General

A Reflection on the Tufts Venture Accelerator

by
Alfredo Ramirez

It’s not easy being told you’re wrong. Being told every week and almost every single day for 12 weeks is much harder. The Tufts Venture Accelerator was based heavily on the premise of failing fast to learn, build, measure, and grow. Prosal could not have gotten to where it is today without it.

Between June and August of 2022, I spent almost every day walking 20 minutes in the Boston sun from my humble Somerville apartment to the sprawling new building that is the Joyce Cummings Center at Tufts University. Tucked away on the third floor of this modernist complex, complete with Google-like shared spaces and its own Starbucks, was the corner room that housed the Tufts Venture Accelerator.

The Tufts Venture Accelerator is an 11-week-long program that provides structure, accountability, educational experiences, and more that helps entrepreneurs building a venture make rapid progress throughout the summer.

I represented Prosal in person among the six ventures participating in the full-time summer 2022 edition. As a proud recent Tufts graduate, I was joined by another Fletcher alumnus, a set of current Fletcher students, three PhDs from the School of Engineering, a rising senior from the School of Business, and two rising juniors from the School of Fine Arts. Everyone had a different background and venture to build, but we had a single goal: to learn.

And learn we did. Program leaders Elaine Chen and Tina Weber were brilliant in guiding us through a weeklong bootcamp during the accelerator’s first week that included workshops on marketing and business plans, exercises to connect with our peers and in our teams, and events that would build connections to last a lifetime. I still talk regularly to people like Jimmy Nguyen and Moneer Azzam – people I met in the first week – who have been instrumental mentors in supporting Prosal through their knowledge and network.

But the learning didn’t stop there. Every week, we were challenged to try something uncomfortable and different but essential to our growth. It led us to build our first lean canvas, refine our marketing personas, rethink our interview process, and try something new. It also led to difficult discussions about the future of our company and what we believed we were building. Sometimes, these discussions would last hours because they were so important, and we felt strongly about doing what was right for Prosal.

Ultimately, the discussions were hugely beneficial to our growth. They often came with lessons and advice from real entrepreneurs, like Jack Derby (for whom the Derby Center is named) and Idicula Matthew, who has been invaluable in supporting our journey as first-time founders.

Although I was the only one attending in person, the learning didn’t stop with me. CEO Nick Lopez believed the most significant benefit of the accelerator was peer support and expert help. “Not only are you being supported by a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurs, but you get an all-star staff of ex-entrepreneurs and expert professors to help guide you along the way,” Nick said. “Constructive criticism has always been a core pillar here at Prosal because we believe in improvement through reflection. We knew that the more passionate our advisors became about their feedback, the more they truly believed in us.”

Our CTO and technical co-founder, Nyle Malik, also received practical lessons, insights, and encouragement to explore the non-technical side of the business, which made him better at what he does. “As first-time founders, there are things we don’t know we don’t know,” Nyle told me. "The educational programming and support we received were instrumental in helping us better form ideas, understand our strengths, and build our business.”

I am not exaggerating that Prosal would not be where it is today if it hadn’t been for the Tufts Venture Accelerator. Their financial support, the incredible network of mentors and supporters, and connection to the thriving Boston entrepreneur ecosystem introduced us to a world we didn’t know existed. I’m grateful for what they did for Prosal and every other business that was a part of our cohort. For any Tufts student reading this blog or anyone thinking of joining a university-led accelerator to work on their venture, take the recommendation from someone there: do it! You won’t find support like it anywhere else.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alfredo Ramirez

Alfredo is the COO and Co-Founder of Prosal. He has over ten years of experience working in the nonprofit industry and previously founded a successful digital strategies business, winning over $2 million in RFPs throughout his career. He is an avid mountain biker and snowboarder and enjoys anything that takes him outdoors.

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