A Closer Look at Entrepreneur Selection
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Although pipeline development is an important first step for accelerators, entrepreneur selection is perhaps the most controversial aspect of their work. From the most practical perspective, selecting promising but overlooked entrepreneurs is a cornerstone of any successful accelerator. Most program managers believe that the best way to ensure maximum return on their human, social, and financial capital investments is to ensure that these resources are directed toward ventures with the best chance of delivering and scaling impact. Therefore, they invest an immense amount of thought and effort selecting the most promising entrepreneurs into their cohorts. On the other hand, accelerators that end up delivering excellent results are often accused of simply cherry-picking entrepreneurs and ventures that would have succeeded any way. This accusation matters when presenting evidence to potential funders and supporters. If left unchallenged, the push to interpret accelerator effects solely through the lens of randomized or pseudo-randomized experimentation discounts this critical aspect of accelerator work. Rather than considering selection as a problematic confound in assessments of program efficacy, this chapter frames it as one of three core domains of work and examines several of the choices made by high-NFF and low-NFF programs to see which of them produce better accelerator outcomes.