The Scarlet Interview - Terence Bowden, NIC Business Accelerator Director

Terence Bowden

Terence Bowden is the business accelerator director for Nebraska Innovation Campus. Bowden comes to NIC via Ireland and Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs, where he ran the Propeller Venture Accelerator, the No. 7-ranked accelerator in Europe. He is responsible for developing a business plan and programs for the NIC Business Accelerator that will support the efforts of faculty, staff, students and the community in starting and growing businesses. He has a degree in industrial design, a higher degree in product graphic and interactive design, a master’s in business management and a graduate certificate (master’s level) in digital marketing.

How does a business accelerator differ from a business incubator?

A business incubator has no timeline, there are very few mentors involved, there’s no money and you often pay for the advice that you get. In an accelerator, there is a timeline; you have many, many mentors to choose from; and you might get an investment, often by giving part of your company as equity. Also, in an incubator, the plan is more open and you get more conversations between companies.

What is your vision for Nebraska Innovation Campus?

My vision is to create a place where different types of people can come together to discuss different ideas, then help each other commercialize those ideas. True innovation comes through diversity of ideas and roles.

My role is to see what is available in the start-up community and help them in any way possible. I am currently writing a business plan for the NIC. I’m also starting to develop a list of mentors — individuals with experience in the startup zone who come from a variety of professional backgrounds and assist with startups. My goal is to have 250 mentors ready to help out.

What interested you about UNL and NIC?

I think it was the excitement of being on the edge, out here on the crest of the wave, and doing something new. The plan for the NIC is groundbreaking. There is truly nothing out there like the NIC at the moment.

I learned about this job from an old mentor. It was a cold, wet January day in Ireland. I had just had a tough day in the office and was riding home on the train. He called me up and asked if I was interested in a jump across the big pond. I said yes, went home and talked to my wife about it. She told me to go for it.

What is the benefit of having an accelerator available within a university?

It’s a huge benefit, especially when you consider the weight of the research being done within this university.  What we need to do is find a way to pull those different research diversities together and help them develop new ideas and products.

Other universities have business accelerators, but what’s unique about the one here at the NIC is that we have a maker space available to faculty right next door. They can go in that space and build parts they need, construct prototypes, develop ideas. I believe that maker space will be a key tool in helping bring this university’s diversities together.

Can we expect some new NIC partner announcements in 2014?

There will be partners brought in. But my job is to focus on individual startups. They are my clients and I must provide them the support they need to succeed — be that a specific kind of workspace or a partnership with a larger company.

What is the Propeller Venture Accelerator?

Propeller is the accelerator based in Dublin City University. It’s for software-based companies and provides a $30,000 investment and three months of assistance. Right now, Propeller has about 100 mentors to assist startups.

After three years of development, Propeller really started to gain traction. There’s one company in particular that I want to talk about, but can’t as it’s just a little bit too soon. It’s definitely a company that will be big within the next year.

How does an accelerator measure success?

That depends on the type of metric used. When it comes to startups, if you take in 10 companies, maybe three will fail, six have the potential to become family businesses, and one might actually make it big. I think here at the NIC, success depends on how this accelerator benefits Nebraska.  

What do you do in your free time?

I spend time with my family and go mountain biking. Once the weather gets warmer, I’m looking forward to getting out on my bike and exploring Lincoln’s trails. These minus temperatures are too much. It doesn’t get this cold in Ireland.

Article by Troy Fedderson, The Scarlet