Unbundling: A New Approach for Launch Pad Ignition Shakes up Local Accelerator Scene

Today, Launch Pad Ignition announced a major change to the operations of their 2 1/2 year old accelerator program. Accelerator programs have been coming under fire nationwide as stories circle about poor performance, unclear advice, and a lack of standard guidelines and concepts. Locally, Launch Pad Ignition iterated after their first year from standard admission criteria and a 7% equity stake to a traction-based approach to selection and a more flexible investment structure.

Now, after two full years of running the accelerator, Chris Schultz and his Ignition co-founders are taking a radically different approach to serving the start-up ecosystem.  “We are iterating and we want to be ahead of the curve,” said Chris in a discussion about the changes. “We have this great asset, this great space and community of people [at Launch Pad] and we want to play back to that.”

Investors, entrepreneurs, and general observers have often been confused about the difference between Launch Pad, Launch Pad Ignition, and Idea Village’s IDEAxcelerator program. Similar confusions have arisen between New Orleans Entrepreneur Week and Launch Fest, the demo day for Ignition. After the end of the 2012 Idea Village “Entrepreneur Season” and Launch Fest, the two teams sat down together frequently to discuss the future of their programming. “Ultimately this is about serving the ecosystem and the community,” said Chris.

As Idea Village continues to move their programming upstream to serve early stage idea generation, Launch Pad Ignition has decided to take on the other end of the spectrum: getting the best local companies in front of national investors. During a discussion with Schultz and Peter Bodenheimer, the duo continually stated, “We want to have the absolute best companies and the best deals in Louisiana on stage at Launch Fest, not just our deals.”

Here’s a bare bones breakdown of the changes:

  1. Launch Pad Ignition mentorship opportunities and programming will now be spread throughout the entire year and open to the broader Launch Pad and tech start-up communities.
  2. Idea Village will run their Entrepreneur Season culminating in NOEW, while Launch Fest will be the post-season “playoffs” where the cream of the crop pitches are presented to a national audience of investors. [Important to note that the two programs will continue to be completely separate. The Idea Village is a non-profit organization while Launch Pad and it’s founders’ investments are for-profit ventures.]
  3. Any company with a minimum investment from a local angel or group of investors will be eligible to pitch at Launch Fest.

This means that Launch Pad Ignition will no longer be operating as a traditional apply-mentor-pitch accelerator. Chris suggests entrepreneurs looking for the accelerator experience should apply for Idea Village’s IDEAxcelerator program, where applications are due this coming Monday, August 27th, 2012.

From a funding perspective, the angel investors involved in Launch Pad Ignition, including Chris, Peter, and Barre, will continue investing locally via Voodoo Ventures and individual investments. Launch Fest also intends to work with Abstraction Ventures, South Coast Angels, the New Orleans Startup Fund, and other local investors to pick companies to pitch on the big stage next May.

Stay tuned for follow up stories on how to get involved in Launch Pad’s new programming initiatives, get funded by a local angel investor, and get picked to go through extensive pre-funding preparations and pitch at Launch Fest in 2013.