RetailXelerator: An accelerator theory, proven – addressing unmet needs of both startups and major retailers

All – five months ago, I announced our launch of RetailXelerator (RX), the first-ever scaleup accelerator, designed to bridge the gap between startups and major retailers. I’m rounding back to report on our remarkable progress, and to once again encourage you to consider recommending the RX program for startups in your network that may be ready to scale.

Our theory with RX is simple: Startups need retail readiness – the knowledge and wherewithal to operate at scale – and retailers need help finding the right startup products for their shelves – the “needles in the rapidly-growing startup haystack.” So we’ve built an accelerator to address those gaps. When you last heard from us, we were just starting to vet applications and finalize our virtual curriculum plan: we were in startup mode ourselves, preparing to see if there truly was a market need our approach would address.

The demand is indeed there. Thanks to our partners at Startups.co, we received 717 applications to join our first class. We also brought more than 20 capability partners on board – experts in all aspects of retail readiness, to complement our team’s expertise, serve as “guest lecturers,” and provide support for the startups. We closed the first class with a Retail Pitch Day where five of the world’s largest retailers worked with each startup to ramp up distribution and sales.

We “graduated” RX Class 1 in August 2016 – seven startups, with a wide array of smart home products. They spent 11 weeks – 46 hours! – in our virtual courses, then joined us live for the Retail Pitch Day. Every single one of those companies left that day with multiple leads from each of the major retailers in the room – Amazon, Sears, Verizon, Constellation Energy and Walmart. Each startup is now working with us to reach an even wider set of retailers and distribution partners. And their testimonials about the RX experience are overwhelmingly positive. See here: https://youtu.be/vResICQ4ZeM

In short, the program has blown away our baseline expectations. I am increasingly convinced that we have brought a different and viable accelerator to market, one that meets an unmet need for both startups and retailers.

With sincere credit to Susan Cohen – entrepreneurship and innovation professor and co-director of the Annual Seed Accelerator Rankings Project – this comparison chart highlights how RX differs from other incubators and accelerators. Our measures of success aren’t rounds of funding or new investors – they’re retail merchandising leads and product purchase orders for online and in-store channels, where 97% of all U.S. consumer purchases still take place.

 Source: “What Do Accelerators Do? Insights from Incubators and Angels” by Susan Cohen, 2013; adaptations by RetailXelerator, 2016

Source: “What Do Accelerators Do? Insights from Incubators and Angels” by Susan Cohen, 2013; adaptations by RetailXelerator, 2016

Today, we are actively recruiting for RX Class 2, to start this fall. This time, we seek startups in hard goods categories – think consumer tech, appliances, sporting goods, entertainment, gaming, automotive, and other products. We’ll once again bring a handful of major retailers to Retail Pitch Day at the end of the class, plus tap into our growing Retail Network to help connect the right startups with the right partners.   In addition to this core RX work, we also continue to collaborate with Microsoft on their US Accelerator, which has increasingly focused on late stage scaleups in the SaaS/Machine Learning space. Additionally, look for RX announcements later this year on further expansions of the RX program, all focused on scaleup/go to market solutions for startups and retailers.

In summary, the RX program is an ideal fit for startups that have, or are just about to ship product – so let us know if you have startups in this space and roughly at that stage. And if you’re interested in learning more about the RX experience, I encourage you to take advantage of the following:

  • Webinar, September 13: We presented a “retail 101” session for startups interested in applying for RX. A replay of the session is available here on our YouTube channel.
  • YouTube channel: Also, check out testimonial clips from all seven of our RX Class 1 startupshttp://bit.ly/2bZO6qb
  • RX Podcast: Nine brief, informative episodes that track every step of the RX class experience – with more episodes to come. Link: http://bit.ly/2c8EALU
  • Social: follow RX on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.
  • And if any of you are Recode fans, I’ll be attending Recode Commerce, October 25 in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to representing RX among an audience of online and retail commerce leaders! Let me know if you’re planning to be there as well.

Retail readiness is what RX brings to the startup arena, and the success of our first class encourages us to keep moving forward. Best wishes.

Rick Rommel, Founder and President, RetailXelerator: @rickrommel, @retailxelerator