I am lucky to spend a lot of time with startups that are currently in, or have gone thru all of the major startup accelerators out there, and one common concern that comes up often is what I call the “Accelerator Flu”.
If you have spent time in or around any accelerator, you have probably seen it. Volunteer mentors that are more interested in finding their next client, than helping to grow and champion the startups. Lawyers, accountants, 409a valuation companies, property guys, insurance people, market research and designers can all drop into this category. To be fair, it’s not all of them, but I hear story after story of young teams getting the hard sell from these types, long before the startup gets any value from them. This is the Accelerator Flu.
A startup accelerator has a high concentration of companies that may need these types of services now or in the near future, so, I guess it is natural that service providers would look to build relationships and “get involved” in the community. However, I would posit that an accelerator must be very careful engaging with this community. If left unchecked, the mentor base of the program could be overrun in hurry.
At UpRamp, we take a different approach. During the Fiterator, each company is paired with 2 C-level executives (One from CableLabs, and one from a cable operator) and as many true subject matter experts as they want/need. The trick is that we teach each company how to engage with a C-level mentor on the very first day. You see, working with a CTO of a major cable operator as a mentor, is not the same as working with a typical mentor from a startup accelerator. You probably won't be meeting up for coffee twice a week and sorting thru the details of your product, but you will have the influence and “straight-to-the-point” perspective of the person who is ultimately responsible for new technology initiatives.
In the Fiterator, you won’t see mentors with a secondary agenda. The nature of the program means that we have vaccinated the cohort against the dreaded accelerator flu.
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