Don’t do it for the money, do it for the love.
The funding offer for most accelerators is in the range of $20k to $50k. That’s not enough to be a good reason to join. The reason to join an accelerator is the love – love from the network of mentors, love from the sponsors, love from your peer companies and the “tough” love from a good program manager that pushes you to “accelerate” forward.
You will work (and play) hard to enjoy the “benefits” package.
Accelerators create value for start-ups by establishing a network of mentors and peers for help, connections and support. This community drives the development, innovation and iteration cycle, hopefully at a multiple of the rate you can achieve on your own. You must be committed to your entrepreneurial vision to get the benefits out of an accelerator. Your days will be spent meeting mentors, presenting the vision, receiving critical feedback, and revising your assumptions. Your evenings will be filled with peer engagement and social activities. And your nights have to absorb tech development and business operations. To get the benefits from this process, your team must be sufficiently mature to synthesize the input and have close to superhuman stamina.
Yes, quality accelerators do help attract funding.
A good accelerator opens doors and provides a great deal of credibility to the entrepreneur. Good programs substantially increase the likelihood of funding and the quality of potential investors by participating in the program. Even if you are a well-connected entrepreneur with a track record, the combined “at-bats” you can get with good investors during the program and at demo day are typically a multiple of what you could do on your own.
The right accelerator for your company depends on many and varied factors – but one thing is universal – do extensive diligence to make sure your program meets your expectations.
You should look at a number of attributes to make the determination of which program is best for you. Here are a few of the most common things to consider:
- The location of the Accelerator and your long term location of the business. Accelerators are all about engaging their community to help start-ups. While some national accelerators can truly engage with mentors throughout the country, a predominant portion of the help will come from the local community. You will see more local investors and likely develop long term cohorts with the other companies.
- The quality and engagement of the leadership and mentor network. You need quality mentors, and even more important, a program that fosters genuine engagement. It doesn’t matter if you are in Silicon Valley, Boston or Madison, Wisconsin; there are great mentors in many geographies. Getting those mentors to rise above the noise and engage is the biggest differentiator.
- The Accelerator’s Vertical or Expertise. Many accelerators are specifically targeted at particular markets or industries. Even the regional programs tend to have better skills in markets that are somewhat “indigenous” to the local tech scene or the leadership’s background. Make sure to dig deep into the graduates of the program to assess these targets. Diligence means making a lot of phone calls and asking questions. Accelerators should expect that you spend a few hours digging into the details of their program’s success. Look at the track record of the graduates; talk to both successful alumni companies and even ones that failed; talk to mentors, sponsors and investors. You will be living the dream 24×7 for three to six months. It’s worth a substantial time investment to make sure it’s worth the opportunity cost.