Before joining any accelerator, an entrepreneur needs to ask the right questions. Otherwise, he or she puts in jeopardy the future of the company. As in any field, there are a lot of accelerators out there. However, finding the right one in a vast ocean of accelerators may not be as easy as one might think.
Determining which accelerators is the best fit for your business is challenging to say the least, but when entrepreneurs make the right choice, the rewards can be gigantic. Whether it’s precious business advice, establishing new partnership as a consequence of making new connections, being introduced to potential angel investors or being helped by other startups in your position, choosing the right accelerator can make or break your business.
Accelerators and incubators tend to share a lot of traits-networks, mentors and even classes. However, the main difference between them is that incubators are usually longer (up to five years) and they do not frequently provide funding. On the other hand, accelerators provide the necessary funding a startup requires in exchange for equity. Moreover, the programs are shorter, some of them are as brief as 3-6 months, and are looking to prepare startups for seed funding.
When business owners are looking for accelerators, they need to choose wisely and determine if a certain one is a good fit for their companies. Thus, finding a program that will offer the much required support during the early stages of your business and support it through the good and rough patches of its existence is essential. Any person who’s going to tell you that joining an accelerator is not a huge commitment has probably never done it anyway.
Still, many entrepreneurs come up to me and ask how will they know for sure when they found the one that is perfect for their company? Here are a few tell-tale signs that are going to help you find the best accelerator out there for your startup.
Probably one of the best ways of finding an accelerator is by checking platforms for startups such as AngelList. Also, you could go ahead and sign up to take part in local meet-ups or hackathons. All of these are great ways of getting plugged into the startup community. For example, websites such as Gary’s Guide are great for keeping in touch with NYC Tech Events.
But where should you start? First of all, you need to understand that choosing one accelerator over another will depend solely on you: the type of business you run and what you are looking for in the process.
So before heading into this process ask yourself what is it that you need in this phase in order to develop your start-up: is it advice or coaching, money or networking?
Decide your focus and you have your starting point in choosing the right program for your business.
While some accelerators focus on some specific business sectors such as tech, finance, education or even healthcare, others have a much tougher time standing out in the crowd given that they are not focused on a particular niche.
Entrepreneurs need to understand that the most popular accelerators are always “assaulted” with tons of applications and sometimes it’s tougher to get accepted into one than Harvard. Thus, you need to work to improve your chances of being noticed in an ocean of promising startups.
Related: How to Impress Venture Capitalists
Business owners also need to know that the application process for accelerators will vary from case to case. Checking the application requirements is essential. However, there are several similarities that need to be shown in any application such as the minimum viable product (MVP), a video file or traction for your service or product.
Before starting to look for the best accelerator out there for your startup you need to know the ins and outs of your business. You need to ask yourself key questions such as “What does my startup aim to accomplish”, “What resources will I need in order to turn my business idea into a viable business?” Having a business plan in place will defiantly increase your chances to have a better understanding of the goals of your startup. Some accelerators are intended for particular industries and niches, while other ones tend to implement a more general approach. When looking for the right accelerator for your startup you need to not only keep these things in mind, but also narrow down your options according to your business profile and your particular needs.
Related: Here’s Why You Need a Solid Business Plan If You’re Considering Crowdfunding
Know the environment you are going to be a part of. In this stage you will have to do your fair share of research so as to determine what is the community that is surrounding the accelerator like, the success the accelerator has registered, mentors alumni engagement and even partner networks. After having all these aspects figured out, you’ll have a far easier job determining whether this is the right type of network for your startup. Entrepreneurs say that the most successful accelerators have in place not only an involved and active stakeholder network, but also financially and emotionally invested members that are constantly trying to help build on a company’s business goals.
During the research stage you also need to determine whether the organizers are trustworthy. When a business owner enters an accelerator he or she puts the future of the startup in the hands of the members of that accelerator. This is why it is essential to check for trends so as to see the way in which the accelerator operates. Also, during this stage you will also need to see which accelerator habits are not in alignment with your startup’s goals. Conduct a Google search and see whether the accelerator is trying to hide something.
Be upfront with accelerators and make them love you in spite of your flaws. As in the case of any person, no startup or business for that matter is ever perfect. This is why you need to seek to find an accelerator that sees potential in your weaknesses. Before deciding to join any accelerator, you need to ensure that they are committed and willing to help you turn all of your startup’s weaknesses into strengths. For example, maybe your startup business is trying to tap into a niche for which it is hard to find a target market. And this leads us to the next tip.
Being a part of an accelerator should be a two-way street, a commitment beneficial for both parties. Serious and trustworthy accelerators need to show willingness and commitment. They need to be involved into working closely with you so that together you able to register great results and capitalize on your startup’s potential. Accelerators should provide you with all the necessary resources required to succeed, whereas you will be required to provide expertise to other startups currently in the program. Moreover, you should even go as far as engaging even after the accelerator period is over. A mutual collaboration will ensure that you are able to create something truly special together. See how the accelerators value in their startups. Are they more interested in equity? How about applicant referrals or connections? Being able to find answers to all these questions will offer you a sense of direction and ensure you that you are on the right path.
Commitment is also one of the most important things both you and the accelerator need to show a great deal of. In order to be able to benefit from all the amazing things an accelerator has to offer, you need to build a solid relationship. By investing all of your time and resources into it, you will only solidify your relationship further. Be proactive and open to engage in workshops, events, panels, etc. Most people believe that commitment is strongly connected with passion, and a lack of one translates into a lack of the other. Having a great deal of both will definitely have a positive impact on the accelerator experience and the relationship you are trying to create.
A relationship cannot last if the people involved in it do not communicate. Thus, communication is, in my opinion, the most important factor that can make or break the success of a business. This is why all the team members of the accelerator must be always kept up to date. Celebrate success together and seek for advice in case of failure. By setting expectation early on, you are able to ensure that the accelerator is able to provide you with help so that you gain the most from your time spent there.