Accelerator programmes can offer startups the vital boost they need to take an idea, product or service, and turn it into a profitable business. Startups that join accelerators have a fantastic opportunity to pitch for investment, meet other entrepreneurs, learn from mentors and other experts, and build their brand.
But more than that, by finding the right accelerator, they have the opportunity to build a flourishing business. Joining an accelerator programme is a two-way process; the more you put in, the more you get out of it. We asked the startups in our accelerator what their advice would be for making the most of being in an accelerator. They came up with the following five things.
1. Lean on the expertise of accelerator team
When you join an accelerator, there will be a team running it. That team is made up of people who really know their stuff when it comes to helping startups succeed. They will likely have worked with startups for a number of years and know the challenges that are faced by them. If you’re applying to a specialist accelerator, such as a hardware one like the Central Research Laboratory where I work, then you’ll have access to a team that’s knowledgeable about product design, as well as business-specific skills. Their job is to make sure the foundations of your business are strong, so take advantage of their skills.
2. Be open to mentoring and advice
When you join an accelerator, you’ll have the opportunity to get advice in many different forms. Whether it’s workshops, seminars or one-to-one, this is a valuable resource for any startup. Think about how many experts you might need to consult with to get your business off the ground. You might need legal advice, you’ll certainly need financial advice, in addition to things like putting together a business plan, planning your marketing and much more.
A strong accelerator brings all these experts together for its members to benefit from. So, grab all opportunities with both hands. These experts have been selected specifically to help you grow your business with structure and pace.
3. Learn about external connections
Outside of the experts that you will have access to, you’ll also find yourself better placed to make connections to benefit your business. Have a specific investor in mind? Chances are one of the accelerator team can make that connection for you. Need to understand what it would take to manufacture your technology product? How about an accelerator that has connections with the world’s largest electronic markets?
A strong accelerator brings all these experts together for its members to benefit from, so grab all opportunities with both hands.
The teams that run accelerators have spent time to make the contacts that startups in their accelerators will need. All you need to do is make sure you’re ready and open to making the most of these contacts.
4. Get to know the workspace
Chances are that whichever accelerator you’re thinking of applying to join, they’ll have fantastic facilities. You’ll have a space to work in, with a desk that’s yours and access to things like wireless internet to help you run your business.
Are you trying to build a prototype for a product? Well, if you pick the right accelerator space to work in, you’ll have access to workshop facilities and technicians to make that process easy for you. Don’t forget meeting space. When you’re running a startup, you’ll have meetings with any number of people from potential investors to mentors and accountants to suppliers. You want to be able to do that in a professional environment, so make the most of the meeting space your accelerator provides. You’re going to spend a lot of time in this workspace, so make sure you pick the accelerator that’s right for your business and gives you access to all the facilities you need.
5. Make friends with the other startups
When you join an accelerator, you’ll be joining with other businesses. This is great for you, especially if you started your business on your own. You’ll have a ready-made community of other people who know exactly what you’re going through. They will have faced similar challenges and frustrations. They can help you solve problems you come across and avoid pitfalls they’ve experienced. So, when you start your time in an accelerator, make sure you introduce yourself to all the other businesses. Find out what they do. Learn about their strengths, figure out if your businesses are complementary and could work together.
You’ll be spending a lot of time in the same environment as these businesses, and you never know when they could help you with a particular challenge. Chances are one of them could be a designer, a coder, or have run a crowdfunding campaign and will be able to tell you all the snags and shortcuts.
Whenever you decide is the right time for your business to apply to join an accelerator, make sure you understand what’s on offer. This will help you decide whether the accelerator is right for your business. Just as importantly, know what you want to get out of being in the accelerator. Have a plan of how you will use the facilities. Make a list of the types of connections your business would benefit from. Understand the business expertise your startup would need. If you’ve done this work upfront, your time in the accelerator will be well spent and your business will come out healthier, and with customers at the other end.