Every large established company that exists today was once a startup. The times may have been different, the circumstances may vary, and the landscape may have changed. However, each and every company started out as an idea. Back when most of these ideas took root in the form of enterprises, there was no established definition of startups like there is today, as defined by the Indian Government’s Startup India program
Definitions aside, we have today several useful resources for entrepreneurs to leverage in order to see their ideas to fruition. A key initiative that has become a positive trend is the concept of startup accelerators that help startups develop world class products and solutions.
How accelerators can benefit startups
There are various different ways in which accelerators can be leveraged by startups. Some benefits such as access to infrastructure, mentorship, access to investors, grants of some kind are table stakes. What would set aside one accelerator from the rest would depend on the specific need and context of the startup.
High Value Mentorship
In my view, mentorship is crucial. What’s even more crucial is who you are getting it from. Getting that mentorship from the experts in the area or domain or even from an adjacent area of the startup is invaluable. The question to ask is ‘would this mentorship help us reduce the learning curve by 6 months’. Delving a bit more here, high value business mentorship by professionals and leaders is key because it reduces the time cycles that one would have to otherwise spend reinventing the wheel. Making course corrections early in the journey is far less taxing as compared to taking drastic steps to recover from a wrong path at an advanced stage. An idea is only as good as its implementation. Mentorship by experienced professionals can help startups refine solutions to key business problems, and in many cases provide clarity about the business problem itself. Technical mentorship by seasoned architects is invaluable. There is something to be said about the ability of applications and solutions to scale and grow seamlessly and yet provide a simple and smooth user experience. If you look around the applications you use on a daily basis, you will notice that simplicity is a very apparent feature. To bring this to life, it is critical to get some help from experienced technical architects who have the ability to guide you through.
Access to Markets
A common definition of a successful product is reflected in the size of the user base. Therefore, landing customers or let’s say getting that opportunity to speak to potential customers for insights is priceless. Organizations who run accelerators typically have a large network of partners and customers who can be leveraged by the startups. If the Accelerator offers this access to meet customers or even get advice from potential customers, it would be highly valuable
Grants with no strings attached, full IP ownership
This aspect in some ways qualifies the intent of the accelerator. A lot of accelerators offer grants or some sort of monetary support for startups. However, what startups need to understand is whether these grants are equity free i.e. monetary support without exchange for equity/shares in the business. There are accelerators that offer grants in exchange for some equity. If a startup is averse to diluting their stake or sharing intellectual property (IP), do ensure the support you are receiving is free of any encumbrances.
What accelerator programs make sense for startups
An accelerator that assures IP independence is a good starter. Important aspects to look for are world class mentorships, a fast-paced high impact curriculum that’s delivered over a defined time frame, access to customers and investors are key. Any equity free grant is an added bonus. Double click the curriculum for underlying offerings – what would be of value are boot camps with individual focus, clarity and purpose defining moves such as fleshing out of goals to really define what the startups want to achieve at the end of a particular period, exposure into sophisticated learning modules and APIs, collaboration tools, design thinking workshops, business model canvas, market fitment, refining the value proposition, as well as building a sustainable revenue model to be profitable.
What is important for startups is to figure out which accelerator program works best for them, to get them market ready. With the right tools under their belt, startups can learn to generate revenue, and prepare for the challenges of the future.