Global Perspectives on Early Stage Startups: Leading European Accelerator Visits UVA Darden

By Dave Hendrick

Directors from APX, a Berlin-based venture accelerator visited the University of Virginia Darden School of Business recently to share a European perspective on venture creation and acceleration with students and faculty, further strengthening the ties between the School and Europe’s startup community. Hosted by the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club with support from Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the presentation was part of a weeklong series of events focused on entrepreneurship and innovation .

A joint venture of automotive company Porsche and German media conglomerate Axel Springer, APX has been a highlight of Darden’s Executive MBA European residency for many years. Having established close ties with Professors Lynn Isabella and Andy Wicks, APX directors Jörg Rheinboldt and Henric Hungerhoff were eager to visit Darden to expand relationships with students and faculty.

During the panel, Global Perspectives on Venture Accelerators, Rheinboldt and Hungerhoff explained the orientation of the accelerator. While broadly interested in the digital space, they described APX as sector-agnostic, welcoming startups in mobility, travel, media, finance and healthcare, among others.

“Our focus is user-centric business models,” Rheinboldt said. “We can pretty much invest into anything.”

Startups selected for their 100-day program receive preseed or seed funding of €25,000 or €100,000, respectively; APX takes an equity stake that does not exceed 5 percent.

Similar to Darden’s i.Lab Incubator program, APX‘s 100-day accelerator offers mentors, workshops and access to a network of other ventures, both new and veteran. Portfolio companies also receive six months of office space after the initial 100 days.

APX aims to invest in 40 companies a year, and focuses on Europe and Israel. The founders said they have seen a ramp up in applications from the United Kingdom, and speculate ventures are seeking ways to break into the European market ahead of Brexit.

The winnowing questions used by the team at APX are likely familiar to startups around the world, with the directors saying prospective ventures tend to be considered through the lens of:

  • Why You?
  • Why Now?
  • Why This?

Startups with compelling answers to the questions related to the team, the product and the market outlook are those likeliest to gain entry to the accelerator, which also welcomes nonprofit groups and artists, all in the interest of creating a rich environment for venture development.

“We do not want to be a school for entrepreneurs. We want to be an environment for the entrepreneurs to find shortcuts,” said Hungerhoff.  “We just provide opportunities.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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