As an entrepreneur with an industry-disruptive business idea, getting into a great startup accelerator program is the best move for your career. Accelerator programs provide you with the necessary resources–monetary and non-monetary–to convert that idea into a well-funded venture. However, there are hundreds of such programs out there. You must research the options before applying to a suitable organization that can act as the ideal launch pad. Read ahead to learn more about how accelerators work and how to apply to the right one.
Determine the Suitable Industry
Accelerator organizations work in a broad spectrum of industries, providing the necessary workshops and infrastructure per the product category you intend to develop. Accordingly, you can search for programs in spheres like robotics, SAAS, Sports & Fitness, AI, Food Tech, and Finance and Banking, to name a very scarce few. This factor is critical since the agency connects you to a network of potential funding sources, such as angel investors, venture capitalists, and private investors. These financiers typically prefer to fund innovations in a specific industry only. Selecting the right program raises your chances of getting through the stringent qualifying criteria.
Determine the Time You Can Dedicate to the Program
You can expect that accelerator programs last anywhere from three to six months. Candidates enter into on-site, virtual, or hybrid programs. If you choose an on-site program, the agency will expect you to relocate for the duration of your training. You’ll spend up to 12 hours a day, working in an intensive, fast-paced environment amidst peers developing innovative products and services. Rapid exchanges of ideas and the potential for future partnerships and collaborations are also available to you. Should you choose a hybrid program, you’ll attend virtual workshops, but also spend a fixed number of hours at the coworking facility where the program is organized.
Virtual programs provide you with training, workshops, and seminars, along with mentoring from a remote location. Although candidates go with this option if they can’t relocate, they may miss out on networking opportunities and exposure to like-minded entrepreneurs. Hands-on guidance can also prove to be invaluable when candidates prepare for “demo day.” That’s when they create and practice the pitch deck to present to potential investors and get funding.
Determine the Location
Agencies running accelerator programs typically select candidates according to their location. Since candidates must relocate, you’ll apply to workshops in your town or city. You can also select the appropriate location per your targeted market and customer base. Of course, aside from product development, you’ll also receive mentoring and industry-expert guidance on the legal aspects, like acquiring the necessary licensing and permits. Also, look forward to seminars on hiring talent, team management, business management, advertising, accounting, taxation, insurance, and future growth. Unless you intend to develop a digital asset that can be marketed remotely, you’ll need guidance on these aspects also.
How the Application Progresses
Depending on the specific program you opt for, expect that applications inviting candidates may open around six times a year. You’ll have a 12-week window to apply by filling an online form where you can enter your details. Once you apply, the agency could take about seven to eight weeks to process the applications and select the cohort. Candidates could be invited a few times to interact with the organizers and discuss their ideas and expectations from the program. At the end of the eight-week appraisal period, the agency informs the selected cohort of their acceptance and the program’s start date. Since many agencies run multiple programs simultaneously, that might raise your chances of getting in.
Getting Accepted is Not Exactly Easy
Remember that the evaluation criteria are stringent, and if you get accepted, that’s validation that your business idea is viable and worth investing your time and sweat equity into. Acquiring funding will be easier since investors rely on the agency’s reputation when selecting feasible projects worth backing. If you can’t get into the first program you apply to, don’t give up just yet. Spend more time in research and development to improve your idea. Not only can you reapply, but you also have the option to consider other programs that might be interested in backing your idea.
Startup accelerators are just that–intensive programs that convert a brilliant business idea into a workable prototype worth funding within a short time frame of just a few months. Scout around the several agencies in your location and pick the ones that can transform an idea into a flourishing company.
Alejandro Cremades is a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star, Barbara Corcoran and published by John Wiley & Sons, the book was named one of the best books for entrepreneurs. The book offers a step-by-step guide to today‘s way of raising money for entrepreneurs.
Most recently, Alejandro built and exited CoFoundersLab, which is one of the largest communities of founders online.
Prior to CoFoundersLab, Alejandro worked as a lawyer at King & Spalding, where he was involved in one of the biggest investment arbitration cases in history ($113 billion at stake).
Alejandro is an active speaker and has given guest lectures at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and NYU Stern School of Business.
Alejandro has been involved with the JOBS Act since its inception and was invited to the White House and the US House of Representatives to provide his stands on the new regulatory changes concerning fundraising online.