Several times a year since 2010, StartX, a little organization started by Stanford University students, launches a dozen or more companies. The most recent class, the largest ever, numbers 25. I attend the launch event whenever I can. And, while there is occasionally a, shall we say, "lightweight" concept, for the most part, the ideas are fresh, ambitious, and have a shot at being successful.
In fact, of the 90 companies launched through StartX to date, 85 percent have gotten funded to the tune of US $70 million. They’ve included Black Swan Solar, dedicated to making solar energy cheaper than coal by focusing sunlight into a single, high-powered ray; 6dot, a company producing an easy-to-use braille label-maker; and Morpheus Medical, a team that has developed a noninvasive test for heart function that could replace many catheritizations.
That’s a pretty impressive record. So it’s not surprising that the operators of this nonprofit venture—which manages to churn out new businesses without taking equity or payment for its efforts in finetuning business plans and connecting entrepreneurs with advisors and investors—have ambitions of scaling it up. Earlier this summer, it launched its first niche accelerator, StartX Med, to focus on developing medical and biomedical companies.
And this week, StartX announced that, with an $800,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation, it will begin planning for a national rollout. For the rest of this year, the organization will be trying to translate its success into a recipe, codified in a StartX Manual. Then it will start trying to replicate its operations outside Silicon Valley. StartX founder Cameron Teitleman told IEEE Spectrum that more cities will definitely come soon, but he’s not disclosing specifics just yet.
Of course, many have tried—in most cases with limited success—to reproduce the Silicon Valley startup magic outside the Valley’s fertile entrepreneurial environment through the years. But StartX—the company and the team—are young enough to believe that they can succeed where others have failed; and indeed they may.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.