Summer 2024

Launch Your Early Stage Idea


Summer 2024

Register for an informational webinar
May 1, 2024

Let us help you get your idea off the sidelines. The Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator is a virtual, idea-stage program that takes aspiring founders from concept to first launch. Our proven approach to testing ideas has helped launch hundreds of ventures. Every participant in the Heartland Summer 2024 cohort will have one-on-one mentorship, access to a suite of digital tools, and be eligible for $5,000 in non-dilutive funding.

April 9, 2024

Applications Open

May 12, 2024

Applications Close

June 13, 2024

Cohort Kickoff

September 5, 2024

Cohort Finishes


Funding Your Idea

As Winston Churchill once said, “There are plenty of good ideas, if only they can be backed with the power of action.”‍ With the Idea Accelerator, we’re doing just that. We help you put your idea into action in a no-cost, no-risk way. Click on the button below to start your application today!

The earliest stages of an idea are the hardest to get the help and funding that you need. That’s why we created the Idea Accelerator. Every participant learns the secrets to turning an idea into a venture and is eligible for funding up to $5,000. Best of all, what you learn will help you grow a venture in the fastest, most cost effective way possible. Join our 500+ strong alumni community and apply today.

We’re proud to partner with Heartland Forward to bring the Idea Accelerator to communities across the heartland as part of their Community Growth Program.

Summer 2024

Eligible Regions for

Summer 2024

Thanks to Heartland Forward and our local sponsors, cities across the Heartland have reserved spots for their residents in the Summer 2024 cohort. Don’t miss the chance to join a virtual, world-class accelerator program and kickstart your entrepreneurial journey.

Eligible Regions

Chicago, IL
Eastern Shawnee Tribe
Kansas City, MO
Louisville, KY
Tulsa, OK

Alumni Communities

Birmingham, AL
Detroit, MI
Duluth, MN
Durant, OK
Iowa City, IA
Joplin, MO
Montgomery, AL
NE Tennessee
North Dakota
Northwest Arkansas
Oklahoma City, OK
Rapid City, SD
Tulsa, OK
West Tennessee

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Idea Accelerator?

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The Idea Accelerator is a program designed to be your onramp to entrepreneurship. It equips participants (called Builders) with world-class entrepreneurial tools to test their idea, fueled by up to $5,000 no-strings-attached funding.

How Many Idea Accelerator Cohorts Have There Been?

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The Idea Accelerator has been running consistently since the Summer of 2021. The Alumni community now numbers over 500 Builders.

Is the Idea Accelerator Virtual or In-Person?

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The program takes place virtually with all sessions and meetings occurring over Zoom or phone calls.

How Long Is the Application?

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The application is short and straightforward. With some preparation, most applicants can complete it in under 30 minutes. Your application will be thoroughly reviewed by the Builders + Backers program team, along with program sponsors.

What Do We Mean by Testing an Idea?

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When we say we help you test your idea, we don’t mean drawing up an exam. We test ideas through experimentation. Experiments to test an idea are ones that put something in front of potential users or customers and then gauge what actions those people do or don’t take (not what they SAY but what they DO). We run them to prove (or disprove) a hypothesis. They are specific. They are measurable. They help us figure out quickly (and inexpensively) whether our idea works (or not). And they prevent us from diving head first into an expensive, time-consuming and risky venture before we’ve validated that our ideas hold merit. —To learn more about our approach to experimentation, check out this article with a deeper dive.

How is the Program Structured?

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The program is virtual with the possibility for optional in-person events. Builders join both all-cohort and small group live sessions weekly. These sessions range from 1–2 hours.  The events are pre-scheduled at the beginning of the program so Builders can block off the times on their calendars.

Each week, Builders are assigned self-paced learning modules. During the first 45 days of the program, Builders are preparing to run their experiments and these modules are mandatory. During the second 45 days, Builders are actively experimenting and all learning modules are optional but intended to provide additional insights and resources.

How are the Pebble Funds Used?

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Each Builder, who goes through the program, has the opportunity to access up to $5,000 in Pebble Funds to cover the cost of their experiment. Builders are required to complete the prerequisite training and coaching sessions in the first 45 days of the program before funds may be accessed to begin their experiments.

The Builders + Backers team helps each participant create and refine a Builder’s Blueprint, which includes a proposed experiment, an action plan and timeline, and a budget. Once this Blueprint is approved, the Builder receives a controlled credit card which they may use to make pre-approved purchases, and they are responsible for submitting receipts for all expenses.

What Happens After the Program?

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Nobody leaves the program empty handed. Each Builder who completes the program leaves with a completely new perspective on how to take their ideas into the world and a new set of tools for experimenting that will help them refine their current or next idea. That outcome is a key part of the program that we believe will provide significant value to participating communities.

In terms of their experiments, some builders will learn that their ideas are not feasible in their current form. Following the program, they may choose to run further experiments, pivot or even begin thinking about an entirely new idea.

Everyone who completes the program is invited to join the Builders + Backers Alumni community, where they can continue to engage with the Builders + Backers team, their cohort and hundreds of Builders from around the country. Additionally, we invite all of our Builders to events and opportunities to engage live with one another and our Backer community.

What If I Still Have Questions?

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We’ll be hosting two informational sessions where you can hear from us live and have a chance to ask questions. RSVP at the links above.

Are there geographic restrictions?

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The Summer 2024 program is open to anyone living in the United States who is a resident of one of the eligible regions listed below:

- Kansas City, Missouri (within city limits)
- Chicago’s South Side (South of the Loop, within city limits)
- Louisville, Kentucky (metro Kentucky)
- Tulsa, Oklahoma (within city limits)
- Eastern Shawnee Tribe (all members and staff)

That creative, compelling idea you’ve been wanting to turn into something real....Take the leap.