What You Need To Know About Accelerators
I’ve delivered for startups and the corporate world in a variety of roles including product marketing, business development and sales. In the past few years, I’ve experimented with product ideas ranging from social adventure sports and a connected device to manage prescriptions. None of these ideas made it past a community blog, brainstorm sessions and design concepts.
Fast forward to present day, I am a full-time, first time technology founder. I started working on GoGoGuest in late November 2015. We’ve cycled through a pivot, switched co-founders, replaced our first design and development team and endured the death of a team member (This was a tough one. more on this experience later). Then in late Winter and Spring I applied to a few accelerator programs in time for Summer 2016 start dates. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the application process and overall experience. It may help you make better decisions if you are considering the accelerator route for your idea or early stage startup.
- Researching the “right” accelerator for your team and startup takes a lot of time. Be ready to re-allocate the hours you are spending working on the idea to getting to know the accelerator ecosystem.
- Create a system to craft your application. I created an excel spreadsheet that include all the questions most accelerators ask and our answers so we could easily copy and paste them in questionnaires. It saved me a significant amount of time.
- The interviews and pitches during the selection process can be time consuming. Most accelerators need one to two interviews in person or via Skype or Google Hangout. This is the BEST option and in my opinion shows great consideration for the founders. There are accelerators that will require an onsite interview even when it requires an international or local flight.
- I found it helpful to talk to entrepreneurs who went through programs we were considering. Perspective from alumni is a big plus.
- When evaluating your accelerator opportunities, ask yourself the question “what do I need most from an accelerator to progress my startup?”
- History of success launching companies in a comparable space of your startup is key. This means the expertise you need from the mentors and alumni will add great value to your accelerator experience.
- Accelerators positioned as a pay-to-play program are not sincere enough. This opinion is all my own.
- Grants are great, until you realize you’ve spent a quarter of your allowance on Visas, lodging, flights and transportation. Moreover, the process of receiving a grant takes much time and administrative paperwork that will take your focus away from your startup.
We applied in 6 accelerator programs. We were accepted in 2. In the end, we decided not to join any.
Is Your Startup Ready For Acceleration?
Traction is the biggest milestone you will need to get in the door of a worthwhile program. If your startup is in the idea and prototype stage, focus on generating traction before applying. There are pre-accelerators that do not offer any cash investments, yet are excellent communities to engage with so you can generate feedback early on.
Can You Progress Without An Accelerator?
Yes it is possible but it comes with its unique set of challenges.
What I will miss the most about being part of the S Factory women cohort 3 are the spirited women from different parts of the world who came together in Santiago, Chile. There is a lot to be said about pursuing your dreams even if it means moving temporarily to a different continent.
The Accelerators We Aspire To
Being in Silicon Valley/Bay Area/Los Angeles we have access to many networking events, pitch sessions and office hours. I would LOVE the opportunity to work with one of these accelerators in the near future.
Y Combinator (Fellowship)
Make in LA (hardware focused and loved how they were super transparent about everything)
I hope you found it useful. Feel free to offer some feedback. If you were part of an accelerator program, I’d love to hear about your experience