Published in The New Hampshire Union Leader
By Joshua Cyr

It is now 2017 and, as is often customary, many people make New Year’s resolutions. For some people these resolutions are personal or professional improvements. For others the resolutions are grand challenges or life-changing decisions such as starting a new company.

At Alpha Loft we frequently hear from individuals who have started upon the intense task of starting a new business. More specifically, a startup. Startups are a special breed of new company. Startups solve challenges in new and innovative ways, and have high growth potential.

These two key components, innovation and scale, mean that startup founders have many unknowns on their startup journey. Their business model isn’t certain, the value proposition to customers hasn’t yet been validated in any significant way. Very few previous companies using the same approach or innovation are there to light the path, proving out their hypothesis in customer need, price sensitivity, competitive landscape, etc.

For startup founders in New Hampshire there is good news. Many resources and nonprofit organizations, such as Alpha Loft, are here to help. Alpha Loft works with many startup founders throughout the year through events, direct meetings, networking and programs. Additionally we offer an accelerator program once a year to facilitate startup growth.

Alpha Loft is now accepting applications for its Accelerator program, Accelerate NH. This is an intensive 14-week journey that a handful of startups will participate in. It includes weekly educational sessions, direct mentorship from experienced industry professionals, and networking/introductions to advance the growth of the startup.

The free program begins at the end of February and runs for three months, ending on June 1 in a large demo day event. The demo day event coincides with Alpha Lofts large ecosystem celebration we call Startup Shindig, attracting hundreds of participants.

This is an outstanding opportunity for those tackling big problems. While many people consider the hardest part of a startup to be the idea, the reality is that execution on that idea is incredibly hard. Founders face many uncertainties inherent in a startup such as finding product market fit, identifying a reproducible path to a significant and interested customer segment, and clarity around the actual market opportunity.

On top of those challenges, founders are tasked with learning many areas of business. From product development, to sales, finance and marketing, in a startup the founders are tasked with all of this and more.

This is where guidance and an outside perspective can help. Mentors who have gone down these paths before help provide perspective, and challenge assumptions. Regular office hours meetings will provide help with strategy, priorities and important introductions. Going through the program with a cohort of other founders provides camaraderie and a sense that you are not alone.

This will be the third year we have run Accelerate NH. Startups that have gone through our program range from Pickup Patrol, a software-as-a-service platform for school systems, to Nobl, a cold brew coffee company, to Valchoice, an insurance comparison and rating service. Other startup companies range from business-to-business software companies, consumer apps, enterprise education, Internet of Things hardware, and event booking and management. We have seen quite a few startups over the years tackling a broad spectrum of problems. We can’t wait to see who applies this year and the innovations they bring.

The application period for Accelerate NH is open until Jan. 15. Learn more, spread the word and apply at http://alphaloft.org. The Accelerate NH presenting sponsor is Live Free & Start, and the contributing sponsor is Cook Little Rosenblatt & Manson.

Alpha Loft is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the development of early-stage, scalable companies, commercializing the intellectual capital developed at UNH and other leading educational institutions, and creating sustainable employment opportunities in the state of New Hampshire. Its premier partner is the University of New Hampshire.

Joshua Cyr is the Director of Education and Acceleration at Alpha Loft. He has previously worked in marketing agencies and co-founded a commercial CMS startup, Savvy Software, serving as its CTO. Cyr also serves as city councilor for the city of Portsmouth. He can be found on twitter @jcyr or email jcyr@alphaloft.org – See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20170103/NEWS0201/170109900