If you have founded a startup, have just started working on an idea or are trying to find to expand to a new market, you might considered joining an accelerator. But when’s the right time to join one? And which one is the right one for you?
Running ELEVATE, our accelerator for early-stage AI startups and for almost 4 years now, we have read through hundreds of applications and interviewed almost as many startups. Running a community of different accelerators, we know how diverse accelerators can be and how hard it is to pick the right one for your startups. So today, we want to give you some pointers on what to pay attention to when picking your accelerator. Let’s get into it.
There are definitely differences in the stages accelerators focus on. From problem-solution fit, to investment-readiness, to partnering up with corporates on concrete projects, different accelerators have different target stages.
So before applying for an accelerator think about the stage you are in, your goals for the next year and the steps you need to be taking to get there. Does the accelerator fit these goals and next steps? Will it help you get there? If you are not sure, reach out to the accelerator team and ask. This is also a great way to learn more about how they interact with their potential participants.
Pick any topic that comes to your mind and I am pretty sure there is an accelerator for it out there. Specific industries, problems they are focusing on solving, technologies, you name it. Pick a focus that’s important for your startups’ future and growth. Whatever the focus is, you’ll meet lots of other people from the same area there. Startups working in the same field or on the same technologies, experts & potential clients from that area, so pick it wisely.
There are different accelerator models out there – some invest money or working time, some offer advice and workshops, some take equity, some don’t. Again, think about what you need at your stage. Money is usually the shiny thing that attracts startups first, but make sure to look beyond the surface. Is money really the thing you need most at your stage? Maybe the access to a network of investors and/or potential clients is more important at your point? Other accelerators invest in hands-on services, helping you build and grow your product.
Check them all closely and ask yourself if the value you get out of it is worth it to you.
Pay attention to the interactions you have with the accelerator. Be it answers to your first emails or later on in your interviews. Are they asking you interesting questions? Are they genuinely interested in what you are doing? Are they adding value in this phase already, maybe challenging you, maybe giving you advice?
Depending on the accelerator, these people might be invested in your startup in the long run. So make sure you would be happy having them on board for longer than the duration of the program.
A great way to learn more about the people but also the overall value of the program is to talk to alumni. Just ask the accelerator team for a connection to some alumni. In most cases, this won’t be a problem and will give you another chance to observe how they interact with their alumni.
Just in case you were wondering about how our accelerator works…
For ELEVATE, we focus on early-stage startups working on AI solutions. Given the stage our startups are in, we are specifically looking at the team and the progress they have made so far. What we are specifically and most importantly asking ourselves in the interviewing phase are the following things:
- Can we add value for this team at their stage, with their specific needs and their set-up?
- How is the team dynamic within the team? Do we think this team is flexible enough to work with curve balls? Would we like to work with this team on a personal level?
- When have they started and what have they achieved so far? What are their biggest learnings from the early stage and how have they adapted to it?
You can find out more here: elevate.theventury.com
We hope this short article will help you to pick the right accelerator for your startup. Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions.