3 Strategies to Make the Most of an Accelerator Program

Accelerators are fixed-term programs that intake cohorts of start-ups and early-stage companies. They help you to validate your idea and business model while affording access to a network of investors, customers, and potential collaborators.

If you choose to join an accelerator program, you’ll also be provided with mentorship opportunities, office space, and the chance to fine-tune your technology. Most accelerators provide seed funding in exchange for equity.

However, it’s not easy to be accepted into one of these programs. In fact, acceptance rates are notoriously low, with some of the most prestigious accelerators, such as Y Combinator and TechStars, admitting only the top 1-3% of startups.

This means that if you get accepted into an acceleration program, it’s paramount that you and your team make the most of this business opportunity. Keep reading to learn what best practices will help increase your chances of success as part of one of these programs.

Establish Clear Goals and Metrics

When setting goals for your company, it’s key to prioritize them in a way that is both measurable and actionable. This ensures that both your employees and leadership team are aligned and oriented in the same direction.

One of the most effective ways tech start-ups can do this is through the use of OKRs. This acronym stands for “Objectives and Key Results”, and it involves defining overarching goals with time-bound metrics in order to achieve them.

An example of a well-defined OKR is listed below:

Objective: increase customer satisfaction

  • Key result 1: collect feedback from 25 customers per month
  • Key result 2: improve customer retention by 10%
  • Key result 3: boost Net Promoter score (NPS) to 9.0

Network as Much as possible

One of the most beneficial parts of joining an acceleration program is the network of contacts that can be accessed. Accelerators will connect you with the initial customers and backers that are essential in getting your business off the ground.

It’s crucial that you develop meaningful personal relationships with your mentors and any investors or corporate sponsors you cross paths with during your program. However, don’t prioritize raising money over maximizing customer traction. The first customers you obtain will be vital in understanding what you need to achieve to make your company investment-ready.

As part of an acceleration program, you’ll also be able to connect with alumni from past cohorts. These will be great sources of knowledge as they’ll have experienced many of the challenges similar to those your company will be facing. The same goes for other companies in your class, where you may find mutually beneficial partnerships or learning opportunities.

Choose the Right Program

Applying to an accelerator that is the right fit for your company is key in getting the most value out of the program. This might sound obvious, but many founders tend to simply apply to the top-ranked accelerators, without putting as much emphasis on the different value each one offers.

Depending on whether you are looking for help in developing your technology, validating your business model, or penetrating a new industry, different programs will be a better choice for you.
You’ll also need to choose an accelerator that is within the same industry or field as you.

This decision can differ based on the stage your company is in. For example, if you’re building an AI-based solution that is not yet ready to market, it might be recommended to join an acceleration program specialized in artificial intelligence to help build your technology.

On the other hand, if your product is already developed sufficiently to find your first clients, it could be more beneficial to find an accelerator specialized in your target market. While your product is based on AI, it could be designed for the transport industry, so an acceleration program specialized in transport could be the best choice.