I’ll be the first one to admit that startup accelerators are not for everybody. They most often take a lot of time, work and effort. They do not always give you money, and when they do, they usually will take your equity. So why should you apply to an acceleration program? Well, let’s see
1/ Mentoring – First, and in my opinion foremost, accelerators should support you with mentoring. Not everyone does so, but most of them will. (Side note: REMEMBER to do your research before applying for a program.) Taking part in the acceleration program is a great chance to learn from business experts and drive from their knowledge and experience. Most often then not, the ladder can provide much more value to you. How come? Well, if you’re curious and determined enough, you will find the information you need. You find it in books, articles, youtube tutorials and interviews. But the experience, the dos and don’ts, that’s the gold. Those are the things you learn but doing, trying and failing. And as they say, it’s always better to learn from some somebody’s else’s failure.
2/ Community – Acceleration programs are goldmines of interesting people. From the startup teams to mentors and tutors, the business partners of the accelerator and the program team itself. All of those people have some specific career experience that may be of value to you. Some of them may have already dealt with the problems you are dealing right now and may share their stories, others may be in the same place as you are but may offer a different perspective. What’s more, they also may know a lot of people that might bring something beneficial to the table. For example, at Huge Thing, we work with over 150 mentors from all around the globe. And we don’t hesitate to connect our startups with them.
3/ Evaluating your business – Acceleration programs are jammed packed with valuable information. Or at least they should be, as their main goal is to accelerate your startup. Sure there are different types of program, for specific industries or stage of development but that’s a whole different topic. In general, such programs should help you evaluate your product, determine what you may be still missing and help you grow in that area. As the Linus’s Law states “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.
4/ Smart Money – As I said at the beginning, some accelerators provide their startups with financial grants. The huge advantage of those is that as they come with the acceleration program, they count as smart money. Which means, that you don’t only get money, you also get the knowledge and help to use it the most efficient way. But! Take in mind that most of the programs do take your company’s equity in return. So before you apply remember to read all of the rules and check does this particular program provide financial support, and if so, how big it is and does it take any equity in return.
5/ Investors access – Staying on the money front. Accelerators often can connect you with potential investors. Some of them, as we do at Huge Thing, plan speed dating with VC’s during the program and work with investors as mentors. Another common practice is to invite venture capitalist to Demo Day so they can watch final presentations. This creates an opportunity for startups to showcase not only the idea behind the project but also demonstrate what progress you have made and that you’re invested in building a profitable business.
6/ Partnerships – Acceleration programs are a great place to find your business partners. The broad network of the organizers can be a huge help, not only in learning but also in finding potential clients and partners. It is not uncommon, that accelerators partner with specific brands and dedicate the whole program to them. This means that one of the main goals of such project is an implementation of startups solution to the business.
Acceleration programs make you work for your money. But they also can help your business grow in a short amount of time. They can help you not only to gain more business knowledge but also connect you with possible partners, clients and investors. Is it the right time for you to apply to the accelerator and if so, which one to choose – those are the questions you have to ask your self. However, if you decide to look for an acceleration program, remember to do your homework and find the right fit for you.