Idea Accelerator

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Program Information


Contact Information
Diane Paterson
Phone #: (612) 624-3578

The Idea Accelerator is a basic support system that gives a select number of entrepreneurs access to space, mentors and other professional services that will help them launch their businesses. This includes access to the B-Tech Center (a collaborative working space) and a limited amount of pro-bono legal, advisory, and accounting assistance.

Seasoned professionals from the business community volunteer their time to coach and advise the entrepreneurs on the planning and execution of their ventures. These “Advisors” are instrumental in helping the entrepreneurs think more strategically about what it takes to launch sustainable businesses. Whenever possible, other professionals and/or students are brought in to provide additional support and guidance.

Idea Accelerator Resources

Admitted entrepreneurs will be able to use the following resources to conduct business-related activities:

  • Meeting space and conference room
  • Computers with business planning and accounting software
  • General office equipment, including copier, printer, scanner, fax and telephones
  • TV to do presentations and web conferencing
  • A "literature library" of business- and technology-related books and magazines

In some cases, members also receive:

  • Business advisory services from an Entrepreneur-In-Residence
  • Legal advisory services from the U of M Business Law Clinic
  • Accounting advisory services from Lurie, Besikof, Lapidus & Co.

Entrepreneurs: Selection Criteria, Expectations, & Application

Selection Criteria

  • Potential, desire and commitment to launch a sustainable business
  • Draft of an executive summary


  • Meet/speak with advisor at least 1x/month.
  • Be very clear in what type of assistance/guidance you are looking for.
  • Keep an open mind to the suggestions and advice offered.
  • Understand that you drive the process (i.e. schedule meetings, create agendas, etc.).
  • Prepare for all meetings/calls ahead of time.
  • Understand that your advisor is volunteering his/her time to help you.
  • Treat this engagement as you would any paid professional consulting engagement.
  • Be respectful of any referrals/contacts made by advisor and/or program manager.

Interested entrepreneurs should first apply online or contact Diane Paterson with any questions.

Advisors: Selection Criteria, Expectations, & Application

The program relies on volunteer advisors that are considered seasoned members of the entrepreneurial community. Relationships between advisors and entrepreneurs are formed based on the needs and preferences of the entrepreneurs and the interests of the available advisors.

Selection Criteria

  • Able to commit at least 2 hours/month.
  • Proven experience in directly or indirectly helping launch and/or grow small businesses.
  • Strong assessment, planning, and advising skills.
  • Ability to quickly become a trusted Advisor.
  • Strong network of industry/functional contacts.
  • Willing to provide some hands-on assistance if needed.


  • Commit at least 2 hours a month to entrepreneur. This includes at least one face-to-face meeting.
  • Coach and lead client through assessment, planning, and launch-process.
  • Give suggestions on how to launch sustainable businesses.
  • Provide introductions to network of industry/functional contacts as needed.

Interested professionals should first apply online or contact Diane Paterson with any questions.

Accepted Members: Getting Started

Once accepted, members must first meet with Diane Paterson to do an idea/company assessment and develop a preliminary plan of action. After this initial meeting, members can utilize the space, computers, copy machine, printer, and telephones to conduct business-related activities. All administrative- and office space-related inquiries should be directed to Mai Vang, and all business-related inquiries to Diane Paterson.

Legal & Accounting Assistance

If you require legal and/or accounting assistance, please contact Diane Paterson to discuss the issue and determine how to proceed. Legal services generally include assistance with the formation of a legal entity and basic contractual agreements. More complex legal issues like IP may require out-of-pocket expenses. Accounting services generally include basic guidance on employment, sales and income tax reporting, as well as budgeting, forecasting and how to set up an accounting and financial reporting system.