This time last year investUP made the BIG step of applying for the inaugural Startupbootcamp FinTech accelerator. Whilst we were pretty knowledgeable about accelerators, we had no idea what it would actually entail. You can read the PR, the forums or even this blog, but the truth is until you actually get a place on an accelerator nothing can really describe and prepare you adequately. BUT I will endeavour to answer some of the many questions we as a team still face today such as, ‘what was it like’ and ‘what did you learn’?
Accelerators are all about timing. Join too early and you won't have a product to take to investors at the end of it. Join too late and you’ll be focused on sales, missing the chance for the accelerator to have a notable impact on your business. You want to be building exciting tech, learning, making great contacts and networking! For investUP the timing was perfect.
An accelerator is a bit like a Hydra (a multi-headed creature). It is YOU, the startup, who has to work out what you want to gain, and then focus on that. Don’t forget, if you get onto an accelerator, each week represents roughly 8% of the time you have there and you still need to maintain your business whilst learning, networking, socialising and selling. Your life for the three months will be dedicated to the accelerator and you need to be prepared to commit fully.
There are a lot of meetings and events that you simply need to go to and avoiding them could cost you. There are tons of smart people out there, and we are grateful that we met them. A product you've nurtured and dedicated your life to for the last three years means you will get listened to, and you'll be given advice on how to do things differently. Don't ignore this; it is invaluable to have insight from successful people, there are more than a few hidden gems out there, so listen, adapt and sell...
1Time speeds up - it really does!
2Demo day is a ***** - suck it up
3Keep it simple – your business model, product, messaging
4Listen, assess and evolve (but also know your own company)
5Validate, validate, validate
6Learn to delegate – meetings are best when they are a cosy few
7Set weekly targets
8Emails breed emails –you are startups, not journalists
9Mentors can be excellent –but you need to kiss a few frogs to find them
10The ‘lean start up’ rules – read it
11This is not a game - you need to play to win, second chances are rare
It's pretty clear when a company enters an accelerator that objectives are key. Focus, learn and validate. There really is no free pass. Accelerators are an invaluable part of the startup scene for good reason, in the three months we were at Startupbootcamp FinTech we learnt more than we could even imagine. We learnt to focus, to build, grow and ultimately be a better team. A year later and it all seems like a distant memory. Would I have changed anything? No. We learnt what we needed to, and boy did we learn lot. If you have the opportunity to join an accelerator program, take it, it worked for UP.As read on Startupbootcamp.