First Steps on the Innovation Road: Are Accelerators my Best Choice?
For any talent with disruptive ideas but lacking business strategies, accelerators for start ups are a seductive idea: They provide funds, mentoring from experts, and the opportunity to capture the attention of a large company looking for new partners. It sounds tempting, doesn't it?
Executing on an accelerator program is hard work, as the rhythm of work is intensive, but at the end of the training period, the start-up “graduates” are ready to work efficiently. Sharing space with other entrepreneurs and experts gives the participants the opportunity to create a network which will be really helpful when they have to fly alone.
But any entrepreneur considering applying for one of this programs should think a little before making your decision. Are you giving your first steps in business or are you already growing up on your own? Do you have time to spend on the training activities? For those who are beginning their start-ups, accelerators can be of great help. But for those who are already making advances, accelerators can be not only unnecessary, but even counterproductive, as the intensive rhythm of work can distract them from their current projects.
For those who are ideal candidates for an acceleration program, it is essential to choose the most suitable for their profile among a lot of options: Since the arrival of the pioneers, like Y Combinator in 2005 or Techstars in 2006, the number of acceleration programs for start-ups has increased in a spectacular way all over the world. Some of these companies have specialized in supporting entrepreneurs from a specific collective, such as New Me, addressed to underrepresented minorities, while others are conceived to work locally or in a very specialized area of business... Having so many different possibilities can be overwhelming.
Databases like Accelerati.io collect more than 200 programs all over the world, allowing candidates to compare the total and average funds offered by each program. But that's not a decision to make basing solely on this factor: An accelerator should be something more than a means to get funds.
Every entrepreneur should also study attentively who is going to guide his start-up along the program, and what kind of contacts are available. By joining a program with little experience in his area, the founders of start-ups can find themselves advised by great experts in a field that has little to do with theirs, or getting a network which will be useless for their objectives. That's part of the choreography of “using the right instruments correctly”. Even a good tool, when used in the wrong moment or with the wrong objective, can get more damage than help.
So, balance pros and cons, search and compare, and when you find your program, go for it. It can be the first step to do great things, and one of several different ‘instruments’ to monetize innovation.