6 Tips to Succeed in a Startup Accelerator

Startup accelerators are designed for businesses that want to grow through collaboration and learning experiences from other entrepreneurs. Participating businesses are typically startups at the early stage that have either just launched a product or are just getting ready to put their product onto the market. Some startups at the early stage may also be working on finding product/market fit. 

Spending some time in an accelerator can be a great way for startups to make serious headway and grow. Not only do the investors provide access to funding, mentoring, and networking, these programs allow founders to form long-term partnerships and collaborations with other entrepreneurs. There’s just one pitfall: the best accelerators are tough to get into as the top programs only take between 1% to 3% of applicants. 

We’ve collected the best tips to help you succeed in a startup accelerator and make the most of the opportunity.

What you need to know before applying to an accelerator program

Given the fact that most accelerators will take ownership of your business and perhaps become your business partner, choosing the right accelerator is a significant decision that will have a long-term impact on both you and your business.

Here are a few things you should consider before making any decisions:

People. The people and mentors engaging with startups are the major assets of every accelerator. These are the people who you will interact with day-to-day and who will be your biggest support when it comes to startup fundraising. That’s why it’s crucial to look for an accelerator program that is run by experienced entrepreneurs who have expertise in your industry. Make sure to do the research and see how involved these people are in the program to estimate the level of access you will have to them.

Industry. Some accelerators focus on a specific industry such as fintech, healthtech, edtech, etc. Participating in an accelerator program that specializes in your industry can be extremely valuable. If you are building a fintech company, you will benefit  from being surrounded by people who are familiar with finance and technologies since you’ll be able to learn from each other’s experiences and share insights. 

Stage. Some accelerators are focused on early-stage companies while others are focused on growth-stage companies that already have products on the market with traction and are looking to  scale their business. You need to be realistic and apply to accelerator programs that meet a startup’s current needs.  

Social proof. Research which startups have ‘graduated’ from accelerators you’re considering to enter to and how much support they got. Similar to formal education, names are just as important in the entrepreneurial world. Being associated with a respected accelerator can help you find valuable contacts and make the business grow long after graduation. 

Tip #1 Do your research to find the right fit

Do not neglect to do your homework on any accelerator you’re considering. What terms do they have? What are their success stories? What happens to companies that don’t succeed? Make sure to get answers to different questions to form a deep understanding of how the accelerator operates. 

Tip #2 Prove that you are committed

Accelerators invest in people and teams, so demonstrate commitment and focus on results. It’s important to have an innovative idea, but the drive and capabilities of the team members are much more correlated to success. They want to work with a dedicated and passionate team.

Keep in mind that time at the accelerator will fly by, and you have a very limited period to make the most of the resources available. This means attending sessions, workshops, meetings with mentors. In essence, throw yourself into the entire experience. Make sure not to over-invest your efforts in anything else while enrolled in the program to make it work. 

Tip #3 Be clear about your objectives

To maximize the benefits from an accelerator program, you need to understand your early-stage startup needs and goals. This is critical because if you are unsure of your goals and needs, the program will likely fail to meet your expectations. 

Tip #4 Tell a great story

In our information-saturated age, startup founders won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories. Facts, figures, and all the rational things do not really stick in our minds at all while stories create ‘sticky’ memories by evoking emotions. That means business leaders who can create and share inspirational stories have a powerful advantage over others. 

Every storytelling exercise should begin with asking questions: 

— Who is my audience? 

— What is the message I want to communicate? 

— How can I turn the message into a compelling single statement?

Tip #5 Align your vision with the program

Making sure your business vision corresponds with an accelerator program is a great way to improve your chances of acceptance. To succeed, align your business focus with the program’s mission, and consistently report on your progress.

Tip #6 Tap into all the networking opportunities

Accelerators bring together the best experts across different industries and businesses, so take advantage of the unique opportunity to network with as many people as possible. With these new contacts, you’ll be able to build partnerships, collaborations, and relationships that will provide new opportunities. 

Conclusion

There are a lot of accelerators out there and none of them are alike. However, most of them share the same mission: helping entrepreneurs of all kinds scale their business success and impact. 

Regardless of what industry you operate in or what kind of product you sell, there’s an accelerator that is able to help you get the most out of your business. 

Before applying to an accelerator, make sure to do careful research to find the right fit. The decision you’ll make will have a long-term impact so you need to be extremely attentive. 

If the startup accelerator you’re applying to has eligibility criteria, make sure your business meets those criteria before applying. 

Show self-awareness and enthusiasm. This is something that was mentioned often enough, but it’s incredibly important for anyone applying to an accelerator.  Accelerators are looking for founders who throw themselves wholeheartedly into their idea. They’re not looking for people who know the answers, but leaders who are smart and eager to figure them out within the accelerator. 

Author’s bio: Anna Grechko is a marketing enthusiast and knows the field inside out. She is the marketing specialist at Smart IT. Sharing knowledge is a big part of her career, so Anna actively seeks to spread good vibes, and collaborates with the great tech and marketing minds of the world. 

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