Getting into a startup accelerator is an opportunity which you certainly don’t want to waste.
But how do you make the most out of the experience?
Ideally, you want to get advice beforehand from both sides of the table.
From those who have successfully graduated from programmes and from those who have managed accelerators, and seen first-hand the mistakes many startups have made.
Here are 3 top tips from Alex Iskold, the Managing Director of Techstars in NYC and AJ Agrawal, CEO of Alumnify, who graduated from 500 Startups.
1. Focus on Growth & Revenue
Yes, you receive funding when you get accepted into Betatron, but it won’t last long.
The most important thing you can do to help your financing worries is to find a product that resonates with your customers/users and generates revenue/growth.
The whole point of acceleration during the programme is not to accelerate your financing.
What gets accelerated is your business, which in turn, leads to the acceleration of your financing.
If you already have some initial product-market fit, then your goal is to grow as much as you possibly can during the program. You set up KPIs (key performance indicators or metrics) and work hard to drive them up.
Ideally, your number one metric should be monthly recurring revenue (MRR). That would make your company the most attractive to prospective investors.
But, if that’s not possible, then growth in beta customers and/or users is another good metric.
Basically, if you are not growing during the programme, it means that there is no demand for your product, and in turn, it means there is no product market fit (PMF), and that in turn signals to investors that you don’t have proof that your business will work.
2. Look for Shortcuts
This is a simple tactic for going quickly, which is especially important during an accelerator programme.
Try to always ask “how can something be done faster?”
Look for a shortcut.
Do you really need to build the app to test the market or could you test it using a text message?
Do you really need to have the full database in place or can you just enter a few rows?
Do you really need to build the product before you get your first customers? Why not sign them up in advance, sell them on the concept?
Shortcut mentality can help you go faster during the programme.
Always ask -- is what I am doing simple? Can I do this faster? Am I making it too complicated? Am I doing more than I need to do?
More often than not, you can find a simpler, better and faster solution to test a hypothesis, to get to a customer, and to validate the market.
Since you are on the clock during the program, doing the least amount possible for maximum results is what makes sense.
Note that in no way am I advocating that you compromise the long term quality of your product.
Quality is absolutely important, but if your MVP is successful and sticky, you will get funding and the chance to refine it and make your product better.
3. Work Backwards From Your Goal
Most companies join accelerators to catalyze the funding, grow, and build their network.
Whatever your goals are, work backwards from the goals.
Set the goals (or even better just 1 goal) for the entire program, then for each month, each week, and every day.
Recognize that unless you work backwards from the goals, you may not achieve them.
There is a lot going on in accelerator programmes, so there can be a lot of noise and distractions.
To stay the course and avoid being pulled into different directions and wasting time, decide on the goals and make them your only focus.