Virtual Watson Semester Accelerator

Preparing next-generation, impact-driven entrepreneurs to launch ventures and unleash a lifetime of impact.

Apply to the Watson Accelerator

The deadline for the Spring 2021 cohort is November 1, 2020

The Spring 2021 program takes place between January 19 and May 7, 2021

A lifetime of impact begins.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual Watson Semester Accelerator was launched to accelerate the ventures and careers of college students, recent graduates, and gap-year students with an early-stage social venture.

During the 4-month program, a cohort of next generation innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs from across the globe convene virtually to tackle complex problems and forge lives and careers of impact. From climate change to social justice and from poverty to access to quality education, students selected to the Watson Semester Accelerator leverage training, mentorship, and community to accelerate their ventures and unleash lives of impact.


Intensive courses and workshops focused on the hard and soft skills of entrepreneurship and transformative leadership.


Every student is paired with mentors in their field to challenge their assumptions, enhance their perspective, and expand their impact.


Students join a diverse cohort with members from every corner of the globe, a variety of experiences, and a common goal to impact the world.

An overview of how the virtual Watson Semester Accelerator will be delivered.

We have modeled our virtual program to meet the same expectations as the in-person program while adding new aspects that the virtual space allows.

The courses, mentorship, master courses, and community will be delivered in three distinct ways:


Entire cohort experiences events together at the same time. There will be approximately 9 hours of synchronous programming per week.

Localized Synchronous

Small student pods grouped by geography convene at convenient times according to time-zone for various small-group events. There will be approximately 6 hours of localized synchronous programming per week.


Students complete work/experience individually at their own pace, given specific due-dates and clarity of outcome and quality expected.

The time commitment for participating in this program is an average of 42 hours per week for 16 weeks.


The Watson Semester Accelerator curriculum was developed by examining best practices in supporting social entrepreneurs worldwide and consolidated into a curriculum that provides students with the hard and soft skills, methodologies, and frameworks required to successfully grow a social venture and lead an impactful career. Each course is led by one of Watson Institute’s Preceptors, who themselves are accomplished entrepreneurs, leaders, and expert facilitators.

Watson workshops typically take place Tuesday-Thursday between 8am and 10am MT.

Transformative Entrepreneurship

This course is designed to equip students with the hard skills, tools, and knowledge to develop as entrepreneurs and accelerate a social venture.

Watson has licensed the curriculum of Uncharted, which is a leading training program for social entrepreneurs globally, having worked with 545 ventures who are creating impact in 96 countries.

Transformative Entrepreneurship is divided into three sections: Business Model Validation, Funder Readiness, and Team Building.

Sample syllabus

Class time per week
2 hours

Clinic time per week
(Localized Synchronous)
1 hour

Total time per week
(Including class and clinic time)
8.5 hours

Transformative Action

The highly experiential Transformative Action course focuses on the soft skills and leadership development at the core of Watson Institute’s curriculum including: courage, resilience, creativity, grit, leadership, and transformative communication.

Transformative Action guides students through the process of overcoming key challenges faced during the process of building a social venture and becoming transformative leaders.

The course is based on the principles of the Transformative Action Institute and is highly interactive, experiential, and dynamic.

Sample syllabus

Class time per week
2 hours

Clinic time per week
(Localized Synchronous)
1 hour

Total time per week
(Including class and clinic time)
8.5 hours

Watson Lab

This course is designed for students to put to practice the hard skills necessary to better understand the market they are looking to enter; design, test, and implement aspects of their venture model; practice pitching and communicating their venture with investors and partners; and graduate from Watson Institute with tangible assets to accelerate their venture and launch an impactful career.

Students learn, practice, and apply skills to their ventures through weekly, guided experiments, challenges, and hands-on assignments. Lab is split up into three sections: Clarity: focused on the strategic clarity required to scale a venture, Money: Focused on the fundraising process including the ability to compete for real seed funding, and People: Designed to greatly expand your network of partners and funders. Each Lab is designed for students to apply new skills and refine existing skills to develop and strengthen their ventures.

