An accelerator program is like a boot camp for early-stage ventures. They usually last anywhere from three to six months to help accelerate a startup, and most programs provide a small amount of seed capital. More importantly, an accelerator offers experienced entrepreneurs within the local community who help mentor new entrepreneurs, and gathers other resources that give ventures the fuel that they need to accelerate. Many accelerator programs provide their entrepreneurs with a curriculum focused on creating a viable business model.
The three resources I found most useful when participating in an accelerator program:
One of the main goals of an accelerator program is to build successful startups, with the hope of increasing the entrepreneurship within the local community. This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to take advantage of potential local customers and partnerships. For example, one of the reasons we were selected to participate in Velocity Indiana was on the basis of our target market: fraternity and sorority chapters. It just so happens that 40-50% of national Greek chapters are headquartered in Indianapolis, which was about an hour away from the office. We've joined other regional programs because of their local affiliations as well. We joined T Minus Six because it was affiliated with the University of South Carolina. It was a great opportunity to join a program that was hosted by a potential client. And recently, USC has agreed to partner with us and will be launching there in late August of this year.
One of the most valuable lessons we learned at Velocity Indiana was learning to talk to your customers. During the first two weeks, the program highly encouraged us to get out of the office and speak to our future clients, something we never did during our first two iterations of Greekpull. I would drive up to University of Kentucky and Louisville knocking on sororities' and fraternities' doors asking questions like, “What are the biggest problems you are dealing with in your chapter?”, “What are you currently using to try to solve this problem?”, “What would you like to see improve?” By understanding our customers' problems we were able to build a 500-dollar MVP website, and started generating revenue.
As young entrepreneurs, there are tons of questions you constantly have and don’t have an answer to. Like many entrepreneurs you learn by failing and falling on your face. The biggest foundation an accelerator program provides the entrepreneurs is mentors to help along the way. To this day I still speak with one of first mentors, the CEO of Affinity.IS Daniel Todd. He is always an amazing resource when it comes to any questions I have for raising money. In addition, I am still in contact with Ilya Pozin, the founder of Ciplex; I reach out to him when I need help on marketing rollout strategies or how to be cost-efficient when hiring new employees. Usually, they provide experts in all fields from accounting to product development to marketing. Having such resources allows you to accelerate your startup in a shorter period of time.