You’ve got a great startup idea. You’ve done the background research, formed a team (or are in the process of it), starting talking to potential customers and perhaps even started building an MVP.
Joining an accelerator can be a natural next step up. They can give you the time and space to go from a bedroom business to a fully fledged startup with the investment, knowledge and networks to grow. However, as the number of accelerators has skyrocketed, so have their acceptance rates, usually sitting at just 1 – 5% acceptance rate for the sought after programmes. You normally have to go through a fairly rigorous selection process, so you want to apply when your chances of getting a place are at their best.
This is a two way thing as well; if you join a programme when you’re too early stage, you won’t be able to immediately act on the advice you’re getting, so it won’t be as effective.
How do you know if you startup is ready for an accelerator?
Look out for these 5 signs:
1. You have a team of (more or less) equal equity share co-founders (yes, it’s more than just you), with a diverse set of skills in that team to make your vision a reality. This is your full-time commitment.
2. You can clearly identify the problem you’re solving, the market you’re targeting, and why you’re different from the competition. You won’t struggle to answer questions about this in any way.
3. You have traction, of some kind. It might be emails from a launch page, beta testers or small amount of revenue. Whatever it is, it shows initial validation and shows that you’re the kind of team who want to build a product people really want.
4. You’re getting ready to scale – you’ve proved certain points, but now you need to go bigger, and investment is well in your plans for the next few months.
5. You are ready for an intensive burst of focus on your business, ready to take any feedback that comes your way and everyone in the team feels the same.
I’m not ready! What can I do about it?
- Ask a friendly accelerator. Most accelerator teams are happy to talk about all things startups, and will generally give you an honest answer as to whether you’re ready, as well as feedback and resources on how to get ready.
- Go on a pre-accelerator. Pre-accelerators are popping up a lot now, and can be great as a standalone boost to your business, or as a launchpad into a well regarded accelerator. Going on a pre-accelerator shows an accelerator that you’re serious about your startup, and if it’s from a reputable company, it’ll give you added kudos.
- Identify your weaknesses & turn them around. Use the list above to see what you’re weak on and make concerted efforts to improve that area. Don’t have a full team? Get networking and use startup job boards to meet potential co-founders. No traction yet? Get your product ‘out of the building’ and show what you have to potential customers and see what you learn. Not sure what to do next? Check out our startups reading list.
Our next Pre-accelerator takes place from 24th – 28th November 2014 at FabLabs London. We’ve got an early-bird rate of £399 per startup open till Thursday 29th October, so get your application in soon!