10 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs a Venture Accelerator
Sometimes, or rather, most times, you can't start a successful venture without the help of many people outside of your initial organization. It's challenging to find the skillsets and expertise to scale successfully in many situations because your business needs and weaknesses are so varied. That's where a venture accelerator comes in. Unless you've researched thoroughly into venture culture or started a new venture yourself, you may not even know what a venture accelerator is.
A venture accelerator is an organization of people with expertise in launching businesses that will help a select pool of ventures to develop and define their offerings. Oftentimes, venture accelerators provide the necessary support and consulting to create the framework for a successful launch post-program. Some accelerators offer their services in exchange for small equity stakes (usually 10% or less) in the business operation. Others will just accept some applicants in exchange for launching out of their accelerator or staying with the program for a predetermined length of time. There are countless reasons why your business could use an accelerator, but given that it might be tough for me to write a never-ending article, here are 10 of them:
1. Perspective, perspective, perspective
2. Networking, the GREATEST networking
The odds are you've probably heard about the importance of networking at some point. Good networking sets up many opportunities for your future, and it may even be the key to starting a business idea. And the networking process doesn't stop there. In the early stages of a business, who you network with could determine if your operation bleeds out or breaks out. What could be a better place to network than an organization of venture professionals and people driven by the same motivations as you? By joining a venture program, you will be surrounded by experts who have connections to the resources and people that can truly bolster your operations. You will gain access to investors either directly or through the impression you leave on them by attending the accelerator. Maybe you even find that your business should merge with another or complement another business idea. Either way, there is no better opportunity to meet the people who can help you become a success. I promise you won't find such a diversely skilled group of people anywhere else.
3. You learn hard lessons early, and that’s a good thing
"The instructor pulled up my website and said, 'So let me get this straight- your service is a website for helping people build websites- and your website sucks!?'. I was so mad that I stayed up for two days straight perfecting it." ~ Harry Fox, Co-founder of Bloks
Sometimes (more like every time), it can be embarrassing when we get called out on bad ideas or sub-par work. But most would prefer to take some early embarrassment over a catastrophic business failure from hidden flaws down the road. I got a first-hand account of such an encounter from Harry Fox, one of the founders of Bloks. Bloks is a startup that helps people build out their applications and websites without needing to understand coding. This past summer, Bloks took part in a venture accelerator, and yes, they learned some tough, embarrassing lessons.
"The instructor pulled up my website and said, 'So let me get this straight- your service is a website for helping people build websites- and your website sucks!?'. I was so mad that I stayed up for two days straight perfecting it", said Fox. In reality, even the most apparent issues or red flags can escape us. The beauty of accelerators is that you learn now as opposed to later when it can crumple everything you've built. After receiving that embarrassing criticism, Harry ended up with a beautiful site that anyone would be jealous of. So trust me, embarrassment is worth it; hard lessons are worth it. They provide an intense learning experience that we can benefit from in the end.
4. It’s consulting but better, because it’s free (or mostly free)
In the early stages of a business, every service and project you have to pay for slowly drains your minimal budget. One of the most expensive services you could hire for is consulting. There is untold value in the guidance of an experienced consultant, but that value comes at a high cost. Many startups cannot afford such services because they have to fund other crucial operations. That's where an accelerator comes in. A venture accelerator gives you access to free (or equity funded) diagnostics of your business model. It gives you market guidance and a solid plan to advance your business as efficiently as possible. It teaches you how to develop a minimum viable product and begin market testing. The consultation possibilities are endless, and that's reason enough to apply for an accelerator. It's a no-brainer to choose expert guides over blindly stumbling and hoping your business gets traction somehow.
