Startup accelerators, which are fixed-term, cohort based programs that provide nascent startups with much needed connections, sales, seed investment, mentorship and educational components and which culminate in a demo day to accelerate growth, are a huge boon for any startup that wishes to move forward in bringing their dreams and ambitions into reality.
Accelerators are increasingly becoming more widespread and their positive impact on the startup scene cannot be overlooked. Some of the big names include Techstars, Seedcamp and MassChallenge, which together have accelerated more than 2,500 startups globally. For many startup founders, getting accepted into one of the accelerator programs is a significant step forward in realizing their goals and ambitions.
Even though anyone can apply to an accelerator program, the process itself is highly competitive. It is not uncommon for successful application rates to be just between 1% and 3%. While choosing the right program is important, there are other important factors to consider in order to ensure that the startup is primed and ready for success.1. Selecting the Right Accelerator that Fits with the Startup
Startups should consider the following factors when deciding which accelerator is the best fit, which includes the sector the accelerator works in, its resources, the people in its network connections, and the startups in its portfolio.
Jenny Fielding, managing director of Techstars and a general partner at The Fund, says: “The one thing that you should look for when deciding on an accelerator is the strength of its network. Having access to a deep bench of resources including mentors, domain experts, investors and corporate partners can give founders a massive competitive advantage.”
It is extremely important for startups to be guided and mentored by strong leadership teams that can bring out the best in themselves. Startups should examine the leadership team and mentors of the accelerator program in great detail to answer several important questions, such as whether the program leaders and mentors have the relevant experience in the startup’s field or niche, how many other successful startups have they accelerated, and whether the program has the necessary time and resources to dedicate to the startup so that they succeed.
2. Determining the Startup Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Startup accelerators’ focus is on small teams, not on individual founders. They in fact consider successful startups to be built on the backs and foundation of strong teams as any one single individual cannot do all the work of running a startup alone.
It is therefore important for the startup’s leadership team to fill any and all important relevant roles or skills before applying to an accelerator. It is a mistake for any startup to expect the accelerator program to do that for themselves.
A startup can do a self-assessment of the individual skills and roles of the leadership team so that they can address concerns such as whether a particular skill is missing from the team, or whether the people on the team are put in the roles most suited for them. Honest, open communication among each member of the startup’s leadership team regarding each person’s performance, strengths and weaknesses can then be used to assess the level of performance that is required for the startup to succeed.
If, for example, the startup concludes that they require the services of someone with much technical expertise in order to spur development of their product forward, they can address this issue before they start applying to an accelerator program.
3. What the Startup Wishes to Accomplish by Working with the Accelerator
It is vital for any startup to have a clear vision and goal to work towards. A startup without a clear vision is like a rudderless ship on the open sea, directionless and at the mercy of the ocean currents. Before applying to any accelerator program, startups should have made clear their vision via brainstorming sessions and open discussions.
To help startups further clarify their vision, it is important for startups to determine the goals and objectives to be achieved within a certain timeframe. After that they can then look at the available accelerators and find one which can help them achieve their aim.
It is important to note that, for the accelerators themselves, they will often consider which startup applicants have the most to gain from participating in their program. Therefore it is important for startups to show the accelerators how the program will enable them to achieve their vision and goals.
Accelerators are nurturing startups that have the potential to bring about massive changes and disruptions, and they are helping startups to progress in leaps and bounds. Having the right approach and preparation towards applying for an accelerator program is a good first step for any startup in achieving their goals and making their vision a reality.