How to get the most out of startup accelerators

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How to get the most out of startup accelerators

 

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Accelerators have been around for about ten years. And in that time they’ve caused quite a stir in the startup world, with their fast-paced and high-impact models that churn out successful startups. Indeed, in many places in the West, they have become the go-to resource for entrepreneurs who are seeking to launch their business. The giants of the startup accelerator world—such as Y Combinator and Techstars—have built such an aura around them, that the phenomenon has engendered the illusion that accelerators have the magical formula for success. But for every great success story of a startup that was mid-wifed by an accelerator—such as Dropbox, Reddit or AirBnB—there are hundreds of companies that fell through the cracks.

The core difference between Dropbox and every other startup, is that Dropbox was able to take advantage of what was given in the program. This scenario will also be true of the startups vying to enter accelerator programs in Nepal. In the highly competitive environment of startup accelerators, preparation is key.

 

Know what you are getting into 

(Source: blog.aecsoftware.com

It’s easy to get excited reading about all the amazing things accelerators offer you in their programme. But you have to first ask the all-important question: “Is this for me?” Manish Modi, co-founder of Picovico, who graduated from both Morpheus Ventures and Startup Chile, says, “It’s important to know that an accelerator is no silver bullet. Your problems are not going to go away; you will have to work hard on your own to build a good business.” An accelerator programme is fast-paced and intense, and it will demand a hundred per cent of your time and effort. Ask yourself; are you ready to commit everything to it? If you are entering an accelerator just because you are enticed by the possibilities it might find for you, but can’t keep up with its demands, the negative publicity will only harm your business.

It’s important to know that an accelerator is no silver bullet. Your problems are not going to go away; you will have to work hard on your own to build a good business.” - Manish Modi, co-founder of Picovico

 

Have a clear goal

(Source: leanblitzconsulting.com

Accelerator programmes are known to be noisy, chaotic, competitive, and often, distracting. To stay the course, have defined goals. The most effective way to achieve success in an accelerator is to work backwards from your goal. If your goal is to build a strong consumer base, then for the programme, make that a priority over everything. An accelerator will often offer a mine of resources you can tap into and events you can learn from: choose only the ones you need. Aashish Adhikari, co-founder of Redmud, and an alumnus of Rockstart Impact says, “Go into it with a mindset of trying to polish, refine and understand your business model, core competencies and strategies, and to challenge your assumptions.” If you state these goals, you’ll not only help your business but also attract investors who believe your ideas have promise.

“Go into it with a mindset of trying to polish, refine and understand your business model, core competencies and strategies, and to challenge your assumptions.” - Aashish Adhikari, co-founder of Redmud

 

Be ready for a reality check

(Source: paolaelefante.com

The best thing an accelerator can provide for you is an environment where you can improve your business because of all the honest feedback from people who care about your startup. “Having people give you feedback on your ideas and strategies can be an eye opener for many,” says Adhikari. Therefore, be humble enough to accept that there is room for improvement for your idea. If you discover that the solution you are offering is not really addressing the problems of customers, be ready to iterate it or change it. It’s better to start anew with something that might work than to stick with something you know will not work. Oftentimes, you might be surprised by what you will learn. “Investors are not interested in the idea, but in the team,” says Modi. “A great team will be able to turn most ideas into successes.” You should enter an accelerator knowing that you will be pushed beyond your comfort zone and that you will face harsh realities.

 

Network, Network, Network

 

(Source: www.evolve.ie)  

In an accelerator, you will build invaluable connections with people interested in you and your business. Accelerators will be with startups only for a short time, but the networks you build in your time there will be with you for much longer. Try to network with anyone you meet, no matter how insignificant the meeting might first seem. Even the entrepreneurs you are working with side by side in the accelerator might go on to become your business partners. “What networking can provide for you is new avenues of help, guidance and sometimes even additional business,” says Adhikari. Modi, who has gone through two startup-accelerator programmes, concurs. “Even though my networks from Morpheus and Startup Chile are primarily Facebook-based groups, I find it very easy to ask them the hard questions about running a business or to ask them to help me connect to someone I am interested in,” says Modi.

 

Engage with your mentors

 

(Source: www.klagroup.com)  

Mentors form the backbone of many accelerators. They create the environment for an open-dialogue forum where entrepreneurs can share anything they want. Most mentors in these programmes are seasoned entrepreneurs, so they will have gone through the ups and downs that many startups face. It is of utmost importance that you take advantage of your mentors. They are there to help, so if you ask, they will gladly guide you through your troubles. “I specifically remember one of my Dutch mentors who I think made a huge difference in my work,” says Adhikari. “Having a close connection with him allowed me to express myself freely, and he in turn didn’t mind answering my many emails. Just having an experienced eye reviewing your work also provides a psychological boost.” Mentors are for life, so spend time engaging with the mentors that the accelerators provide. 

Accelerators will try to give you the most bang for your buck. However, it is your responsibility to use the resources effectively, and get the most out of what they provide.

Accelerators will try to give you the most bang for your buck. However, it is your responsibility to use the resources effectively, and get the most out of what they provide. Just as with college, you’ll look back at this time as your startup’s golden period. So work hard, progress quickly—and enjoy it while it lasts. 

 

    *First published in M&S VMAG

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Guest Tuesday, 24 May 2022