Are Startup Accelerators Worth Your Time as a Founder?
The short answer is YES. If you are a Founder, you should consider applying to a Startup Accelerator. The longer answer is “it depends”.
I’ve personally graduated from two accelerator programme for Cudy Technologies.
There are many factors that go into making the decision to apply to an accelerator.
Here are a few questions that will help you assess whether an accelerator program is right for you and your startup:
Do you have an idea or business model?
If the answer is yes, then great! You can move on to the next question. If not, it might be time to do some soul searching and figure out if you have an idea worth pursuing.
If you have an idea, then how far along is it? The answer to this question will determine the type of accelerator that you should apply to.
If your idea is in the very early stages, you might consider a Seed-stage Accelerator.
If your idea/business model is more mature and you need help with a few key areas, then a Growth-stage Accelerator might be right for you.
Do you have a team in place?
The ideal situation for an accelerator program would be to have a team that is ready to work towards achieving its goals under the guidance of your accelerator partner.
If your team is not ready to start executing immediately, maybe it’s time for some more soul searching before applying to an accelerator.
What are your goals?
If you are looking for funding, then there are a few different ways to do it:
A) You can raise money from investors who believe in your vision and product;
B) You can seek capital from private or public loans; or
C) You can raise money from equity investors through either an equity crowd-funding platform or by seeking venture capitalists who will invest in exchange for equity in the company.
If raising outside money isn’t on your radar screen, then Accelerators won’t be right for you. The reason why accelerators are awesome is because they provide about $10K-$150K of seed capital and lots of other resources that help founders succeed.
If raising outside capital isn’t on your roadmap, then an accelerator may not make sense for you.
If raising outside capital is on your radar screen, then it makes sense to consider all viable options — which would include considering applying to one or more accelerators if they fit into your plans.
One final thing worth considering here: Some accelerators offer additional benefits beyond financial support such as mentorship support from experienced executives and entrepreneurs and other intangible benefits such as networking opportunities that could prove beneficial down the road when looking for cofounders, employees or even customers.
Do you want outside help with building out your business model/idea?
The primary reason why accelerators exist is to help founders succeed. If you believe that an accelerator can help you succeed, it’s worth considering applying to a few and seeing if they can provide the support that you and your startup need.
Do you want outside help with executing your business plan?
As we discussed earlier, a big part of an accelerator program is the training that the startup receives from their partner company. The other part of the equation is the time that participants spend with their cohort which provides a rare opportunity for active mentorship.
As a founder, you know your business better than anyone else, but there’s a lot you don’t know. Unless you are incredibly lucky, things will go wrong, and it’s important to have peers around to help you navigate your way through these challenges.
The cohort experience is also helpful because your company won’t be the only one that is struggling in the beginning — it happens to all of them. The time spent with your cohort can be very helpful in overcoming challenges together and building long-term relationships with peers who may become future customers or partners.
Do you want to meet potential mentors and investors?
Any person who is considering applying to an accelerator program should consider this question carefully.
Many accelerators provide access to some great mentors and investors who could be helpful down the road when looking for cofounders or employees or when seeking funding from these individuals or others in their network.
Accelerators also provide access to other startups that are going through similar experiences as yours and could prove useful as potential customers down the road.
One thing worth noting here: If you are looking for capital for your startup, then be sure that the accelerator has a track record of providing capital.
Having said all of this, it’s important to note that many of these assumptions are true today but may not always hold true in the future. I would highly recommend doing some research on accelerator programs before deciding whether they would make sense for you and your startup.
If you are an entrepreneur and have gone through an accelerator program or are considering going through a program, I would love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.