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Jones + Foster Accelerator Program

The startup process is messy and unpredictable—licensing intellectual property, producing a manufacture-ready prototype, lining up customers, raising money—all are critical and daunting. The Jones + Foster Accelerator program helps early-stage, student-led companies through those decisive first six months.

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship helps grow startups coming out of student work through the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge, Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, Dempsey Startup Competition, or UW’s entrepreneurship coursework.

The Jones + Foster Accelerator program is supported by generous donors and sponsors. We do not take equity in our participating companies.

Jones + Foster Accelerator companies receive:

  • Mentoring from a committee of entrepreneurs and investors
  • Guidance creating a list of measurable milestones
  • Workshops on a variety of topics relevant to the companies in the program (raising money, developing customers, strategic thinking/planning, business sustainability, etc.)
  • Access to a new fund to assist with early-stage expenses (up to $1,000 per startup team)
  • Connections to the Seattle entrepreneurial community
  • Up to $25,000 in follow-on funding (if milestones are met)

If you’re serious about starting your company, and willing to devote the time and energy needed to get your startup off the ground, the Jones + Foster Accelerator may be for you!

Questions? Contact Sarah Studer at [email protected].

Application + Selection

The Jones + Foster Accelerator is a 6-month program that runs annually from July through January. We are currently planning for all Accelerator activities to be virtual until University of Washington policies allow us to convene in person.

Application deadlines will be published in May 2021.

Applications are reviewed by the core committee of Accelerator mentors. 10–12 companies will be invited for an interview/presentation (similar to an investor pitch). The companies will be notified within 24 hours after their interview if they have been accepted into the program.

The program will kick off with a series of virtual business workshops during the last week of July. At least one team member must attend each workshop, though full participation from the entire team is preferred. These workshops are mandatory. Additional workshops will be offered monthly through the duration of the program.

Teams will deliver their final presentations in early February, and awards of up-to-$25,000 are made in mid-February to teams that complete the program requirements.

Teams also sign a Memo of Understanding (MOU), which outlines the milestones and key dates agreed upon by the team and the Buerk Center director. The MOU also contains an “understanding” that the company, if successful, will at some future date make a “pay it forward” gift to the Foster Accelerator fund to support future start-up teams.

Coaching and Mentoring

Each team is assigned a committee of four or five experienced mentors who will work with them for the duration of the program. Accelerator teams will meet with their mentors monthly to review the progress towards their milestones, ask advice, request introductions, receive guidance, etc. The role of the committee is to keep fledgling companies moving forward.

McAleer Early Start Fund

The Jones + Foster Accelerator offers the McAleer Early Start Fund to provide small awards to teams (up to $1,000) to help with on-demand expenses, e.g., patent filing fees, payment for initial inventory, web development fees, etc.

This fund is not for personal expenses. All receipts must be tracked by the team and submitted at the end of the program for reconciliation. Teams will also submit a statement on how they used the funds which will be provided to the donor. For more on the McAleer Early Start Fund, click here.

Award Information

Teams have six months to accomplish their milestones. Each company will present its accomplishments to the full group of mentors and the Accelerator core committee. The core committee will recommend one of three courses: a February payout for the teams that have accomplished their milestones, no payout for the teams that have for one reason or another failed to make progress, or a 30–45 day extension for companies that are close to accomplishing their milestones. In that case, the payout will be made in March or April.

Awards range between $10,000 and $25,000 per start-up. Teams that accomplish their milestones, make the most progress, and seem the most capable of going forward receive higher awards.

Please note: Each company must have three months of operating funds in the bank at the end of January to receive the award (i.e., if a company meets its milestones, but is out of money, an award will not be made).

Awards are paid to companies, not individuals. The purpose of the award is to provide additional funding for the start-up and is not for personal use.

The Jones + Foster Accelerator is not an academic program – it is designed for recent graduates and students who are 100% committed to launching their company and intend to put full-time effort into running the company. Teams with currently enrolled students should be prepared to explain how they will balance their coursework and graduation requirements with the demands of starting their company.

Teams must be based in Washington state and intend to launch their business in Washington.

Teams who entered the 2021 Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge, Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge or Dempsey Startup Competition are eligible apply, provided that their home university or college is based in Washington. We also welcome applications from students who are involved in entrepreneurship activities at the University of Washington, including:

  • Entrepreneurial coursework such the health, environmental or business plan practicum courses;
  • Major or Minor in Entrepreneurship;
  • Extracurricular programs such as the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program.

Teams must have students or recent graduates in key leadership roles. To be considered a “recent graduate,” the student must have graduated in summer quarter 2020 or later to be considered. Recent graduates and/or current students must be in good standing in their most recent quarter of instruction at an accredited college or university program.

