The GroundWork Accelerator

The GroundWork Accelerator program supports founders at the crossroads of growth, i.e., a customer-ready product, in market, with the earliest signs of traction… but not at scale and, often, not yet at product-market-fit.

What’s next for companies at this stage is chart a path to meaningful traction, i.e., the beginnings of scale — scaling users, scaling customers, scaling revenue, scaling team. But scaling is among the most difficult milestones for any startup to achieve. And at this stage of a startup’s life, the clock is ticking.

The failure rate of startups is extraordinarily high, even for those with lots going for them — great product, great market, great team, and even great investors. There are certainly no magic bullets, but the GroundWork startup accelerator program thesis is that the most-reliable path to scaling is:

  • have a solid understanding of the milestones you want to reach next, include why that milestone is the right one;
  • have specific growth targets and a thesis for how to attain them;
  • have a quantitative understanding of the assumptions underlying your growth thesis;
  • have a thoughtful, metrics-driven approach to validating your assumptions through research and experimentation;
  • have the discipline and dedication to build a cogent growth story;
  • buckle up… this won’t be easy.

Done right, this approach to planning for growth can lay the groundwork for scale.

But the startup world moves fast. It is sometimes said that planning anything in advance for a startup is a fools errand because plans are obsolete the minute they are forged. This is true enough… particularly because most startup growth plans lack cogency. For the GroundWork startup accelerator, the cogency of the plan is fundamental.

Throughout the GroundWork startup accelerator program, founders are challenged to understand, explain, defend and refine the cogency of their assumptions and the cogency of the growth plans they develop.

Significant uncertainty and risk are an inescapable fact of life for every venture-scale growth startup. This is especially true in the early stages, before product-market-fit is achieved, and no amount of cogency can guarantee success. The GroundWork program thesis is simply that cogency is the best tool we have. And that’s good news because striving for cogency is within the reach of every single startup company and every single startup founder.

Every startup founder also has blind spots and not every element of risk and uncertainty is plainly obvious — even when you’re looking for them! Startups in the GroundWork program get help understanding the assumptions they already know about as well as flushing out assumptions that are hidden from view.

At a high level, the GroundWork Accelerator program curriculum follows a trajectory roughly like that shown below. Experienced founder and investor mentors help you all along the way.

  • Founders set their growth outcome targets.
    • Prepare to raise capital?
    • Achieve a valuation milestone?
    • Launch in a new market?
    • Achieve/grow profitability?
    • Something else…?
  • Founders build their growth thesis.
    • How much growth? How fast?
    • From where? From who? And how?
    • What’s next?
  • Founders model their growth thesis assumptions.
    • Identify and quantify underlying assumptions.
    • Verify plausibility of quantified assumptions.
    • Revise based learnings.
  • Founders build a growth plan that meets a high standard of cogency.
    • What channels? What tactics? What cost? What time?
    • What skills? What gaps?
    • Expected results?
    • What if the worst case? What if the best case?

At the end of the program, founders will either have a cogent growth plan they can execute on or they will know where the risks in their plan are and how to mitigate them.

GroundWork participants receive access to the following exclusive partner programs. Each program has additional eligibility requirements and limitations.

HubSpot for Startups Program

  • Up to 90% discount off the HubSpot Growth Platform.
  • Access to exclusive education resources and tailored training, including content, masterclasses, 24/7 support, and a startup-friendly onboarding experience.
  • Access to over 200 software integrations, many at startup friendly pricing, as well as the opportunity to build an integration on the HubSpot platform.


AWS Activate Program

  • $10,000 in AWS Promotional Credit valid for 2 years
  • 1 year of AWS Business Support (up to $5,000).
  • 80 credits for self-paced labs


Google Cloud for Startups Spark Program

  • $20,000 in Google Cloud Platform and Firebase Credits
  • Invitations to exclusive, local Google Cloud events.
  • Access to Hire FREE for 6 months – a $600 value. (Available in limited territories)
  • $500 in Qwiklabs credits to kickstart your company’s hands-on lab training initiatives.
  • $200/month for Google Maps API, good for 12 months.
  • One year of free G Suite (up to 10 users – only valid for new domains) or a year of discounted upgrades to G Suite Business or G Suite Enterprise.
  • An opportunity to apply for our Surge program to extend your credits to up to $100,000 for a second year as your business continues to grow.
The hardest part of GroundWork for us is knowing that we can only accept a limited number of the startups who apply. We know this means that some really great founders and companies won’t get into the program.

