John Lewis launches private accelerator DojoBoost


Don't be afraid... he usually smilesEarlier this month at LeWeb, I ran into entrepreneur, professor and startup mentor John Lewis. Having been funded at least 6 times by my count, John Lewis has been living in Paris for quite some time, helping startups at LeCamping, mentoring at StartupWeekend events, and as a professor of finance at both HEC and IAE Gustave Eiffel. Using his experience launching and running software startups, John Lewis has announced the launch of DojoBoost, a new startup accelerator which may receive its first class of startups as early as March 2012.
Having volunteered as a mentor for the first two classes of startups at LeCamping, the startup accelerateur created by Silicon Sentier, DojoBoost will prides itself and focuses on the power of good mentoring. Relying on the Lean Startup model, DojoBoost will focus on guiding startups in creating a client-centric MVP, or minimum viable product, over the course of the 5 month program. Accepting up to 50 companies in two sessions per year, startups will apply by application. Emphasizing their interest in a talented, motivated team, the application will require a video from the team, with a follow-up in person interview in the second round if selected.

So, should I take my team and idea do DojoBoost?

With startup accelerators popping up all over paris and France, it’s difficult to know which programs will be the best fit for your team. There are a few key pieces of differentiation that DojoBoost uses to attract its ideal startups:

  • B2B stands for “Best 2 Boost” – While DojoBoost will not be accepting uniquely B2B startup applications, John Lewis has emphasized his preference for B2B applications – this most likely stems from his experience running enterprise software companies.
  • Internationals think International – Along with partner Yan Thoinet, the DojoBoost has a quite international background and equally international mindest. DojoBoost is ideally looking for internationally minded startups, as they offer assistance raising funds from international sources, in addition to private and public French sources.
  • What does 5% stake buy you? – unlike LeCamping and many other startup accelerators in France, DojoBoost will take a 5% stake in your startup in exchange for their program. Which brings me to my next point…

“What exactly do I get from DojoBoost?”

The benefit of a startup accelerator taking a stake in your startup is that they, too, are financially invested in your successs – the trade-off, I believe, is self-evident. So take whatever you think the potential value of your company is, divide in half to account for self-delusion, and then again by 20 to determine if the following services are worth that ‘potential value’ to you:

  • 5 months of intensive training, networking and mentoring
  • Assistance raising funds
  • Office space and general services
  • Administrative assistance (banking, accountant, lawyer)
  • Technical Assistance: technical consulting, graphics, web hosting
  • Assistance with communications: PR & Community Management

Backed by Microsoft with a€30,000 tab on any of their startup services under Bizspark , you can bet that their network contacts are worth the cost alone.

What I look for in a startup accelerator…

Two things I would like to see in a private accelerator in France are to pay their team and to provide housing – two big requests I know. While private accelerators are attractive to French startupers, who can claim unemployment (arguable the largest contributor to the startup scene in France) while launching their startup, France has yet to set up any infrastructure to bring in outside talent to encourage entrepreneurship. Since housing in Paris is arguably the largest barrier to entry for any French startup, and having a side job is a huge distraction, I would arguably give up anywhere from a 10-15% stake in my startup to be able to spend a solid half year care-free focused on my startup, which after all, is the goal of both the startup and the accelerator.
If you’re still not sure whether you have a full enough team, whether your idea is advanced enough, or whether DojoBoost is right for you, John Lewis is a pretty personable guy, so shoot him an email with your startup idea.