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Open Call for NEAR Accelerator Partners – NEAR Protocol

Open Call for NEAR Accelerator Partners

NEAR Foundation
February 8, 2023

The NEAR blockchain is an open-source, decentralized blockchain protocol designed to be scalable, developer-friendly, and able to support a wide range of decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts.

The NEAR Foundation is the non-profit organization behind the NEAR blockchain, responsible for the development and maintenance of the NEAR Protocol and its associated ecosystem. Since the inception of the grants program, the NEAR Foundation has committed over $90m capital and the ecosystem grew from 0 to over 1,000 teams. 

One of the central lessons learned during this time is that founding teams need a host of contributors in order to be successful, including mentors/advisors, subject matter specific resources (e.g. legal playbooks, go-to-market strategies, tokenomics, etc), and access to investment opportunities. 

NEAR Foundation is looking to partner with existing acceleration programs in two ways:

  1. Leverage the partner’s excellence and experience in running cohort-based acceleration programs. 
  2. Beta test and help build a digital product being developed by NEAR that connects projects with contributors (including investors).
  3. If you’re interested in becoming a NEAR Accelerator Partner, please read the requirements below. Proposals must be submitted via Google Form by February 17th.

*If you’re a startup looking for accelerator programs, NEAR Foundation is looking to engage with the best partners out there. Register your interest in the NEAR Accelerator here.

NEAR Foundation’s Goal 

Attract the most talented early stage teams to NEAR and provide them with the right tools, knowledge, and network to successfully raise external funds at a later stage. 

Success metrics

  1. Quality of founder experience, as measured by an NPS score.
  2. Ability for founders that have graduated from the accelerator(s) to raise their first or next round within a year of graduation.

Requirements

NEAR Foundation will be assessing proposals based on the two dimensions explained below: the Accelerator Partner Requirements and the Digital Product Beta Participation Requirements. 

Accelerator Partner Requirements

  1. Strong sourcing capabilities in the areas of our investment thesis

NEAR Foundation believes in selecting teams building projects with real world, utility-based use cases that tap into the existing pools of Web2 users and companies. They must leverage Web3 in novel ways to solve real world problems better than Web2 tech is able to. The Foundation will not be focused on specific verticals, and instead be relatively opportunistic in terms of use case (at least in the first few cohorts). DeFi and Gaming verticals would be excluded from the accelerator purview.

The Foundation is focused on pre-seed and seed stage teams. We expect that teams selected for a NEAR sponsored cohort will build on NEAR and leverage NEAR Discovery. More information on NEAR Discovery here

In your response, please detail the following:

  • Your investment thesis and the degree to which it does / does not align with our focus.
  • Your approach to sourcing and acquiring top calibur teams. 
  • Your approach to vetting teams to ensure quality.
  1. Web3 accelerator program scope 

As NEAR Foundation aims to attract the best teams, we want our accelerator partner to provide a top class experience and focus on the main challenges that Web3 startups face nowadays, including but not limited to: go-to-market, token economy and launches, fundraising and pitching, marketing and comms, governance, legal, etc. This will be supplemented by the support of experts within the NEAR ecosystem. 

In your response, please detail the following:

  • Program scope and sequence (learning opportunities and delivery method)
  • Scope of advisory and mentorship services
  • Length of program
  • Post program services
  • Number of cohorts and anticipated cohort size (number of projects)
  • Geographic focus areas 
  • Delivery mode (e.g. in person, on-line, hybrid)
  1. Track record of success

NEAR Foundation seeks accelerator partners that have a strong track record of success. In your response, please detail the following:

  • Date when your program started
  • Number of projects and cohorts that have graduated from your program
  • Projects names per cohort
  • Feedback from teams that have gone through your program
  • Percent of teams that have been able to close their first or next round after graduating from your program 
  • Average and median amount that graduating teams have been able to raise post-graduation
  1. Attractive deal terms

One of the most important factors in attracting high quality founders to the accelerator will be the quality of the investment terms. 

