Scaling The Startup Accelerator Wall

Accelerators are like mini universities–you apply, get accepted, get your knowledge on and graduate a successful member of startup society. That’s the hope, anyway. By joining a startup accelerator, incubator, whatever your name of preference, you have access to resources, mentors and support to get your startup going or scale an existing one. It is an excellent way of transforming your idea into a viable product quicker and more efficiently.


But, just like Ivy League establishments, competition is fierce to gain a coveted spot in one of these startup-nurturing programs.


Here’s the lowdown on acceptance and expectations.



Accelerators 101

So, you’re looking at potential accelerator programs for your precious startup shining star. Let’s assume you don’t even know where to begin. Here are the basics:


  • Programs require applications with deadlines
  • Programs typically are 3 months and run 2-4 times per year
  • There are programs across the country, with a concentration in New York, Silicon Valley and Chicago
  • Some target startups focused on certain industries, but most are open to a number of fields.
  • Programs want to see that your business is viable and scalable and that your team has the ability to achieve this.


Tips on Acceptance

The top accelerator programs include TechStars and Y Combinator (The Harvard and Yale of accelerators if you will). Check out the top 15 accelerator programs here.



So, how do you get that all-important acceptance notice? First, you want to seriously consider putting together a team. It’s ok to be a solo founder, but accelerator programs usually favor a team effort.


Apply to more than one program, and reapply in the future. Just like college, you want to have a back-up plan. Even if you’re not a new startup, there are major benefits to applying anyway. Consider the location, program dates, reputation and take a look at the success of other startup graduates to get a good feel of where yours will fit in the most.


Things to Expect

Get ready for bootcamp—these three month programs are intensive; expect to move to the respective city, work super long hours and to be fully committed.


From other founders, to tech and business mentors, the people you meet in the program will become part of your professional (and perhaps personal) network for life. You want to keep this network close and strong so you are connected to the industry and have the support of people who “get it”.  Mentors have invaluable resources and connections, including VCs and angel investors that can help develop your startup baby beyond the program.


There is no fee involved with accelerator programs, though you are expected to give up equity in your company (typically 5-8 percent). In return, you receive seed funding around $25-30K to get started, as well as all the support goodies mentioned before.


Ok, so you don’t have to have a college degree to find success in the real world, but it certainly help. If you’re serious about growing and nurturing your startup, an accelerator program might be just the thing. I mean, it’s right there in the name—accelerate—move forward, faster. Upon graduation, the startup world will be your oyster.


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