Catalyst Accelerator extends deadline for inaugural cohort

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Catalyst Accelerator has extended the application deadline for its inaugural accelerator cohort until November 5.

Catalyst Accelerator Program Director Rebecca Decker said the extension gives Catalyst Accelerator and Air Force Research Lab teams more time to meet with potential participants and mentors nationwide, and “to nationally market this program, the campus, [the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization] and Colorado Springs as a center for research and development.”

Catalyst Accelerator, based at Catalyst Campus, is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) on the inaugural cohort.  

According to a news release from Catalyst Accelerator, it is seeking entrepreneurs, startups and technologists from established companies with innovative commercial technologies, “with the end objective of providing improved global weather data and products to support the warfighter.”

“The point of this is to address the ability for our military to monitor terrestrial weather — that’s weather assets or data from space, looking at what’s happening on the earth,” Decker said.

In its 2017 High Risk Report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated the continuity of weather satellite data is at risk, and announced it had expanded the high-risk area to include the Department of Defense’s polar-orbiting weather satellites “because the agency has been slow to replace aging satellites and, as a result, is at risk of a gap in weather satellite data in the early morning orbit.”

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Decker said the Catalyst Accelerator will “try to find new solutions to this problem: how do we monitor the weather, and then how do we provide that weather intelligence to our warfighter or military personnel who are out in the field — whether it’s a pilot, a space operator, anyone whose mission is affected by weather.

“This is a critical need; that’s why it’s so important,” she said. “The space community has identified this as a high risk for them too, so they came to Catalyst Campus asking …  can you help us find and recruit companies in the commercial market… They cast a really wide net for technology because they don’t truly know what’s out there, and they don’t know what they need. It’s wide open.”

Solutions could include anything from data processing and improved algorithms, to a set of niche ground- and space-based sensors, or a full commercial operations floor providing services and data to the U.S. government, according to the Catalyst Accelerator web site.

Decker said two things make Catalyst Accelerator unique among accelerator programs: its co-location with the Air Force customer, and a rapid funding mechanism available through the government.

“Co-location … is a big deal, because we can do very quick customer discovery,” she said. “Especially in the government market, it can take two years to develop a relationship with the customer and understand their needs — this accelerates that process to three months.”

For anyone who has never worked with the government, Decker said, that acceleration in customer discovery is key. Funding is the other critical element.

“Usually with an accelerator you have venture capital and private investment at the end, which we have, but then we also have that other path for funding through the government, which is the Other Transaction Authority,” she said.

“The best thing about the OTA is it’s used for research and development and prototyping. It’s a quick way to get someone who has a brilliant idea and prototype not on a contract, but on an agreement through a project award quickly, so they’re not waiting for that two-year acquisition. … It eliminates a lot of the red tape.”

Catalyst Accelerator is a collaborative effort between Catalyst Campus, CTRAC and the Boulder Small Business Development Center, in partnership with Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and Colorado Springs Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE).

The inaugural cohort kicks off in January 2018 with a three-month residential curriculum at Catalyst Campus, and concludes with a final demonstration day in April.

The Catalyst Accelerator team and the Air Force Research Lab will hold an Ask Me Anything session on November 1 at 11am.