Accelerators can put startups on a fast track towards growth-stage success, but founders shouldn’t be tempted to apply to a program simply on the basis of acceptance chances. Geography, funding, office space, and mentorship availability are all important, and there are still other factors to keep in mind.
We asked interviewees during our launch week about what’s most crucial for startup founders considering accelerators.
“It is very important to get the right accelerator based on the product that you have,” says Amir Azhari, President and COO of AOMS Technologies, a startup focused on fibre optic sensors for extreme environments such as oil and natural gas wells. The first accelerator he tried, which focused on software and app development, wasn’t meeting his needs.
Azhari joined the RIC Centre, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, which he says worked better because of its manufacturing focus.“[They] introduced us to different potential investors who might be interested in our technology,” he says.
Sonia Strimban, Manager of Venture Operations at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, adds that accelerators help avoid isolation. “There’s a compounding network effect. If you’re not part, you’re missing out in introductions and meetings with potential investors. You have to be part of the community to receive the exponential effects of the momentum.”
Matt Roberts, associate director at the Business Development Bank of Canada’s IT Venture Fund, agrees that accelerators provide an important role, particularly with filling missing skills in your initial team. “They’re more often than not providing advice and feedback to allow founders to do some of that early sales and marketing themselves, or giving them advice and connections to make the first hires they need.”
But perhaps the best value you can get out of an accelerator is working with those already established. According to Strimban: “Founders like to learn from each other. There’s an element of trust they have with other entrepreneurs… It’s invaluable knowledge that will save you so much time and effort if you can benefit from the experience of others.”