According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2015 Report, twenty-one percent of adults across 60 economies intend to start a business in the next three years. These numbers are a bit different than what some other reports are saying (that entrepreneurship is decreasing), but no matter what the real number is, it is clear there are a whole heck of a lot of startups out there.
So what does a startup do to get money, feedback, advice and customers? Well, some of them are bootstrapped and relying on their own finances to get by. And some try to get investors through an incubator, accelerator or other means. But most founders can agree that getting money and customers (not necessarily in that order!) is the one way to survive in a competitive economy.
So many startups are looking for a means to get help in turning an idea into a MVP (minimum viable product), mentorship, feedback, and hopefully clients, and this summer there are a lot of accelerators taking applications for a fall cohort. If you are a founder about to send in your fall application, here are a few things to keep in mind before applying to that accelerator.
1. Startup Accelerators vs. Incubators – There is a Difference
Some people might think these two are interchangeable, but they really aren’t. Accelerators “accelerate” your business and incubators “incubate” them. OK, duh, you might be thinking. But here is what that really means: typically two guys in a garage with an idea and a PowerPoint are going to be better off in an incubator simply because they need help creating an MVP. Two guys with a product, business plan and an idea of their market size and what success looks like are going to be better off with an accelerator.
2. There are Different Kinds of Accelerators – Choose the One That Fits Your Product Best
A cursory search on Google can net you hundreds of programs that you can apply to right now. Some of the deadlines may be passed for the summer sessions, but they will be recruiting for winter soon. There is no shortage of accelerators to check out. The important key is to choose one that is a good fit for your product or service. Because there are so many programs out there, there is likely to be one or two that are in your niche. Take, for example, UpRamp’s Fiterator program. UpRamp helps connect startups to the global cable and broadband network. An obvious fit here is a product that improves cable connectivity, but also as we wrote in a previous blog, there are more types of companies than you might think that are a good fit for cable.
3. Some Accelerators Have Helped Achieve Dreams, Others Only Provide Nightmares
You have to choose wisely as a founder of a startup. This product and/or company is your baby. You wouldn’t want to leave your baby with strange babysitter who has horrible online reviews would you? Check out this horror story from Techstars’ David Cohen. As he puts it, the “TL;DR [version is] Do your diligence on accelerators!” But really, you should read this story and know what you are getting into before you even apply.
4. What Accelerators Look For
Top accelerator programs are selective. Y Combinator only takes 2% out of the total number of businesses that apply, UpRamp only takes around 5-6%, and Techstars fills its 10 spots out of about 1,000 applicants. It helps to know what accelerators are looking for before you fill out the application.
One attribute top accelerators look for is leadership potential of the founder or CEO. The accelerator has to be able to visualize the company succeeding under the leadership of its founder. Another thing – is the product/service exciting? Otherwise, it is too hard a sell to investors and customers. And is there even a market for the product? Doing research and having the answers to all these types of questions will increase your chances of being accepted into a top accelerator.
Lastly, the biggest thing to keep in mind is what the end goal looks like after you finish the cohort. Most accelerators will help you with mentorship, planning, etc. but most of them end with demo days and no actual deals. What you do with your startup after that is up to you. Want to stay informed about UpRamp’s Fiterator – a “graduate” program for startups? Add your email below and get added to our mailing list!