How to choose the best accelerator program for your startup?
There are people in this world willing to cover your expenses for you and your co-founders to live in places from San Francisco to Singapore and to take off the burden of paying for office space. They expect from you to work harder than you ever did and around 7% of your shares. They will bring you the best mentors they can get their hands on and will get you in their circles to sell your product. Now 7% of the product is theirs. And since you are using shares as currency, you should be as demanding with them as with any other service provider.
Can you grow your startup without these people? Certainly, but it’s becoming the de facto style to get a head-start. After all, they are called accelerators for a reason. Their role is to condense in 12 weeks the energy combustion you would normally burn in a much longer period of time. To make you and your team fail faster or to get you to the next stage of investment faster.
Which one should you choose?
It is easier to choose the best university or the best MBA program for you because these educational institutions have a history you can check. If it’s not Techstars or Paul Graham’s Y Combinator – started in 2005 – most probably its history can be written on a back of a napkin.
And to make matters worse, even if it is such a new concept, the number of accelerators is high and growing. By now there are more than 100 accelerators in Europe alone, as Tech.eu’s Robin Wauters found out.
”Which accelerator is making geographic justice to your startup?”
So, once decided that the accelerator way is right for you and your team, maybe you should answer an easier question prior of thinking at which accelerator you need to go.
“Where?” before “which one?”
From all the criteria you’ll evaluate, the geographical one stands out. So get your right and left hemisphere to work together towards solving this question: where do you need and want to spend the next 12 weeks?
Living for a different city or even country means you will no longer have the familiar distractions you usually have near you. Remember, you will have to work harder than ever when in an accelerator program.
What about the domain of your startup? There are some cities that are the global epicenter of a specific domain, gathering the best experts in the world or some technological advantage. If your startup is tackling to disrupt logistics, you should consider Memphis, Tennessee and the Sparkgap accelerator there.
”If you go for the money you are wrong” – Vladimir Oane, TechPeaks mentor
Where are the users and customers you want to build for? Are you living and breathing what they are living and breathing? For sure, which accelerator makes geographical justice to your startup is the most important question.
We asked Vladimir Oane, who last month sold his startup to HootSuite, what’s the advice for someone to pick his accelerator of choice. Oane, a mentor for 2 such programs, Italian TechPeaks and Romanian InnovationLabs, told us there are both right and wrong reasons to enter an accelerator.
– help with the product. The product is your expertise. If you expect to get advice about what and how to build, you’ll be disapointed.
– recruitment. Recruitment is a job for the founders. Accelerators can’t really help you here.
– accelerator’s investment. Money is not so much, the shares you’re giving up are. If you go for the money you are wrong.
– networking. Best accelerators have access to heavyweights that can point you in the right direction.
– fund raising. Good accelerators have working relations with venture funds and can facilitate introductions.
On the bottom line, go to an accelerator if you have identified a problem, if you have a dedicated team and want to accelerate growth, meaning you want to get on the market faster and the accelerator’s connections can help you be featured in the media and get the money faster. Don’t go if you only have a vague idea and you just want to play entrepreneurship on someone else’s money.