The accelerator distracts you from developing your business
One of the main myths attached to business acceleration programs, is that an accelerator takes a lot of your time, that otherwise could be devoted to business development, and slows your growth down. Lectures, meetings with mentors, discussions – for the critics these activities seem to create a communal atmosphere, rather than actually enable a startup.
The GoRamp experience was completely different. When I remember our time at the Startup Wise Guys accelerator, the first word that comes to mind is family. We left the accelerator with a network of partners, that are young business and face the same challenges in their organizations. All the friendships formed during the accelerator helped GoRamp with all kinds of the time-consuming processes (recruiting, budgeting, public relations initiatives). The time that is wholeheartedly invested in the program pays off in multiple ways and helps jump a few steps up on the development ladder. It is also never mandatory for all team members to attend all program activities all the time. So with a correct distribution of responsibilities it is easy to catch up with everything, without blaming the accelerators.
The accelerator controls, the mentors insist on their business models
Mentorship is one of the most influential parts of an acceleration experience. Mentors are professionals in their field. Like the organizers an accelerator, they are invested in the success of program participants. The achievements of the participants can become exemplary of their own success. This creates a special atmosphere for startups participating.
The GoRamp team, had the opportunity to work with truly devoted mentors, throughout the Startup Wise Guys accelerator. They helped define our vision and goals very clearly, as well as remove unproductive and unnecessary processes. There was a feeling of commitment building up, but it is only natural. In the later stages you constantly answer to someone – from the board of directors, to staff and every single customer. Moreover, the advice received from the mentors is mostly about about what not to do, not the other way around. Both, the funds that organize accelerators and the mentors, have their fair share of failures. All of these failed strategies and mistakes become security nets to accelerator participants, instead of becoming the shackles in order to control, as it seems to appear.
The focus is on ‘pitch’, not on long-term
A clear definition of your idea is the cornerstone in its initial stages. You’ll be hearing a statement like this not only at an accelerator, but also during almost all events dedicated to young businesses. These 30-second to 3-minute self-presentations are often positioned as something the investor will choose you for. I understand that in such a light, learning to “pitch” seems more than naive.
But the essence of the pitching lies far beyond. Constant describing of your idea, formulating it to be attractive and easy to understand for an investor, helps a startup refine the purpose and the main selling point of the business. This helps to eliminate unnecessary functions and highlight what is important. It also helps you understand the investor’s mentality, speak their language and get to know the venture capital culture. All of this enhances the chances to compete at that first meeting.
Startup accelerator programs have many myths surrounding them. Some of them might have objective grounds. After all, the “classical” structure of doing business is the basis of theoretical business knowledge. However, GoRamp’s personal experience as well as many other start-ups show otherwise. Accelerators are tough but they are definitely worth it.