Catalyst Accelerator, a defense and national security accelerator and the first accelerator program to take place in southern Colorado, launched its inaugural cohort yesterday, Jan. 30, at Catalyst Campus.
The new accelerator’s mission is “to promote technology advancement for the warfighter and to guide technology transfer between the government and the commercial market,” according to Catalyst Accelerator Program Director Rebecca Decker.
Through the intensive 12-week program, participating companies will develop solutions for providing better terrestrial weather data and other commercially-viable, related products.
“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.
The accelerator is a collaborative effort between Catalyst Campus; the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization; and the Boulder Small Business Development Center, in partnership with Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center and Colorado Springs SCORE, Decker said.
“It’s a phenomenal partnership between private and public organizations,” she said. “For us, this is one of the biggest programs that we’ve been able to produce at the Catalyst Campus using several different partnerships with organizations that reside here on campus and our friends up in Boulder.
“From a state level that’s actually huge. This [public-private partnership] is not typical, not at all. The fact that we were able to partner with the Boulder SBDC is great and they’ve been a phenomenal partner for us. They’re bringing that Boulder expertise that we may not find in this community.”
After a rigorous selection process, six teams were chosen to participate in the first cohort, Decker said.
They are Springs-based companies Adaptive Systems, LLC and XplotraX; Colorado-based Advanced Radar Company and Guidestar Optical Systems, Inc.; and California companies, Koolock Inc. and SaraniaSat.
Through the accelerator, the companies will have direct access to operational weather experts and stakeholders from the Air Force and other government agencies, as well as the Catalyst Campus, SBDC, PTAC and SCORE National network of mentors, partners and investors, according to a news release issued by Catalyst Campus.
Catalyst Accelerator is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) on the inaugural Terrestrial Weather Cohort.
The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate serves as the Air Force’s “Center of Excellence” for space technology research and development. Through their partnership with AFRL/RV, the Catalyst Accelerator will expose the AFRL team and other government partners to commercial technologies with innovative solutions to warfighter needs, according to the release.
Decker said two things make Catalyst Accelerator unique among accelerator programs: its co-location with the Air Force customer, and a potential rapid funding mechanism available through the government.
Co-location is critical because it means the businesses can do very rapid customer discovery, she said. In the government market it can take an average of two years to develop a relationship with decision-makers and understand their needs; Catalyst Accelerator’s proximity to Air Force Space Command could bring that process down to less than three months.
The participating companies will receive immediate capital of $15,000 from Space Capital Colorado, a Catalyst-endowed accelerator fund, according to the release. Space Capital Colorado may further invest in any of the accelerator companies if they show potential.
“Truly the intent of the Catalyst Accelerator is to accelerate the technology that we’ve picked but leverage commercially available capabilities to improve Air Force technologies,” Decker said. “So our investment company, Space Capital Colorado, looks for participant companies that are inherently driven by the commercial market rather than what the military or government needs. So [during the selection process] we took into account what the Air Force expressed that they needed, but Space Capital Colorado had the final investment decision.”
The program is semi-residential.
“The cohort will be here every other week, and participating in-person customer discovery interviews with the Air Force and agencies like [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], NASA, and we also have Army participation,” Decker said. “On the virtual off-weeks, they’ll be doing virtual workshops with experts in design thinking, commercialization, and extended customer discovery.”
The program will culminate with a demonstration day at Catalyst Campus in mid-April, when each team will pitch to government and commercial investors for an opportunity to raise additional capital or follow-on government funding for further prototype development.