As an entrepreneur, accelerators could be very helpful especially in the early stages of your business when you need finances to build it. An accelerator usually takes a business from concept to product, providing it with both early-stage funding and mentorship in return for equity. The programme aims to speed up the growth of the participants within a restricted period usually three to four months. It culminates in a demo day with graduating companies pitching in a room full of investors in an attempt to secure funding. The first accelerator, Y combinator, started in the US in 2005. Currently, there are many business accelerators across the world offering you an opportunity no matter where you are located.
According to Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of SpotHero, an on-demand parking app, your business is suited for an accelerator programme if it’s a startup interested in growth through learning and sharing experiences. You must be ready to talk about both your successes and struggles. You also need to have solid ideas and a clear vision of where you would like your business to go. Typically, applicants are businesses in the early stages of development, having just launched or getting ready to do so. However, you can still participate in an accelerator programme even where you are beyond the startup phase. There are enough programmes designed specifically for businesses that have overcome the hurdles of starting up and are only keen on going to the next level; an example is Interise.
To apply, you need to look at the requirements of the particular accelerator that you are applying to because each of them has varying requirements. There are those with strict requirements and a very low acceptance rate in the range of 5 percent. The procedure is lengthy and tiresome requiring you to give details of;
- Your business idea
- Your competition
- The work you have done so far
- Potential challenges
- Specific qualifications
- Intellectual property agreements and
- Whether you have raised funds before.
If an accelerator gets interested in your business, it will request you to attend an oral interview. Chris Tsai, founder and CEO of Celery, a preordering platform advises that you attend mock interviews with programme alumni before attending the real interview. He says that this strategy worked for him when he was applying to join the popular Y combinatory accelerator.
On his part, Lawrence advises that you ask enough questions during the application process to ascertain that the accelerator is suitable for your company. Even though your main aim may be funding, you do not want to join an accelerator that will not provide good mentorship for your company to grow when you could actually join a different one and obtain both funding and appropriate mentorship. Thea Chase, the director of Telluride Venture Accelerator advises that you develop a decision matrix to narrow down to the most appropriate accelerator to apply to.