Sample syllabus

Class time per week
2 hours

Clinic time per week
(Localized Synchronous)
5 hours

Total time per week
(Including class and clinic time)
20 hours

Master Courses

Watson Master Course teachers are the world’s foremost leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners who serve as short-term entrepreneurs in residence. Each week a Master Course Teacher will share their entrepreneurial journey and experience followed by one on one mentorship sessions with the Watson students.

Master Courses may range from a fireside chat to an interactive workshop, and revolve around sharing best practices, as well as learnings and failures. We have the privilege of hosting some of the world’s foremost leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners as Master Course Teachers at the Watson Accelerator.

Master Courses typically take place on Fridays between 9am and 11am MT.

Master Course time per week
2 hours

Previous Master Course Teachers include:

Jerry White

Jerry is the CEO of Global Impact Strategies Inc. and the Co-Chair of Global Covenant Partners.

He is known for co-leading high-impact campaigns including the historic International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

He helped found Survivor Corps, formerly Landmine Survivors Network, created by and for survivors to help victims of war rebuild their lives.

Erin Schrode

Erin is a citizen activist, social entrepreneur and storyteller.

Since co-founding Turning Green in 2005, she has developed eco education and action platforms to inspire, educate, and mobilize millions of students and the global public.

She became the youngest person to run for US Congress working to redefine civic engagement, reinvigorate public service, and expand the definition of politician for a generation and a nation.

Tom Chi

Tom has worked in a wide range of roles from astrophysical researcher to Fortune 500 consultant to corporate executive developing new hardware/software products and services.

He most recently served as the head of product experience at Google X developing technology such as Google Glass and Google’s self-driving cars.

Prior to that, he played a significant role in Yahoo! and Microsoft projects like Outlook.

A Powerful Community

Throughout the semester students participate in structured and unstructured engagements with each other, Watson Institute staff, mentors, Master Course Teachers, and the broader Watson Institute community. The result is a lifelong network of peers, friends, and partners that includes the broader Watson Institute alumni network across the globe.

All Hands On Deck

All Hands On Deck (AHOD) is a weekly meeting between the entire Watson staff and cohort, inspired by Google’s All-Hands meetings.

This gathering serves as a platform to share cohort, community, and event updates. Typically we also share insights, progress, and learnings from the past week with each other.

AHOD time per week
1.25 hours

One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings is a staple of the Watson Institute experience. Students have weekly meetings with Watson staff, their mentors, course instructors, and often, Master Course Teachers.

Within the first two weeks of the program students are paired with mentors from the Watson Mentor Program that aligns with their field focus. Meetings with Mentors, staff, and Preceptors are often centered around assisting students with aspects of their model, sharing experiences and perspectives, and bouncing ideas.

Meeting time per week
2 hours

Community and Collaboration

Community is one of the pillars of the Watson Institute experience. It is not often that a diverse cohort of young leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs from across the world convene in one place.

Watson students come from diverse backgrounds and experiences but share a passion to make an impact in the world and use entrepreneurship as the vehicle to do so. Watch this message from the Spring 2020 cohort.

Community and collaboration time per week
2.5 hours


We are pleased to offer a highly discounted tuition cost for the virtual Watson Semester Accelerator:

Tuition: $6,000

Scholarships covering up to 50% of the cost of tuition are available based on merit and financial need.

Apply to the Watson Semester Accelerator

You have two tracks to choose from:

Venture Founder Track

The Venture Founder track is for students who are founders or co-founders of a venture or project. The Venture Founder may collaborate with a Free Agent track student attending the same cohort.

Free Agent Track

The Free Agent track is for students looking to join a venture or project and are prepared to contribute in significant ways to the team. Free Agents join a Venture Founder’s team at the beginning of the cohort.

Is this program for you?

This program is for early stage entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders with a bias towards action and the gritty idealism required to solve complex problems.

Founders in the early-prototyping stage are the most well-suited for the Watson Semester Accelerator in the Fall and Spring. Early prototyping means that you have completed initial research on the project and have designed and put to test aspects of your business model. In addition, at this stage you have developed early versions of the service or product that you are planning to launch. You may have revenue or funding streams at this stage, but the project/venture is not yet self-sustained or scalable.

Prospective Students Page

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