In your response, please detail the following:

  • Your approach to investment (including standard allocation if applicable, percent of equity and tokens your team takes, approach to follow-on investment etc.). 
  1. Cost & investment

NEAR Foundation is open to various proposals in terms of costs and investments. Where we land will largely depend on the proposed value to NEAR and its ecosystem. 

For NEAR specific cohorts, the Foundation’s goal is for both NEAR and the Accelerator Partner to share operational cost and investment opportunity. 

For chain agnostic cohorts, we would be willing to provide direct technical and non-technical support from the NEAR Foundation Accelerator’s team for startups who choose NEAR as their Layer 1. 

In your response, please detail the following:

  • Proposed approach (NEAR cohort vs chain agnostic or both)
  • Proposed budget in support of the proposal: this budget should provide details about what the money will be used for (e.g. administrative costs, costs to host events, etc) i.e. P&L
  • If applicable, propose the role the NEAR Foundation could play in terms of investment (e.g. LP / co-investor etc.)
  • Potential startup date of the program and/or adherence to ongoing program
  1. Broader NEAR ecosystem support

NEAR Foundation would like its ecosystem of startups to leverage the partner capabilities even though they are not actively participating in the accelerator (e.g., share ready-made class material, leverage investor network, connections to enterprise, etc.).

In your response, please detail the following:

  • Your perspective on providing these resources and supports to NEAR ecosystem projects that do not go through the accelerator program
  • Additional costs that might be associated with providing these services (if applicable)
  • Your proposal for how your services scale 

Digital Product Beta Participation Requirements

In 2023, Pagoda, NEAR Foundation and other key ecosystem participants are increasing the integration and seamless experience for developers and end users into one common operating system that will leverage fast onboarding experience, user profiles, new chat/ social capabilities, and more. As part of this platform, the Foundation is building a founder-focused application that will be the place for both NEAR-native and non-NEAR-native projects to be discovered, find contributors and investors, and grow towards their goals. We would like to invite accelerator partners in as beta customers and builders for this application.

If your organization is both an investment team and an accelerator:

  • Agreement to use the digital product as a project “contributor,” meaning:
    • One or more resources from your team will actively engage with projects on the platform, providing advisory services
    • Your team will leverage the platform to identify projects for investment 
  • You will encourage founding teams from your portfolio to use to the platform (they do not need to be building on NEAR) 
  • You will actively work to improve your user experience by providing feedback to the project team and/or contributing directly to the development effort

If your organization is solely an accelerator:

  • Agreement to use the digital product as a project “contributor,” meaning:
    • One or more resources from your team will actively engage with projects on the platform, providing advisory services
  • You will encourage founding teams from your portfolio to use to the platform (they do not need to be building on NEAR) 
  • You will actively work to improve your user experience by providing feedback to the project team and/or contributing directly to the development effort

In your response, please detail the following:

  •  Your interest and commitment in participation
  • Your proposal for how you would engage in the beta (e.g., you will dedicate three part-time resources for the beta; you will contribute part-time engineering resource to contribute to building with us) 

NEAR Foundation Commitments

NEAR Foundation is committed to complement the partner’s current programs with ecosystem support (technical and non-technical). 

Selection criteria and timelines

NEAR Foundation will be assessing proposals based on the previously mentioned requirements. Acceleration partners are expected to submit their proposals by February 17, 2023 via Google Form. The NEAR Foundation review team will be conducting interviews with selected candidates between February 13-24. The review team will shortlist the partners between February 27-28 and will communicate further with the selected parties. Final approval will be provided by the NEAR Foundation Counsel. 

Legal Disclosure: 

Participation in our accelerator partners program is subject to the following terms and conditions: (1) Confidentiality: Participants will be required to keep all information and materials shared by the program confidential, unless otherwise agreed to in writing or as required by law. (2) Intellectual Property: All intellectual property created or developed by a participant during the program will remain the property of the participant, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the participant. (3) Disclaimer of Liability: The program will not be liable for any damages arising out of or in connection with the program or the participation of any participant. (4) Governing Law: These terms and conditions will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Switzerland. By participating in the program, participants agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.


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