Last week, we talked about what an accelerator is and what to consider before joining one. The two most important questions were whether you even need to get into one, and if yes, which one. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out that post first, so you’ll make the right choices before applying!
So, you’ve chosen well, done a great job, and got accepted into an accelerator. Congratulations! Now that you are in, do you think it’s time to relax and let things happen? Absolutely not.
During the accelerator
The accelerator’s mission is to help the startups on their way and make sure that they get the best value out of the acceleration. However, you will get as much value as you are ready to commit. I’ve often heard teams say “I wish I’d thought of this at the beginning of the program!” So here are 9 tips on how to make the most out of an acceleration program.
1. Yes, it is challenging and yes, it is supposed to be so
The acceleration program is not just a couple of lectures that you can come to outside of your working hours. Yes, the calendar usually has 2–4 workshops during the week, but there’s also lots of homework, assignments, events, prototyping, mentoring, emails, competitions, ad-hoc activities, and hanging out with your accelerator-mates. The good news is, everything you are asked to do during the program is for your own business and its growth.
And it’s not only about the amount of work. The program really challenges you and makes you look at things from a different perspective. It can be quite overwhelming when you start questioning everything you’ve been doing so far. However, the accelerators don’t want to undermine or sabotage your work, but to take it to new heights. As Peter Abelard put it, “The key to wisdom is this: constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.”
2. Do not skip the networking events and get-togethers
When you look at your crazy calendar, you may be tempted to skip the networking events and get-togethers since you think that they won’t bring you any explicit benefits. Wrong! Those are the activities where the magic happens. And when you do come to the mentoring evening, do not hide in the corner, but talk with as many mentors as you can. The amount of help you will get depends on your own activity.
It is also important to build personal connections with other teams in your cohort. You will be spending several intensive months with them, so don’t you want to know the people you see almost every day better? Knowing others will make it easier for you to pitch, share information about your business, give and receive honest feedback and ask for advice. Thanks to these events you can build a lasting friendship and a strong network that you can rely on in the future as well.
You are facing exactly the same challenges as the other teams from your batch and dozens of alumni companies. Talk to them!
3. Your fellow startups are there for you
Whenever I had asked our startups what have they benefitted most from, they always said “the community”. You have a tiny team, but when you join an accelerator it suddenly expands to hundreds of people of other startups, partners, mentors, coaches, and ecosystem members.
You will benefit from both the whole accelerator ecosystem and also from the community of the program batch of startups you are accelerating with. Believe me, you are facing exactly the same challenges as the other teams from your batch and dozens of alumni companies. Talk to them! Share your experiences. Ask questions. Share useful tips and tools you are using.
You can interview them, get feedback, and like and follow each other on social media. Especially in the beginning, it can be great to get 10–30 more loyal followers liking all your stuff and creating exposure.
4. Don’t panic and come back to your learning materials
I know that there are so many things happening during the program, that you may feel that you don’t have enough time or capacity to internalize new learnings right away. The workshops are coming and going and you feel like you should’ve done things differently now that you’ve learned some more. Hey, I understand! But it’s again a trade-off: maybe a year-long program would be better with all this content? But would you really want to spend a year in an accelerator?
In any case, as the word “accelerator” suggests, it speeds things up in a short amount of time. However, when the program is over, you can always get back to the things you’ve learned and repeat them at your own pace.
5. Give feedback
Whenever the Program Director is annoying you with the feedback link, please do act on it. Believe me, accelerators want to improve too. Sometimes they manage to adjust things in the program right away, sometimes it goes on to affect the next program. By giving feedback you make the following programs better the same way as the alumni have made it better for you.
6. You can shape the content of the program yourself — just be proactive
If you feel that something is missing from the program, be proactive and talk to the Program Director. Accelerator teams are startup-oriented, which means they are agile and quick to change.
Do you think that the program is lacking a co-creation session between the teams? Do you want a WhatsApp group for your batch? Do you have great news everyone should know about? Is there an event you think would benefit others? Just share it with the accelerator team and I’m sure they’ll be happy to add it to the program or spread the word.
Most accelerators understand your challenges and are going through them too at the same crazy pace.
7. An accelerator is a startup as well — they sympathize with you
Believe me, most accelerators understand your challenges and are going through them too at the same crazy pace. Don’t hesitate to share your concerns with the accelerator team, they get it. With this startup mentality, they are able to act, modify, and decide quickly — so keep that in mind.
8. Take full advantage of the perks
Most accelerators have a ton of perks and opportunities for their portfolio companies. You can often get discounts for services that accelerator partners with, get access to customers and a huge mentor network, or maybe a free massage in the accelerator coworking space. It’s up to you whether you take advantage of them or not. I recommend you do.
9. Don’t forget to have fun
“Fun is one of the most important — and underrated — ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else.” — Richard Branson. Nothing to add to that.
Good luck on your journey! Next time we’ll talk about what to do after an accelerator to make sure you get long-lasting benefits.
Editors note: If you are looking for an accelerator, make sure to check out Kiuas, their application period is now open! If you’re not quite ready for an accelerator yet, see what AVP’s Impact Studio can offer you instead.