How do startup accelerators attract the best startups?

Getting Started

By providing the best Accelerator stage experience for startups.

Consider the question from the perspective of a startup, literally; think of an accelerator as a startup.

How does a startup attract customers and investors?

What I can’t stand about working within the startup community is that most Accelerator programs don’t eat their own dogfood, practice what they preach, or whatever turn of the phrase you prefer 😉

Most accelerators haven’t done hundreds of customer validation interviews. Most incubators are just offering coworking space and a network of mentors. Most programs aren’t constantly testing and optimizing. Most programs don’t share publicly their traction – in any meaningful way – sure, they’ll give platitudes about how big their network or how many mentors they have… that’s like a startup saying they have fans.

If you hope to attract the best customers, what do you need to do?

First note that many (too many) such programs are really just businesses selling services, using startup founders as their product, to promote their brand while leveraging the word “accelerator.”

So, are they actually working for startups or are you, the startup, working for them?

They have to providing the best product or service to their customers – they have to be innovative and marketing (not promoting, marketing) to distinguish their unique value to their customers: startups.

If startups are working for the Accelerator so they can promote their brand, showcase the founders/Directors, and make more money of office space, we’re idiots. Seriously. What they hell are we doing supporting programs that claim to be Accelerators for Startups but that are really just work spaces with benefits?

What is Most Valuable in a Startup Accelerator? What are those unique values that they would provide that would draw greater startups to them?

  • Dedicated team space in an environment with industry peers. Access to the other pertinent resources: conference room, teleconferencing, places for calls
  • Directly booked meetings with VCs and Angels with a brief provided by the accelerator so that the meetings aren’t cold starts1
  • Advisors more than mentors – People who are executives in companies that are pertinent; former founders and CEOs of related companies. Mentors teach; ideal for incubators. It’s time to go, need that advice and connections.
  • Set up of industry or regionally relevant stories with the press wherein the startup or team is pertinent
  • Meaningful corporate connections and partnerships – less so the typical startup resources many companies make available through every program
  • Low/No cost access to the other Human Resources the startup might not yet need full time: Legal, Accounting, CFO
  • Valid and experienced criticism with advice and direction
  • Unlimited scope networks. Advisors, investors, and partners ideal for my venture are almost certainly NOT within the close circle of the Accelerator. Google and LinkedIn are our friends – you CAN find and meet them on your own – the Accelerator should be making the right connections where ever they might be.

Famed economist Peter Drucker once noted that the aim of Marketing is to make Sales superfluous. So in the context of your question, the Accelerator needs to be providing those distinct values to the type of startup they hope to serve, so as to draw the startups – and not need to sell nor promote to them.

Most are not doing that. Most do not do that. Most are just promoting their brand and fans as a way to sell something to startups. Learn from those – they’re not attracting the best startups, they’re attracting the founders who want to be part of that while the “best” know that what they need, and are seeking, are the programs delivering meaningful results to their business.

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