A nice piece from Forbes that highlights the successful Y Combinator accelerator program. Its roots are in the campus and as Forbes frames it, they are disrupting Silicon Valley. From the piece by Christopher Steiner:
The accident was a summer program Graham started in 2005 for college students who were tinkering with business ideas. Instead of working a boring internship at a big company, Graham’s pitch went, win $5,000 to work on your startup in Cambridge with guidance from Graham and his friend, MIT professor Robert Morris–two guys who launched Viaweb, a maker of software that built storefronts online, and sold it to Yahoo for $50 million in 1998.
“It was supposed to be a throwaway project for these students,” recalls Graham. “By the end of the summer we were like,”‘Whoa, we’ve got something here!'”
Graham received 400 applications for the summer program. Of the 8 he accepted, 4 had blossomed into serious ventures by the end of the summer: Loopt, a social-mapping ser vice, now with 4 million users; Reddit, a user-aggregated news site acquired by Condé Nast in 2006; TextPayMe, a mobile payment service bought by Amazon in 2006; and Kiko, thwarted by Google.
Y Combinator’s influence in Silicon Valley has burgeoned ever since. Some refer to its growing network of graduates as the YC mafia. They protect their own, collaborate and, to a person, regard Graham as their sensei. Some go on to be investors and mentors in their own right.
Accelerator programs are an excellent opportunity for universities to put some small money into new ventures, but have much broader and quicker opportunities than TTO guided opportunities. Here in DC we have Launchbox Digital, but it has no clear university affiliations as far as I can tell.