So you’ve started your company, talked to way too many strangers to validate your idea, and have gone to work building your prototype. But what’s next?
The path to IPO is long with many forks in the road. If you’re a B2B company, how do you really get that sales process started and a pilot out? How do you even price a SaaS program? If you’re B2C you know you need millions of app downloads- but how can you get noticed in a crowded app marketplace? And if you’re hardware… good luck navigating crowdfunding, manufacturing, and distribution!
Most companies realize that in order to scale their company and really grow, as well as attract investment, they need mentorship, office space, and just a wee bit of startup cash. Startup accelerators are typically 3 month programs designed to accelerate your growth with workshops, coaching, office space, and a vast network of partners that you can rely on. The programs usually provide a small portion of funding designed to tide your team over for the duration of the program and culminate in a Demo Day, where you pitch to a room full of investors and press.
Here is a checklist to make sure the time is right for you.
Validated Idea + Market
Many people will tell you that the idea isn’t that important, but the problem you’re solving. This is great advice when you are just starting your company, because if you continue to try to solve for the problem you will eventually find the right idea that does just that. The thing is, by the time you get to an accelerator, the idea IS very important. Don’t only validate your idea, but also your target customer and market. If you’ve got a great arrow but no target, you really can’t aim.
A Team of Hustlers
People are fond of saying that every startup needs a hustler, hacker, and hipster, which is Silicon Valley speak for sales, development, and design. While it’s true that those areas typically have to be covered, we would say that absolutely every team member needs to have a “hustler” personality. Hustle is the only way you can achieve a year of growth in three months, and it needs to be reflected in everyone. Everyone on the team needs to talk to customers, to work around the clock, and participate in product meetings on where the product is going and what features it needs to include. A team where the CEO hands down decisions to all other members may work as a large corp, but not as an agile startup.
Be Ready to Commit
Make sure that you’re ready for your life to turn upside down. An accelerator is a big commitment- often you will have to relocate to its location, sometimes on another continent, and handle the challenges of a new apartment and city along with everything else. If you aren’t ready to quit your corporate job and make this startup the priority, that’s a sign. You also need to be ready to leave your ego by the door. The best advice you will get is when a mentor rips a certain section of your business plan apart ruthlessly- make sure you can take that criticism with a smile and have the fortitude to implement changes the same night. Be ready to change virtually anything about your business- agility is one of the hardest and most essential lessons a founder can learn.
To review, we've included a great checklist we found from Startup Bootcamp:
Let’s do the test!
1. Awesome product? - Check
2. Expected time to market less than a year? - Check
3. Awesome team? - Check
4. Wrote everyone I’ll be gone for a while - Check
5. Why did I pick this idea to work on? - Work on that answer
6. There are plenty of people who need what I’m making? - Check
7. Left ego at the door - Almost there
Scenario 1: Checked less than 4 points? Then we recommend you try to nail a few more of those first.
Scenario 2: All checked? Congratulations! You’re all set up to join an accelerator.