Accelerators

Accelerators are incubators on steroids.

These programs recruit scalable companies that have shown early promise. They coordinate dramatic transformation within a compact timeline.They are like early-stage investment firms, as they provide seed funding in exchange for equity. Accelerators hedge bets by connecting entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, customers, investors, and community allies.

The rise of the accelerator model is interesting. Accelerators help entrepreneurs build stronger companies, but they need money to function. How do they support the financial investments in each company? What about staff salaries, community events, and all the resources they provide? There’s usually an initial fund raised to start these programs. Some accelerators also have financial infusions from sponsoring organizations. With this financial foundation in place, accelerators then depend on the performance of the companies in their portfolio. When a portfolio company is acquired or exits, the accelerator’s equity converts to cash or ownership options in more successful businesses.

As an accelerator’s portfolio performs, its reach widens and the program prospers. This motivates program directors to pick the right companies. It also gives founders the confidence that the experience is built for them to succeed. These complementary relationships are how accelerators make a lasting impact in less time.

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Accelerators vs. Venture Studios vs. Incubators

For entrepreneurs, so much potential makes it easy to fall in love with the idea of being an accelerator-backed company. As business owners consider applying to accelerators, it’s important to understand the terms. When startup accelerators first started in 2005, they were industry agnostic. As this collaboration-based investment strategy has evolved, industry-specific accelerators have also emerged. This means there are more accelerators than ever and not all of them will be the right fit. The educational, networked, and cultural experiences matter. Entrepreneurs must vet accelerators like they would other equity investors. Do terms of the accelerator align with the long-term goals of your company? Will the implied results outweigh an intense time commitment? Even if it’s temporary, will the team be required to relocate? How deep is the network of fellow founders who have worked through the accelerator? Do portfolio companies stay connected? If so, how does that connected landscape support your work beyond the program?

The accelerator experience can be life changing for a startup. Based on a deep understanding of each company, these action-packed programs #GiveFirst and help build on what’s working. They also quickly identify areas for improvement. This empathetic support combined with a shared mission to grow allows accelerators and their portfolio companies to be more successful as everyone collectively builds to go big.

Feedback is Data

Customer discovery paves the path to profitability.

This really is the work for entrepreneurs starting a new business. Customer discovery requires curiosity, patience, humility, hard work, thick skin, an interest in being wrong, discernment, and a willingness to adapt.

For many entrepreneurs, impartial feedback can be scary. Customer discovery puts our ideas on the hook and conversations with strangers may contradict past assumptions, but that’s the point! Interacting with the market you seek to serve allows us to learn from “no” in a way that gets us to “yes.” As you collaborate with those who criticize what you’re building, learn why naysayers disagree with your hypotheses. Be humble and make your concepts more compelling to change their minds.

Collecting such real-world data is human and intellectual capital that will attract more network and financial capital. The more you learn from others, the more you’ll recognize—and be able to meet—true demand. This can be a protracted process, which can make it feel unnecessary, but honest feedback will strengthen your value proposition and allow you to eventually go further in the right direction.

When learning from the perspective of others, remember that feedback is only data. This data should be collected, organized, and examined like a scientist. Inference is more effective with more data, so the more feedback you have, the easier it can be to make decisions.

As you translate feedback into action, you must also find your own way. Even with good intent, people who provide you feedback are doing so based on their own experiences. The experience of others is based on the past and is unlikely to harmonize with your exact situation. There are many ways to build your business, so perpetually gather as much feedback as possible and use diversified data to guide your company toward product-market fit.

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My community visit with 1MC Joplin was sweet, this feature article was a neat chance to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, I’m gathering my own feedback by presenting Pour Over Publishing at 1 Million Cups Des Moines, and the much anticipated YDNTB audiobook is almost done!