For many small business owners and startups the idea of applying for admission to a business incubator or accelerator program can be quite appealing. Being accepted into an accelerator program gives you access to entrepreneurial support and services that would otherwise be hard to come by, with studies also showing that more than 80 percent of companies that successfully graduate from accelerators programs remain in business.
Accelerator programs all differ in their approach, but services you could expect to gain access to include:
- Outstanding networking opportunities
- Guidance on marketing
- Angel investors and venture capital
- Business mentors
- Assistance with financial management
However, you should always evaluate any program fully, looking at what is offered and what is expected in return. Any accelerator program is going to have conditions attached, but you have to decide whether the conditions are fair, and what impact they could have on your business. The following precautions should serve as a guideline of what you can do, and what you should avoid:
Do some research
Don’t only research the surface details of the program, go a little deeper; what they offer and provide access to should align with your actual needs. Speak to startups that have already been through the program, asking about their experience and what advice they might have for you.
Don’t make assumptions
Before you approach any accelerator program, you should have a very clear idea of what your business needs are, and what you would want to achieve from any program. When speaking to past ‘graduates’ you can ask whether any of them had similar needs, and whether they were met by the program. If one of your goals is additional funding, yet no previous graduates ever received investments because of the program, you can at least walk away before accepting any terms.
Understand your objectives
Accelerator programs are meant to benefit both parties, and during the application process you are being carefully assessed. This is when you need to also state exactly what your expectations are, what you hope to gain from the experience. If they don’t align with what the program can offer or deliver, both parties can avoid committing to what will ultimately turn into a very awkward and unrewarding experience.
Applying to an accelerator program should not be a hasty decision. Evaluate your needs, do the necessary research, and find the program that offers the most benefit to your startup.
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