Teams must also be prepared to commit to the six-month program beginning with the Welcome Week workshops July 26–July 30, 2021. Committee meetings will take place the third week of each month, August through January.
Teams with a single member may apply but are discouraged from doing so unless the entrepreneur has a serious plan for expanding the team appropriately.

Teams that participate in the Jones + Foster Accelerator will not be eligible to compete in any of the Buerk Center competitions, including the HIC, EIC, and Dempsey Startup following the completion of the JFA. Therefore, teams with students enrolled in the 2021–2022 academic year should seriously consider whether the timing is right for them to participate fully in the Accelerator, or if they would benefit from the feedback, mentorship and advice that is gained by going through the competition season (January–May), and applying for the Accelerator in 2022.

For all eligibility questions, please contact Sarah Studer at [email protected].

Each company will submit the following information:

  1. J+FA Accelerator Program Application.
  2. A video that includes a 60-second pitch about your company, and 60-seconds about why your team would be a great fit for the program (max 120 seconds).
    • Include the link to the unlisted video on YouTube or Vimeo in your application.
  3. A 5-7-page executive summary.
    • Examples of executive summaries can be found on the Dempsey Startup Competition website under “Preparation.”
    • You may include a cover page for a maximum of 8 pages.
    • Teams that applied to the Dempsey Startup Competition should update their original competition submission to reflect their current status.
  4. A draft of the 7–10 milestones that your company plans to accomplish during the six-month program, in addition to the three required milestones (see Milestones section below).

Click here to download the Milestone Template document that you can use to organize your proposed milestones.

Questions about your eligibility or the process? Contact Sarah Studer at [email protected].

For early-stage companies, milestones work! It’s too easy for startups to get caught up with the “fun” stuff—ideation, creativity, logo design and networking events—and put the tough details on the back burner for another day.

In the Accelerator, teams develop 7–10 reasonable, but measurable milestones they need to accomplish during the six month program. Possible milestones include:

  • negotiating a license with UW CoMotion (UW tech transfer office);
  • applying for and receiving additional research grant funding;
  • producing a manufacture-ready prototype;
  • collecting proof of concept data;
  • launching a public beta model of the product/service;
  • getting letters of intent from prospective customers;
  • raising seed funding from investors, etc.

Milestones are not tasks! Milestones are major markers in your company’s development that indicates progress. While each milestone may have a series of associated tasks, you will be measured on your progress towards the milestones, rather than the completion of your to-do list.

There are three required milestones for all teams:

  1. Submit a draft 12-month finance + operations plan in September
  2. Submit a final 12-month finance + operations plan in January
  3. Fundraising: this can take a variety of forms from revenue, grants, or actually starting the process to raise capital. All teams must have 3-months operating funds in the bank by the end of the program.

Click here to download the Milestone Template document that you can use to organize your proposed milestones.

Click here to see an example of milestones from previous teams.

Note: We will assist you with refining and completing your projected milestones before you begin the program.

We admit one cohort per year into the Jones + Foster Accelerator Program. Teams meet with their advisory committee (program coaches/mentors) once a month for six months from August through January. The meetings are scheduled by the Buerk Center office and usually take place the third full week of each month on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

2021 Timeline

Date & Time Event
Friday, June 11 Applications Open
Monday, June 28 Application Deadline (12:00pm)
Thursday, July 8 Teams will be notified by 3:00 pm if they’re invited to interview.
Week of July 12 Interviews of the top 10-12 teams. Teams notified by end of day if they’ve been admitted into the 2021 cohort.
Monday, July 26- Friday, July 30 Welcome Week + Workshops – at least one team member per team must attend each workshop.
Week of August 2 Teams meet with Buerk Center Staff to review milestones
Week of August 16 First team/committee meetings (17th, 18th, 19th TBD).
Week of September 13 Team/committee meetings (14th, 15th, or 16th TBD).
Week of October 18 Team/committee meetings (19th, 20th, or 21st TBD).
Week of November 15 Team/committee meetings (16th, 17th or 18th TBD).
Week of December 13 Team/committee meetings (14th, 15th, or 16th TBD).
Week of January 17 Final team/committee meetings (18th, 19th, or 20th TBD).
February 2, 2022 Final presentation to the full Accelerator mentor committee.

The coaches/mentors for the Jones + Foster Accelerator program are a dynamic group of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers from the Seattle entrepreneurial community. We have a committed group of mentors on the Accelerator advisory committee who have worked with the program since its inception. New mentors are added each year depending on the expertise needed for each start-up team.