With that said, the GroundWork program is designed to accelerate founders and companies that are at a crossroads of growth. Here’s how we think about startups that are a good fit for the GroundWork program.

  • Vision — We look for founders with big ideas that solve meaningful problems of meaningful value to meaningful markets… and with a plan to get there.
  • Passion — We look for founders with strong conviction and sincere passion for the problems they are solving.
  • Discipline — We look for founders who know that there is no “Get-Critical-Mass Button” and who understand that getting from here to there requires thoughtful execution and a lot of hard work.
  • Initial Product — We look for founders who have built a live product, available for use by arms-length customers.
  • Initial Revenue — We look for founders who have delivered value to at least some initial arms-length customer(s) willing to pay money for their product.
  • Growth Thesis — We look for founders who have a thoughtful thesis about their next growth milestones and how they can achieve them.
  • Lean Experimentation — We look for founders who are eager to quantify their growth assumptions and leverage Lean methodologies to validate, invalidate and improve their growth strategy.
The GroundWork Accelerator program does not charge a monetary fee of any kind… for anything… ever. However, Startup Haven will ask for a voluntary 2% stock warrant agreement (with a 10-year term) at a concluding milestone of the program. If you feel value you receive from the GroundWork program is worth less than 2%, you may choose a different amount or no amount at all. If you decline to offer the full 2% agreement then we only ask that you tell us specifically how you believe the program failed to meet your expectations and tell us what you think we can do to make GroundWork better. We also understand that if your company has significant growth traction at the time you enter the program then it may make sense to offer a lower percentage even though the program met your expectations. 

GroundWork Accelerator mentors are different — 100% are Startup Haven members, which means 100% are experienced startup founders, C-level execs and investors. In addition to being a Startup Haven member, each mentor is individually selected based on their specific technical and business expertise, their personal startup experience and their commitment to adhering to the Startup Haven Mentor Guidelines and Mentor Code of Conduct.

Among other things, this means that we do not utilize the help of service provider mentors. This is not a value judgment against service providers. Service providers are essential and startups need help from lots of folks, including lawyers, bankers, accountants, recruiters, designers, marketers and a myriad of others. For Startup Haven and the GroundWork program, we think it’s essential that the help and advice that GroundWork participants receive from mentors should be free from the potential for conflict of interest or pecuniary bias.

We also believe that for founders with a strong network of other experienced startup founders, execs and investors, finding the right service provider is merely a matter of asking for referrals. Startup Haven and the GroundWork program provide just that sort of network.

You learn more about the GroundWork Mentor Program here.

There are two kinds of mentors: Program Mentors and Executive Mentors. The difference between them has nothing to do with their ability to provide thoughtful and experienced help. In fact, every Executive Mentor is also a Program Mentor. The primary difference is that Executive Mentors are asked to spend a little more time working with GroundWork teams and they help with some GroundWork program management and mentor coordination responsibilities.

GroundWork mentors can be either local or remote. Because in-person collaboration can be so valuable, teams are encouraged build relationships with local mentors in their city whenever they can. However, because the GroundWork program is essentially virtual, any team can work with any mentor in any city. In working with remote mentors, teams are encouraged to utilize web collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom, Google Docs, etc. GroundWork teams and mentors are also provided access to private channels on Founder to Founder, Startup Haven’s member-only ask/offer forum.

You learn more about the GroundWork Mentor Program here.

How to Apply to GroundWork

Once you have reviewed all of the information above and once you have determined that you meet the minimum qualifications for Startup Haven and the GroundWork Accelerator program…

If you would like to be notified when future application dates are opened, please leave us your name, email and what city you’re in.