As a startup that went through two accelerators in the course of a year and a half, this is a question we get asked very often: “What does a startup really get from an accelerator?”, with the usual follow-up diss “If you’re good you don’t really need all that mumbo jumbo, right?”.
Here’s the top 5 things we couldn’t be happier to have obtained thanks to our two accelerated gigs at Le Camping and at TechStars Boston.
#5. Lessons on The Trade
I have the conviction that being a startuper is no different from building a career. And as in a career, your skills matter. You don’t “power through” stuff. “Learning by doing” is cool for a hobby, but when your business is at stake, mistakes by lack of experience really suck. “Learning by learning” is better than “learning by doing”.
So having an accelerator’s program managers make you sit down much like in a classroom and do actual exercises and workshops and make you think in a tested framework – build your business model canvas, fill out this customer persona template….
“Meh”, you think, “I can read on how to do that on any startup blog”. Sure.
“Okay 20 minutes skimming through these blogs and I’m off to build my billion dollar company.”
But you won’t have someone over your shoulder saying what you do is crap or pointing that your getting side-tracked on that super important detail that in the end is a detail. Schooling is still a tried and true way to learn stuff. And learning you need.
#4. Mentors, aka “The Knowing Ones”
“Mentors are just older guys, they are going tell me how to be successful back in 1999″.
Getting back to that startup career thing. Mentors are people who had successful careers. By knowing startups better than you do, they know about how you can navigate and steer a startup. By knowing at best your industry/market by heart, you only know the waters you’re navigating in.
TechStars’ methodology is great for this: you’re meeting 82 mentors in 3 weeks, each meeting lasting 30 minutes. This is the perfect format, because at the end you shortlist 10 people with whom there’s a fit, and they will really accompany you and your business.
#3. Like-Minded Fools
You’re going to be surrounded by people very much like you doing radically different stuff. You’re going to be friends with them. They are going to be the people that refer potential hires to you, that open their network to you, and that will cheer you up when everything’s going south. Positive vibes.
Also you’ll compare your business to theirs, and you’ll freak out because they’ll seem 200 times more succesful than you. Emulation is a real driver. Excellent transition to the next point…
#2. Some Serious Ass-Kicking
Accelerators have a stake in the success of your company. Simply for their image or because they invested in it. So they better make sure you achieve something every day. And they really kick your ass if that doesn’t happen.
Everything is meant to give you a feel for urgency, with meetings that appear in your calendar that you cannot decline, a demo day where you’ll have to have a pitch nothing short of perfection, and weekly if not daily meetings in front of everyone where you need to say where you are right now.
Yes I know how bullshitty this sounds. Explaining stuff with the serendipity argument is a bit like saying “Hell, I dunno, I guess I just got lucky!”
But this is a cocktail, a piña colada created by all of the 4 previous elements. You create opportunities and situations just by being endorsed by your accelerator and being surrounded by awesome teachers, brilliant startupers, helping and interested mentors, and ass-kicking program managers.
And all these people are there to help you get lucky.
So if you’d like to know how all this turned out for us, you can just head over to qunb and try out our awesome tools. If you’re a startupper with a website, there’s a few things for you to learn there on your web traffic.