Accelerator Core Committee

The core committee works with the Buerk Center staff to select the teams to participate each year. The core committee consists of:

  • Adrian Smith, Ignition Capital
  • Bill Bromfield, Fenwick + West
  • Brian Glaister, Conflux Innovations
  • Geoff Entress, Pioneer Square Labs
  • Jesse Proudman, Strix Leviathan
  • Lisa Hjorten, Pacific Edge Properties
  • Liz Callahan, DreamClinic
  • Terry Drayton, Livible
  • Troy Cichos, Madrona Venture Group

2020 Accelerator Mentors

  • Alexa Anthony
  • Erik Baserman, PMI Worldwide
  • Sean Bell, Aduro
  • Andy Boyer, Content 365 Online
  • Bill Bromfield, Fenwick + West
  • Liz Callahan
  • Troy Cichos, Madrona Venture Group
  • Marty Collins, Restore by Design
  • Dani Cone, Cone + Steiner
  • Alex Day, Modus
  • Jeff Dossett, Impinj
  • Terry Drayton
  • Geoff Entress, Pioneer Square Labs
  • Mike Fridgen, Madrona Venture Labs
  • Kathryn Gardow, Gardow Consulting
  • Brian Glaister, Axon
  • Anna Graves, QuintESSENCE Seattle
  • Ishani Gurjal, Madrona Venture Labs
  • Mark Hamachek, Acclara Growth Partners
  • Troy Hartzell, Evolution Capital
  • Lisa Hjorten, Pacific Edge Properties
  • Ken Horenstein, Venture Out Seattle
  • Chris Howard, Medical Sensor Systems
  • Jilyne Jarvis, Zgirls
  • Dave Lewis
  • Dierdre Madsen, Perkins Coie
  • Brianna McDonald, Keiretsu Forum
  • Yves Mizrahi, Mizrahi Real Estate Strategies
  • Mallory Monahan, Uphill Designs
  • Greg Newbloom, Membrion
  • Jesse Proudman, Strix Leviathan
  • Dan Sedlacek, Uphill Designs
  • Jonathan Shallow, K&L Gates LLP
  • John Sheppard, John Sheppard LLC
  • Adrian Smith, Ignition Capital
  • Dan Smith, Recipe 33
  • David Smukowski, Whidbey Equity Group
  • Ben Straughan, Perkins Coie
  • Drew Tulchin, Upspring Associates
The Jones + Foster Accelerator is made possible through the generous support of the Seattle entrepreneurial community—mentors, advisers, donors, and sponsors.

In addition to private donors who provide seed funding to the companies that successfully complete the program, the following have provided sponsorship for further program development:

  • Herbert B. Jones Foundation provides seed funding awards for teams completing the program.
  • Bill McAleer of Voyager Capital provides funding for the McAleer Early Start Fund.
  • The AWS Activate program provides $10,000 in AWS Credits (valid for 2 years), in addition to 1 year of AWS Business Support (up to $5,000).
  • The University of Washington is an approved HubSpot for Startups partner. Eligible teams can apply to receive startup-friendly pricing to HubSpot’s growth stack software package and their education portals.
  • Startup Hall provides drop-in coworking access for Jones + Foster Accelerator teams.

Seven teams proved that with a strong foundation and committed mentors, you can overcome anything — even the world turning upside down.

Read the blog post


Seven student-created startups received funding from the Jones + Foster Accelerator at the UW Foster School of Business.

Read the blog post


Eight student-led startups from the 2018 cohort have the runway to succeed as graduates of the UW Foster School’s Jones + Foster Accelerator.

Read the blog post


The Buerk Center awarded $150,000 in follow-on funding to the 2017 cohort and has now awarded more than one million dollars since the program began in 2010.

Read the blog post


Seven student-led startups capped off months of hard work by completing the Jones + Foster Accelerator at the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

Read the blog post


$170K awarded to 2015 Jones + Foster Accelerator teams.

Read the blog post


$160,000 awarded to student-led startups in 2014.

Read the blog post


Five teams completed the six-month accelerator program, identifying and meeting milestones with the guidance of top entrepreneurs, lawyers and investors from Seattle’s entrepreneurial community.

Read the blog post


The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship awarded $170,000 to eight student-led start-ups.

Read the blog post


Five winning teams from the 2010 competition spent six months participating in the Jones program.

Read the blog post

Inside the Accelerator

The Herbert B. Jones Foundation makes the Jones + Foster Accelerator possible at the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
The Jones Foundation

The Herbert B. Jones Foundation makes the Jones + Foster Accelerator possible at the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

Learn more about The Jones Foundation

Voyager Capital partner Bill McAleer and his wife Colleen are difference makers for student startups in the Buerk Center's Jones + Foster Accelerator
The McAleer Early Start Fund

Voyager Capital partner Bill McAleer and his wife Colleen are difference makers for student startups in the Buerk Center’s Jones + Foster Accelerator.

Learn more about The McAleer Early Start Fund

Read the Jones + Foster Accelerator blog

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Connect with the Buerk Center