A startup accelerator programme provides young companies or early-stage companies with intensive, quick, and immersive education, guidance and funding in order to speed up the growth process of these startups that would have otherwise taken years to accomplish.
Early-stage is, a term in the startup ecosystem, used to describe companies that already have a working business model but are looking to expand. These are startups investing in research to shape product development, marketing and overall business growth. This phase is considered by entrepreneurs, and investors to be the most critical stage in a startup’s lifecycle. The success or failure of a venture depends on actions taken during this stage. Mind you, early-stage enterprises can stand on their own feet but require peer support or networks to get to the next level of growth.
Now, back to startup accelerator programmes, they are organised by established companies and investment firms, usually within a fixed time period; ranging from three to six months. Accelerators consist of a network of serial entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts who come together to mentor young startups. There is also a curriculum to follow to complete the programme. Some accelerator programmes provide financing in exchange for an equity stake in the firm to attain growth. This might come with desired results or regrets, hence, a startup must carefully understand the terms of a programme, check to ensure it aligns with the company’s vision before proceeding.
How To Get Into an Accelerator Programme
Accelerator programmes are focused on specific areas, a programme can be centred on industries like tech, social enterprise, services, manufacturing, logistics, etc. In most cases, the industry focused on is stated in the eligibility requirement, sometimes, country or region is stipulated.
Apart from startup location, region and sector, there are other deciding factors that will help you know if your startup is fit for an accelerator programme. Your startup must be scalable, it must have a functioning business plan. As an entrepreneur behind the idea of a startup, you must be coachable, have a team that works, have drive and determination and must be ready to present your minimum viable product.
The next step would be to apply for a programme that matches your objectives and industry. Do your research before making a move to join an accelerator. Find out and reach out to those who have previously participated in it, so as to get feedback and confirm if the programme is right for you. Then proceed to apply. Don’t forget to read the application form thoroughly. This is very important. You can also contact the accelerator’s graduates for a better understanding.
After reading and reviewing your application, you can go ahead to submit it. The accelerators will go through your application and if you match the eligibility and requirements, you might get selected.
What Happens If You Get Selected?
There are so many accelerator programmes out there, with varying criteria or processes, but on a general note, if you are shortlisted, an interview follows with the selection committee. This determines the finalists for the programme. Being among the finalists means that your startup has great talents. Obviously, your team has a major role to play in making a successful company. The selection committee will look closely at your team, their strengths, skills, experiences and personal attributes.
Finalists who get into the programme proper, start the process that mostly lasts three to six months. Participants get to learn through seminars, and workshops, about running a business, legal, etc. Entrepreneurs and startup founders also get the chance to network with fellow entrepreneurs, industry support providers, and potential investors.
The intensive training, workshops and networking, all boil down to the Demo Day, literally D-day! If you like, you can call this the graduation day. During this event, the goal is for each startup in the cohort to give a presentation and pitch. This is normally done in a room full of investors, corporate partners and other entrepreneurs. Your performance will determine whether or not, your startup will get funding for continued growth.
What You Stand To Gain From Accelerator Programmes
The reason why a lot of startups apply for accelerator programmes is to receive funds. While they provide founders and entrepreneurs with relevant knowledge and skills through mentorship sessions and workshops, accelerators also equip participants to get needed funds either on Demo day or afterwards.
In addition, accelerator programmes are one of the best ways to form meaningful relationships with companies, investors, and industry professionals.