Accelerators are now an integral part of the startup ecosystem. For some, especially first-time founders, it is sort of becoming a checkbox item: go through an accelerator. Serial entrepreneurs, as a rule, would say they don’t need to, because they already know what to do.
Some people say that accelerators are only good for the companies that haven’t yet raised financing. They argue that if the company has raised capital, then it’s too far along for an accelerator and wouldn’t benefit from it.
My take is different: None of the above is universally true. We have plenty of successes at Techstars (where I’m a managing director) with companies who raised funding, and plenty of serial entrepreneurs who have gone through the program. Increasingly, we see later-stage companies that already achieved product market fit really accelerate by going through Techstars.
Here is a breakdown of why you would join an accelerator, along with some tips.
Quality mentorship is the secret sauce behind a great accelerator. Matching you with a network of top entrepreneurs, executives and investors who share their experience, provide feedback and guidance can really accelerate your business.
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Most often, the focus is the business itself: Is this the right product for the market? How do you achieve growth? What is the revenue model? Is this a big business? Is this business venture fundable?
You need to want to be mentored and seek the feedback. If you don’t think other people can add value or give you good feedback, then accelerators are not a fit for you.
You believe you have a good idea, and potentially a great business and you want to accelerate the discovery of whether this is true or not. You will do that by with a ton of testing, getting customer feedback, talking to mentors and accelerator staff, and most important, by setting goals and aggressively measuring progress.
You will do all of this with the goal to find product market fit, and then step on the gas to get growth and prepare business for financing. That is, you compress what normally happens over much longer periods of time down to days and weeks. You essentially force yourself and your company through the process.