What does it take to get into an accelerator?

Savannah Mazanowski
What does it take to get into an accelerator?

If you’re a startup with a great idea and a desire to grow, then you should strongly consider joining an accelerator. Accelerators provide access to funding, mentoring, and valuable business connections. In addition to providing these resources, accelerators can boost a brand’s visibility and increase traction. 

However, getting into an accelerator takes work and money. Before starting your journey toward joining an accelerator program, consider first whether your business is better fit for an accelerator or an incubator. Incubators are longer and help you build a foundation for a business while an accelerator is around 3-6 months and works with startups that already have an established business plan. It’s also important to evaluate how much an accelerator will cost and if now is the best time for your company to undergo such a rigorous experience. 

All things considered, being a part of an accelerator can be hugely beneficial to a business and will provide unmatched opportunities and resources. If you are looking to accelerate your startup through one of these unique programs, here are some things you should have in order beforehand. 

Do your research

Before pursuing an accelerator, it’s wise to first do your research. Get a solid understanding of what each accelerator offers and how they can excel your business. Ask any kind of question you can before going into an application process so you can be both fully informed about the accelerator and so you can go in with complete confidence that your business would be a great candidate. Even consider the simple things like what city the accelerator is in. If there is a chance your startup may need to relocate to a new city, it would be good to know of that possibility beforehand. 

Look at details such as the team of mentors. What connections do they have and what communities are they a part of? Consider what industry this accelerator specializes in and whether or not your startup would fit the profile. If the program has hardly worked with other companies in your industry, there’s a good chance they don’t have as many industry connections that another program may have. 

In addition to looking at the details of the accelerator itself, look at the success stories of other companies who were previously selected. Learn about their experience and how they have used tools given to them during the accelerator to continue to expand their business. In doing research on other accelerator participants, you can get a pretty solid idea of what the accelerator will be like for your startup.

Know your business plan inside and out

First and foremost, make sure you have a minimum viable product (MVP) and have already established a customer base. Without these two things, an accelerator will not spend another second on your company. Furthermore, make sure to convey a competitive advantage. Explain how you are unique in this industry and why your product will be able to succeed if your startup is selected. 

Any question that could be asked about the startup is a question you should be prepared to answer. Know all data and statistics whether it’s about revenue, product performance, or consumer retention and be prepared to talk about them. As a founder and company leader, you are representing the company and all the team members. So the performance data that you share will not only be a reflection of the viability of your idea but the commitment of your entire team. Have a full account of all statistics so that you can give a complete picture of the business to the accelerator panel. 

Lastly, be realistic about your valuation. While you are trying to sell your business, it is also important to be transparent about the status of your company. An accelerator will respect transparency and they will be able to help you better when they know all the facts. 

Practice for the presentation

Think Shark Tank. You want to be able to explain your business details, your advantage in the industry and why this accelerator should be choosing you in a precise but effective way. It’s important to not rush through the presentation because you don’t want to seem stressed or frantic. Yet, keep it brief. The accelerator panel is likely hearing many presentations and will want to get straight to the important points. 

Make sure you demonstrate traction. Traction shows potential. Members of the accelerator panel know you do not have the highest numbers right now. They will be able to provide all the resources and connections you need as long as they know that your product has been well received and can cultivate traction. Also make sure to highlight your experience. Be sure to convey that you have knowledge about the industry, even if that knowledge is as a frustrated consumer. Any experience you will be able to bring will convey credibility and will encourage an accelerator to work with you. 

Once you have your pitch down, practice. Perform a mock pitch in front of colleagues, friends, and anyone who will listen. That way you will receive both valuable feedback and you can rehearse delivering your presentation. Practice makes permanence, so give it your all and actually pretend like you’re presenting in front of a panel so when the real presentation comes you can be confident and prepared. 

Be prepared to learn and grow

It’s safe to assume the reason you are joining an accelerator program is to excel your business. Through an accelerator, a startup can capitalize on the expertise, experience, and resources of influential industry leaders and mentors. If you had access to all these things prior joining the accelerator, there would be no need to spend the time, money and effort applying. So it is vitally important that during your time with an accelerator you are prioritizing growth and are prepared to learn. In order to be coached on how to better your business, you must first be coachable. 

Take every opportunity you can to get hands on experience or acquire a new skill. The more you can master now, the easier it will be to promote and manage your startup in the future. However, as you take the advice and directions from mentors, remember to stay true to your startup’s goals and objectives. While the mentors are there to help you succeed, it is important to stay in balance with learning from your coaches and maintaining the core values of your business. 

Bottom line, an accelerator is an extremely valuable experience and can ultimately help your brand gain both visibility and traction. Listen to your mentors and others who have been in your shoes and  who know what takes to run a successful business. With their help, you will be on track to operating a profitable and rewarding enterprise.

About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a Business Development Associate for Swyft, which is a tech PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing and PR agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers tech PR in San Francisco. Swyft was also listed as one of the top tech PR agencies in Texas by the B2B services review site, Clutch.co.

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