October 26, 2015
This past summer I was a member of 500 Startups, one of the top accelerator programs in the world. For those who aren’t familiar with 500 Startups or other accelerators (like Y Combinator or Tech Stars,) it’s helpful to understand how these organizations function to fund Silicon Valley startups and technology innovation across the globe.
Think of a venture capitalist. A company gives the venture capitalist equity in the form of convertible notes or shares, and in return the VC gives the company cash. An accelerator functions in a similar fashion, yet with more variables to trade off.
With most accelerators, the company will give the accelerator equity, and in return the accelerator provides the company with cash, a working space, mentorship, a community of other startups, a network of entrepreneurs, and opportunities to pitch to investors.
Every year, thousands of eager entrepreneurs get accepted into accelerator programs, which usually last a few months. However, even with the help they receive from the accelerator, a significant majority of these startups still fail. By taking advantage of the resources and opportunities of accelerator programs, startups can increase their chance of success in the long run. Here are five ways you can take advantage of your accelerator program to maximize your chances of long term success:
1. Make friends
The other entrepreneurs who work beside you – these are some of the best friends and best connections you could ever have. These are people who think like you, and whose ideas are innovative enough to place them alongside you in the accelerator. These people can someday be your employees, employers, and introduce you to companies and investors.
2. Be engaged
Take full advantage of the meetings, events, and life at the accelerator. You might just meet your newest developer, or discover an idea that changes your business.
When your cohorts and mentors talk, close your mouth and listen. They have either been in your shoes or are currently in your shoes. There is no definite road to your success; you need to always keep your ears open for advice and guidance.
4. Respect your mentor
Utilize your mentor as best you can. Listen to everything they say, challenge them, and ask them as many questions as you can. After all, they invested in you; their goal is in line with yours. Plus, they’ve been through it all before.
5. Use their network
Your accelerator has a first or second connection to thousands of successful entrepreneurs and investors. Dig into this network for tools to grow your company.
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