice the growth in new accelerators throughout the country and are keenly interested in spurring economic development. Yet, traditionally there have been few public policy opportunities to target early stage, high-growth firms. The rise of accelerators, as catalysts for high value-added ideas, offers a potential pathway for governments to influence innovation by supporting programs that can bring in new firms to their regions and assist in developing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. However, it is not yet clear how governments can best support accelerators to spur innovation.
To identify the most valuable role of public policy in supporting business accelerators, we interviewed managers and leaders of accelerators who have received awards through the U.S. Small Business Administration's Growth Accelerator Fund Competition over the past three years. Our qualitative analysis explores the broad challenges experienced by these organizations as they have developed and refined their programs. These challenges ultimately focused on issues with effectively executing the standard accelerator model and issues due to government actions that were not directly targeting accelerators. We mapped these challenges to traditional public policy roles and ultimately identified a series of potential interventions that the Small Business Administration could undertake to enable accelerators to be more successful in spurring innovation. If the Federal Government continues to focus on these entrepreneurial support organizations, then additional educational initiatives, convening activities, and research activities could further assist accelerators.