While we know there is no one single entrepreneurship personality, many entrepreneurs start their own companies to get out of the grind of daily structure. But when it's time to commit to an accelerator, they find themselves falling into a strict routine, tasks with deadlines, and personal accountability.
As I wrote in a previous post, accelerators are known for putting infrastructure around something so traditionally unstructured. At Techstars, founders will meet 50-100 mentors, report weekly on KPI progress, send a weekly update to mentors and investors, pitch practice, and so on.
One paper I recently read explains that while there is little evidence explaining how exactly accelerators affect startups, there is one critical benefit of an accelerator program: “structured accountability.”
“Structured accountability ‘induces entrepreneurs to articulate and reflect about specific strategic tasks, an increase in self-efficacy, and knowhow about building a startup. We find no support for causal effects of basic services of cash and co-working space.'”
Accelerators can help founders do something we often have no time to do — deep reflection. Surprisingly, that sort of contemplative time can only be found in structure. Through the process of sending out weekly updates to a captive audience, meeting with 75-100 mentors and investors pitching and iterating all of the time builds greater self-efficacy around a founder’s company, it can cause a founder to pause and think.
There are other reasons why accelerators help founders develop structured accountability. They require founders to achieve milestones faster through intensive learning, develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem around the accelerator, and more.
Another Brookings article asked one of our own founders, Brad Feld, why accelerators are so valuable, and different from other entrepreneurship support and early stage investors.
“He likened the accelerator experience to immersive education, where a period of intense, focused attention provides company founders an opportunity to learn at a rapid pace. Learning-by-doing is vital to the process of scaling ventures, and the point of accelerators, suggests Feld and others, is to accelerate that process.”
Feld’s philosophy on why accelerators can work is validated by the findings around structured accountability.
When companies make the decision to join an accelerator, they’re certainly gaining a lot of important financial and network resources. But, they’re also gaining a critical training on teaching their teams how to create good work habits. And, while we hope all of our teams have really good work habits, we know that there’s always room to improve.
The key is to learn to work like someone’s watching, even when no one is.
Read more about accelerators at Tech.Co