Why is Cap Digital charging seed startups $12,000 for a 2 month Silicon Valley accelerator program?

Why is Cap Digital charging seed startups $12,000 for a 2 month Silicon Valley accelerator program?

Cap Digital recently announced a new French acceleration program in the Silicon Valley intended to help French startups ‘immerse themselves’ in the US Market. The non-profit business cluster is working alongside US Market Access Center (US MAC), a non-profit Silicon Valley-based accelerator, to bring 5 startups ‘intensive mentoring’ during a two-month program, 3-4 weeks of which are spent in the US.

Reading through the application, I couldn’t help but be surprised by some of its peculiarities. The requirements for startups are normal – be headquarted in Paris (Ile-de-France, because Cap Digital receives money from the region), have a product that is beyond R&D phase, but not necessarily beyond commercialized yet, and have at least 2 people, 1 of whom is ready to go to the US for 3 weeks, and possibly stay longer.

What began to irk me was the $550 application fee, which is to be accompanied by no less than 18 pages of paperwork, not to mention the ~$12,000 program costs, or $6,000/month. The program is quite vague about what it offers, though they do include office space in there – how nice.

For anyone currently considering this option, may I suggest a counter-offer: Blackbox VC. If you’re going to pay up the ass for an accelerator program, at least do it with someone who’s going to give you a place to crash in a mansion in Atherton with a pool, who align his interests with yours back taking equity in your company, and who has a proven record of well-performing startups. Blackbox alumnus mDot were acquired by GoDaddy earlier this year, and French alumnus I-Dispo raised more than $1 Million last year. 

I don’t understand why Cap Digital is trying to suck 50,000€ out of startups who are not making any money when they have a budget of more than 500 Million Euros – they couldn’t pull 50,000€ out to send 5 startups to the US? Or maybe it’s that, because they are non-profit, they can’t take equity in startups, which begs the question: are their interests aligned with the startups interests?

I’m always skeptical of Public Sector money, and I’m even more skeptical of paying the Public Sector to help me succeed in the private sector.


10 Responses

  1. Baptiste HAMEL (@bqptiste)

    “when they have a budget of more than 500 Million Euros”. Which is your source ? Not even Oseo has such amount of money !

    I share your point of view. It is expensive. However, its a first for a french cluster and it just can get better. When they will realise no one is willing to pay nor go, they will “pivot” as their clients do.

  2. davininhoBoucard Planel

    Yep, pretty weird considering the blurriness of the offer and the companies targeted… Why not partner with programs like NETVA, or Hubtech21, or even Parisoma ? I gotta say $12,000 is a joke for 2 months 🙂 But it’s good that these kind of initiative are launched.

  3. Oussama Ammar

    Like usual with this people – I don’t understand why they cannot just act fairly for once … and what a joke: being accelerate in 4 weeks 🙂 ? Most people needs 3 weeks to adapt to the jetlag (ok I am bit exaggerating but you see the point …)

  4. Juan Diosdado

    Actually, from my understanding, a french nonprofit can have equity in other companies or even fully owned commercial subsidiaries. It’s just that nobody can have equity on the nonprofit itself. Please do correct me if I’m wrong on this.

  5. Cap Digital
  6. Phil Jeudy (@PhilJ)

    Liam, we both know USMac, and what’s behind, and I’m not really sure it’s really a non-profit thing. And I won’t suggest BlackboxVC necessarily, and I told you that already, there is something else to be done, in my humble opinion, and anyways so many other options you should mention to be fair. The problem with France tech ecosystem, is to feel obliged of being Silicon Valley compatible, and that some (public) money should be used there in California to give the feeling of a connection. Public money has to stay inside of the country unless there is a national priority, right?!

  7. Jay

    A program with that many euros signs on its homepage doesn’t seem much “non-profit” to me.

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