5. It’s the business-scale version of an internship
Internships set people apart in the hiring process. Successfully completing an internship shows you can survive in the real world. It shows you can succeed in your area of study and produce results. And it provides you with an opportunity to learn best practices from your superiors. The same goes for businesses with venture accelerators under their belt. Investors, advisors, and other big names in the venture world know what goes into a venture program. It's impressive, and it definitely sets you apart from other businesses that are basically running blind-folded. While internships act as a test for your ability to perform tasks, accelerators act as a test to see if you really have successful business ideas. In the event that you don't, they allow you to fix those problems before your business launches in full swing. It's always nice to have some test runs before you get thrown to the wolves. So take that internship. Apply for that accelerator. People will notice when you do.
6. Some offer service budgets and even seed investment
7. They know what comes next for your business
So you've made a successful business model. Your minimum viable product has traction, and you believe scale is possible. What's next? How should we shift our focus now? Venture accelerators have seen the launch and scale process of countless businesses before. So they can tell you what steps you have to take to work towards the next milestone. They can advise you on entering the next stage of your market and capturing market space from competitors. The professionals within that space know where funding should best be allocated to increase scale effectively. They can put you in contact with the people, services, and plans necessary to reach the next stage of your business growth. Even though you've never seen that far ahead, they have. The future is always foggy for those who have yet to see it, so why not trust in someone who has?
8. Motivation and friendship
9. Clients who have faith in you
There are two kinds of business models. Those are business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Consider Uber. They operate under a B2C model, offering rides to consumers. Alternatively, a company like Sodexo provides services to businesses in areas like food service and facilities management. In either case, within an accelerator, you have a nice pool of potential clients who grow with your company and develop a trust in you by seeing your work regularly. If you have a B2B model, it's highly possible that you could be offering your services to your fellow accelerator businesses in the near future. If you're B2C, you might have a fantastic product that the other accelerator participants can't wait to get their hands on. Unlike the outside world, they have seen your business intimately and already trust in what you offer. Therefore you could have your first pool of clients just from participating in the program. It may not be enough to really scale your operation off the bat, but it could very well provide some useful market testing and cash injection.
10. No matter what, you will have access to something that other businesses do not
Sometimes you know what aspect of your business is missing. So you can choose to do an accelerator to get that help. More often than not, however, accelerators will enlighten you on issues and opportunities you had not even considered previously. If you chose to stay on your own path, you would have missed out on so many ways to improve your business. So instead of remaining mediocre, take a step in a new direction by joining an accelerator. The businesses that don't will be disadvantaged due to their decision to steer clear of the programs. They miss out on perspective and consulting. They miss out on potential investors and connections. If you can do it, it's hard to argue against the benefits to your business. As long as you are happy with the terms of participation, the sky's the limit in terms of how much a venture accelerator can help you. And if you still need to create a business before you apply to an accelerator, then here is the perfect place to start.
Bloks found some great accelerator opportunities to consider. Why not check them out below? Your future business will thank you.
- 1. Y Combinator, Silicon Valley (7% equity cost, $125,000 invested)https://www.ycombinator.com/
- 2. Tech Stars, Atlanta, Austin, Bay Area, Boston, Boulder, LA, NYC, and more (6-10% equity cost, up to $120,000 invested)https://www.techstars.com/
- 3. Startup Bootcamp, Cairo, Melbourne, Dubai, Amsterdam, Milan (6-8% equity cost, $15,000 invested)https://www.startupbootcamp.org/
- 4. Blue Startups, Hawaii (3-10% equity cost, up to $100,000 invested)https://www.bluestartups.com/
- 5. Angel Pad, NYC, Silicon Valley (5-7% equity cost, $120,000 invested)https://angelpad.com/
- 6. 500 Startups, Silicon Valley, Mexico City, Seoul, Saola, Atlanta (6% equity cost, up to $150,000 invested)https://500.co/accelerators
- 7. Wayra, London (7-10% equity cost, up to $150,000)https://www.wayra.uk/
- 8. APX, Berlin (5% equity cost, $50,000)https://www.techstars.com/
- 9. Startfast, Syracuse NY (5% equity cost, $50,000)https://startfast.net/