There are plenty of fish in the sea. Wise – and true – words often heard when one is searching for a potential life partner. And rather strangely, also true when referring to the current state of startup accelerators around the world.
In the hunt for an accelerator, you need to find one that suits your business, a program that will equip your early-stage venture with the necessary support through the ups and downs of its entire life. And that’s a huge commitment.
So how, exactly, do you know when you’ve found The One? Here, tips to help you find – and recognize – the startup accelerator of your dreams.
1. Know yourself
What does your startup aim to do? What resources will you need to help expand your idea into a business? Some startup accelerators cater to specific niches and industries, while others take a more general approach. Keeping this in mind and narrowing down your options accordingly will force you to double down on the specifics of your startup's goals.
2. Meet their friends
What’s the community surrounding the accelerator like? Before making any decisions, research the successes and engagement of the alumni, mentors and partner network, and see if it’s the kind of network you’d like to tap into. The best accelerators have an active and involved stakeholder network and dedicated members that are invested – both emotionally and financially – in helping to build on your entrepreneurial goals.
3. Gauge their personality
Make sure you trust the organizers. The team members behind an accelerator are essentially the custodians of your startup’s future. Look for trends in the operational behavior of the accelerator. Spot habits early on that don’t align with your goals. Use Google to see if they have any skeletons in their closet.
4. Build a life together
A relationship with an accelerator should be mutual. While the accelerator should connect you with all of the resources your startup needs to succeed, you should be willing to provide your own expertise to other startups in the program and continue engaging beyond the accelerator period. Collaborate and build something together. Find out what the accelerator values in their startups. Do they want equity? Connections? Applicant referrals? Answering these questions will help you gauge whether the relationship is heading in the right direction.
Keep the team at your choice accelerator updated. Brag about your successes, but seek council for your failures. Set expectations early on so the accelerator can help you leverage the most value from your time.
6. Make sure they love you despite your faults
Not every startup is 100 percent perfect. Find an accelerator that sees the high-impact potential in your weaknesses, and make sure they commit to helping you transform that weakness into a strength. Does your startup occupy a quirky niche that’s hard to find a target market for? A good accelerator should be willing work closely with you to create that market if one doesn’t yet exist.
Invest in an accelerator as if you were investing in an amazing date. You have to build a relationship to reap all the benefits. At MassChallenge, some of the most successful startups are those that actively engage with events, panels, workshops, alumni, sponsors, the team and other startups. A lack of commitment can easily be translated into a lack of passion, and both qualities can significantly impact an experience with an accelerator – and a relationship.