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Recent debate has focused on the concrete value that accelerators offer and how to know if an accelerator is right for your startup. While seasoned entrepreneurs who have one or two startups in their pockets may not go the accelerator route, many will come from large business environments and seek out critical information. If that’s you, consider that the accelerators, beyond the obvious networking and investment opportunities, have a lot to offer. Being part of an accelerator will teach you the basics of running a startup that you couldn’t learn otherwise without wading, and in half the time it takes to learn on your own.
My time at Google helped inspire me to create a business focused on helping marketers to drive mobile engagement. However, it took the unique environment of an accelerator program to teach me the valuable lessons needed to lead a successful startup.
Related: 10 essentials to join a start-up accelerator
Competition is a gift.
Large companies like Google are titans in their market, so when moving from a dominant position to a startup, the very notion of competition can be intimidating. Instead, an accelerator will teach you to grasp the value of competitors. During TechStars Seattle, my co-founder and I naively thought that we were the first to offer A / B testing for mobile apps, but we quickly learned that we had a competitor with millions of dollars in funding and dozens employees. We were crushed. Our accelerator mentors first made fun of us, and then taught us a key lesson: competition is the best thing that can happen to your startup. This validates the market for your offer and forces you to refine your activity. It also proved that the market was ripe for innovation, not only for us founders, but also in the eyes of investors, who see less risk in investing money in a startup in a known market and in not creating a business in unknown territory.
Speed is your superpower.
Google and other big players have many advantages over startups, such as access to “infinite” funding, great talent and the “inner circle of Silicon Valley”. But one thing that startups have for them is speed. Learn to consider this as your main advantage for outperforming your competition. This speed allows startups to launch products in a few months or even weeks. Startups need to respond quickly to changing customer expectations. to replace us, we acted at the speed of light to meet their needs. We built new features on nights and weekends, and within two weeks, we had exceeded the customer’s initial demand and surpassed the competitor. The client was so impressed with our responsiveness that they increased their contract size. These “red code” moments are what really move your product forward. Speed is what gives startups their biggest advantage over big players.
Related: Why the Number of Accelerators Is Accelerating
Customer development is face to face.
Google is sitting on treasures of data that they can extract whenever they need to understand user behavior. As a result, many decisions are made without talking to a single end user. Startups are completely the opposite, because they have little data, so they are in front of customers all day, doing research and developing customers to learn the needs of their users. Many novice entrepreneurs teach an accelerator that this is actually the “lean” way of creating products that respond to a problem. With all the resources you have access to – including mentors, clients and potential investors – an accelerator is one of the best ways to build your client strategy.
Culture is an absolute must.
In large companies, technological recruitment tends to focus more on technical skills and less on cultural adequacy. As a result, they hire qualified people who do not necessarily have the leadership skills or the passion to advance their organization. However, personality adjustment is much more critical in startups, due to their close-knit work culture. By building our startup at Techstars, we began to understand the importance of hiring missionary, goal-motivated leaders, rather than mercenary or money-focused opportunists.
We learned this the hard way when we hired a brilliant and award-winning employee without assessing cultural adequacy. Unfortunately, we realized that we didn’t share the same vision or the same principles of leadership, so despite his intelligence, we had to separate. At any start, while the technical bar is very high, the experience is intimate and therefore requires unique dedication. As such, entrepreneurs need to focus a lot on cultural fit and find missionaries, not mercenaries, when expanding their teams.
Related: Joining an Accelerator? 8 nuggets of wisdom from the latest Techstars NYC graduates.
For many, the steep learning curve of an accelerator is the perfect bridge between being a corporate employee and becoming a startup founder. You need to quickly adjust your work style, become familiar with the lack of a safety net, understand how to differentiate yourself from the competition, and develop your ideal team. Find the right accelerator, and it will give you a crash course in running a startup, so when the time comes to run the business – you won’t have to crash.