Accelerators, Hubs, Startup Studios

The Overlap Between Studios and Accelerators

Over the last 3 years, the number of studios has increased by 480%, from 171 to 824.

Over the last 3 years, the number of studios has increased by 480%, from 171 to 824.

by: Tom Higley|

February 27, 2023

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Articles | Hubs | The Overlap Between Studios and Accelerators

We sat down with Tom Higley, CEO of X Genesis, in a community call on the future of venture creation to learn more about how he thinks the world of venture creation will change in the future.

Why do you believe so many people are starting studios?

I think there’s continuing evidence that entrepreneurs want to be engaged and want to connect to studios to build their next venture. At that level, there’s some clear demand, and we see that there’s inbound now in a way that there wasn’t at the outset. Almost everything we did at the beginning focused on reaching out to entrepreneurs that we thought might be a fit and that we knew were planning to start a new venture sometime in the next year. Now we have folks coming to us wanting to build with us, so that’s some external validation of what’s going on. Beyond that, we’re also seeing sources of capital choose to fund studios and support them. I think the studio model is sufficiently complex and challenging that if we can actually begin to see smart capital find its way to studios, that says something meaningful.

We’re even starting to see fund-to-funds in the studio space, which is encouraging. In the end, I hope we start seeing the ventures that are coming out of studios do amazing things, not just having financial success, but delivering more at the cross-section of ROI and impact.

"Think about how you're going to deliver value to entrepreneurs and investors in a way that can start before the venture exists."

Tom Higley, CEO, X Genesis

Where do you see the logical overlap between studios and accelerators?

When I think of studios, I think of the work that happens ahead of the creation of a venture.

I’ve often used this illustration to frame the entrepreneur’s journey and point out that many folks in the context of venture, whether they’re entrepreneurs or capital, tend to only see growth and scale on the right side of the bow tie. Accelerators live to the right of the creation of that venture and studios live to the left. If you’re an accelerator and you’re thinking about what it would mean to be a studio. Part of what you have to have in mind is how you’re going to deliver value to entrepreneurs and to the investors in a way that can start before the venture exists.

That’s a pretty significant line of demarcation. I like to talk to entrepreneurs about the notion that they’re investors investing in the next chapter of their life, and that their opportunity costs are substantial. Unlike most financial investors, they don’t have deal flow in a significant way and they don’t have an established and well-worn due diligence process for what they do. Studios can actually provide that, in fact that’s what studios are all about. That’s less the function of accelerators. Accelerators are dealing with companies that already exist. There’s a team in place, there’s an idea that’s already been undertaken. They can provide just a bit of capital ahead of the time that further capital is required, often long before Series A, but at a time that’s still formative for a venture.

Studios start far earlier than that. Studios will think up some good ideas and then want to bring an entrepreneur in to work on them. Some studios will want to bring entrepreneurs together and challenge them to create ventures according to a specific model, approach, or area of focus.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is the changes to venture capital over time. We used to only have venture funds and they did everything. Whatever they did for the entrepreneur was within the context of value creation for the investors, and there was just one type of VC.

Over time we began to see a significant change as growth funds came on the scene, as pre-seed and seed funds came on the scene. And we began to see that distinction. It would be pretty rare to find folks who decided they belonged in each of those phases of things. They tended to find more value in emphasizing what they were able to do in one or the other of these parts of the process.

I think it’s hard to be both studio and accelerator simultaneously because they do accomplish different tasks, meaningful things of course, but at different parts of the cycle. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it would be like a venture fund deciding they were going to do pre-seed, seed, and growth, and think about how difficult that would be. It feels broken even as you say it.

Startup Studios and venture studios create new ventures. X Genesis do this, and more. They help entrepreneurs create scalable ventures that drive exceptional financial returns while delivering positive change in the world. Founded in 2015, They combine a market-driven approach with a singular focus on the world’s wicked problems, providing experienced entrepreneurs with access to opportunities, resources, and catalytic communities that accelerate the process of discovering, validating, and launching new ventures aligned with their strengths and sense of purpose.
They began modestly, with a series of 10.10.10 programs – 10 entrepreneurs, 10 wicked problems, 10 days. For each program, they select 10 entrepreneurs who are ready to give their full attention to wicked problems that might become major opportunities.

Using this approach, they’ve helped entrepreneurs create over a dozen new ventures including Concert Health, BurstIQ, Spout, Apostrophe Health, Digital Gaia, and Konbit.

They choose to work with entrepreneurs before they’ve even started their venture or settled on a particular idea. Think of them as fractional co-founders, supporting entrepreneurs who have both the desire and the need to take on wicked problems and explore those possibilities that might turn a wicked problem into an opportunity. And because their success depends on your success, they help you with your opportunity discovery process and strongly encourage you to be certain you have evidence of “founder opportunity fit” before you make the commitment to start your new venture.

For the foreseeable future, their attention is concentrated on three themes: climate & water, learning & work, and health & wellness.

This is Not a Fit for Every Entrepreneur
If you’re only interested in creating a venture that generates a return on investment for a venture firm, this is almost certainly not a fit for you.
If you’re only interested in creating a social venture, a nonprofit, or an impact-focused company with no thought to business model, market, or return on investment, this won’t be a fit for you.

From Possibility to Reality
On the other hand, if you understand and want to use the power of entrepreneurship to move the world, you’ll want to give X Genesis a closer look. And if you not only want but actually need to find your success where ROI and impact intersect, they’re the venture studio that can help you turn this possibility into reality.


Social Impact


, Denver, Colorado