Purpose-Built for Acceleration

Purpose-Built to Accelerate: 5 Ways Venture Hall is Different

Mike Sobol Startup Strategy 1 Comment

As a startup founder, you look for every possible advantage to improve your product, launch faster and gain more traction. You can’t afford to waste time going through the motions. At Venture Hall, we get it. Our accelerator program is purpose-built to dramatically improve every team’s chances of success on their startup expedition.

Yes, like most accelerators, we provide 3 months of intense support. But that’s not enough. A demo day to get startups in front of more investors. But that’s not enough, either. Teams gain advantages here that are hard to come by in other accelerators, much less on their own. That’s why we like to say we build Expedition Strength Startups.

We do that with five distinct features:

  1. Enterprise-Level Partners
  2. Problem Statement Focus
  3. Peer Review & Support
  4. Team-Centered Training
  5. An Amazing Place

1. Enterprise-Level Partners

Subject matter experts. Users. Buyers. The most important people to your business are not in your business, so you must get out of the building and meet with them. Customer insight + fast iteration = success. If you understand your customers better, you improve your product; everything else becomes trivial.

Our close relationships with Unum and MaineHealth, as well as more industry partners, can provide unmatched benefits to the right startup trying to get a foothold in the health and wellness space. Access, speed, insight, scalability, credibility and even the potential for joint venturing– these things are oxygen to a new venture. You might want to avoid reality and work on your ideas in isolation, but that’s not an option here. Get your ideas and your product in the hands of the people who can help you most.

2. Problem Statement Focus

By assembling our accelerator cohort around a specific problem statement, we create more opportunities for teams to collaborate, learn from each other, share resources, and benefit from the same mentors and industry partners. That focus gives everything we do more leverage and value, both for teams in the accelerator, as well as partners outside of it. Industry, technology and business model insight are all more likely to be useful when there are shared perspectives around the table. We aren’t just working on a few good ideas. We’re embedding teams in a supportive innovation ecosystem.

3. Peer Review & Support

Several years ago, Ross Baird, of Village Capital, realized the way some startups are given more attention and support than others isn’t really based on merit– it’s based on outmoded biases of who appears more likely to be successful. We (people who run accelerators, mentors and investors), spend the vast majority of our time and money supporting mostly highly educated white male founders from three states, even though founders who fit that profile are no more likely to create viable businesses than female founders, people of color, or founders from 47 other states. That model limits diversity and quashes thousands of promising startups in their tracks (for no good reason at all).

Village Capital found that peer review is a better predictor of success than snap judgements made by relatively few people who hold the purse strings. That’s why we employ the Village Capital peer review model. Accelerator classmates determine who from the cohort has shown the most progress and has the greatest potential for success, which is how funding decisions are made. In 2013, this peer-selected investment model won the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for innovation.

The review model doesn’t work, however, without teams getting to know each other and supporting each others’ progress. Instead of teams depending only on instructors and mentors for insight and advice, we encourage collaboration at every turn. It just works better.

4. Team-Centered Training

While you may be obsessed with getting your product features right, a viable business is a lot more than a product. How you and your team work together to progress on your startup expedition will determine how well you handle difficult challenges, recruit new team members, and attract investment.

We take the time to help founders and key team members learn how to build and manage a great team that stands the best chance of turning into a great company. Any list of investment criteria includes the team as one of the top factors in making an investment decision, but few resources exist to help founders improve their leadership, management and team-building skills. And even fewer help founders find balance, recharge and learn to perform at their highest potential without burning out. We know founders aren’t super-human, even if they do manage to act like it most of the time.

5.  An Amazing Place

Seriously, have you been to Portland, Maine in the summer? Gorgeous weather, oceanside. The city manages to be described in superlatives every few months, including: Top US Beer City, A Gastro-Tourism Paradise, a recent ranking by Forbes as America’s Most Livable City, Men Journal’s 10 Best Places to Live Now, and so on.

The city also happens to be safe, easy-going, easy to get around, and just 90 minutes from Boston, one of the largest concentrations of startup capital on the planet. Look, life’s better here, without the noise and hassle of a big city.

Also, lobster.

Of course, you’re doing everything in your power to accelerate your startup, not take a vacation. But the truth is, creatives, academics and entrepreneurs, including many of our mentors, have been coming to Maine for a long time because it’s a special place. Venture Hall is making the most of this place by creating an accelerator program that provides the kind of focus and support only a unique community like ours can offer.


To succeed on an expedition, you must focus on the essentials that keep you alive and moving forward.  Not the clutter and chaos. Not grinding yourself into the ground. We know what startup life is like, because we’ve been there. We know how hard accelerators can be; we’ve been there, too. That’s why we’re building a different kind of accelerator, in a different kind of place. Purpose-built to maximize your chances of success.

Click here for more details and to apply. Applications close April 3rd.

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