20 Questions about Tacklebox Accelerator Asked & Answered
Tacklebox Accelerator is a 5-week “pre-accelerator accelerator.” Unlike virtually all other incubators / accelerators, we encourage you to have a full-time job during this program. We meet nights and weekends and focus on building a foundation for your startup — a deep understanding of problem, customer, market, competition, team, funding, and scale. We use this to build a prototype and test assumptions with real customers. Finally, we teach you how to pitch what you’ve built (and get you in front of the right people to hear that pitch).
As with any new program, you should have a lot of questions. Plus, 5 weeks and $2,000 is nothing to sneeze at. I tried to think of and answer all the tough ones I’d ask if I were in your shoes. If I missed any, jump over to the Slack channel to ask specific questions. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an invite.
- What will I get out of this?
The most important question. Right off the bat, you should know that this might not work. Your idea, this accelerator, the job you’re currently working at — all of it. And that’s ok. We obviously can’t guarantee that your product will become a wild success that makes you a millionaire — so what will you definitely get out of this?
- Process & Structure: We’ll focus on repeatable processes. We’ll teach you how to systematically whittle an idea into a small, focused initial product people love — one that can scale to more customers and broader features. One with a defined customer base you understand better than anyone. We’ll focus on empathetic user experience, design, and customer acquisition. We’ll structure the days and weeks to keep you on track and moving meaningfully forward each day. Finally, we’ll teach you how to pitch an idea to investors and new team members, and get you in front of them. In short, we teach you to fish. You’ll be able to apply these skills to startups down the road or whatever job you wind up doing.
- Team: We’ll certainly help you build out your team. But you’ll also immediately multiply your network instantly through the other startups in the batch. We select startups and founders based on fit, and the Tacklebox network will continue to help you long after you’ve left the accelerator. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely game. We try to make it a team sport.
- Access: It’s tough to meet the people who will help you move your startup forward — mentors, other founders, advisors— when you have a full-time job. We’ll bring in speakers each week, and set you up with targeted mentors and advisors.
- Funding & Legal: We’ll guide you through legal formation, setting you up for the right type of fundraise (if needed). It’s boring, but it’s important.
- Inspiration: You’ll discover what’s possible for you and your idea. We’ll only select your company if we’re as geeked up about it as you are — sometimes working with someone else passionate about what you’re up to is the kick in the ass you need.
- Brian (me): The only thing you can control in life is effort. Tacklebox Accelerator is a bet on myself — a bet that I can get every startup that comes through the process meaningfully closer to their goals. If that doesn’t happen, the accelerator won’t last. I want it to last. You’ll get every ounce of my effort.
- Who is this for?
People with full-time jobs who are working on a startup idea on the side. These people want this startup idea to become their full-time gig. This idea can be a physical product, web/mobile product, service-based product, or B2B product. The key is that you are a domain expert in whatever market your product will live.
You should believe that the success of your product is inevitable — either you’ll build it or someone else will.
- How far along should my startup be?
The application will help you understand if you’re ready, but ideally you will have thought about the idea extensively, spoken with users, envisioned your product, and hit some sort of wall you’re having trouble breaking through. Maybe you’ve got an early version of a product built, maybe you’ve got an MVP out, maybe you’re selling something through a Squarespace site. But you don’t need a complete team and you don’t need a live product to be accepted.
Most importantly, you should be able to clearly demonstrate that there is a need for your product, and that you’re the person to build the product that fills that need. How you do that is up to you.
- What happens at the end?
Lots of accelerators and incubators have Demo Days. These are an opportunity for startups to show investors the progress they’ve made during the program.
Our goals are a bit different. You may not be ready for funding. You may be more interested in getting a technical co-founder, making your first sale, or partnering with a university. We’ll pick a milestone for each startup and work towards it for that final day.
When you leave the program, you’ll have a clear roadmap to reach the next set of milestones specific to you. And you’ll have the support of everyone involved in the program going forward. The end of the program is simply the end of us meeting a few times a week formally. The support will continue, and we’ll push towards the designated milestones.
- Who’s Brian?
Brian is a serial entrepreneur focused on a specific problem — helping smart, driven people with full-time jobs and unique-to-them ideas (ex: a lawyer with 12 years of experience with a startup idea that will drastically improve a legal process that only he/she can identify) build their startups.
Brian is a 3x founder who has also worked with numerous venture-backed startups and design/development shops, taught entrepreneurship and strategy at General Assembly, led innovation seminars at places like GE, Staples, and FCB, and done videos about entrepreneurship with places like Google. He loves to write about startups. He’s also a college basketball nut and triathlete.
Most importantly, he’s a guy people generally say nice things about:
“Brian understands how to distill big ideas into actionable products — he’s got a 6th sense for understanding what people want. Any early stage startup that works with him will be miles ahead of where they would be working on their idea alone. Every interaction (consultation?) I’ve had with Brian has left me with actionable insights that helped me take my product from the ideation stage to the market and acquiring users. Brian’s advice and guidance allowed me to bring my product to market while avoiding unforeseen obstacles and acquire users much faster than I could have done alone.” — Jonathan Stidd, founder Lost & Found
“I’m so grateful that Brian came along when he did! Before, I was greatly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks that I had to complete as a solo founder. However, Brian provided me and my budding company the structure, organization, and content it needs. The best part, Brian is easy to contact and unbelievably helpful. I feel like he’s a part of my team.” — Suzanna Sinatra, founder Project Arctic
“The high quality content and hands on guidance from Brian pushed us to get out of the building and validate our thesis directly with customers. Brian is the real deal, and his passion for startups is contagious.” — Michael Thompson, Founder Discovershare
- Do I need a complete team — specifically, do I need someone on the team that knows how to code?
Nope. We’ll prototype your project using minimal tech.
It’s very unlikely you’ll come to the program with a complete team. We’ll focus on building out your team over the course of the accelerator.
- How many times has this accelerator been run?
This is the first time — you will be class #001. We’ve run through a similar process with startups in the past in a consultative capacity, but never in a group atmosphere and never with a “formal” structure. This is an experiment, albeit one with significant validation. We’re running it in August because that’s typically when businesses are a bit slower and there will be ample time to work outside (and inside, we won’t tell) the office.
- Is this just for 20-somethings?
Absolutely not. We are looking for deep domain knowledge and the unique understanding of a customer base. That can come at any age.
- What if my job is unpredictable and I can’t commit to nightly sessions?
We’ll try to be as flexible as possible, but it is really important that you show up twice a week during the week and we meet personally on weekends. I understand that some of these weekend meetings may be over Skype — that’s not ideal but ok. But during the week I need to see you at least 2x. We really believe in average speed at Tacklebox — especially when your startup isn’t your full-time job, you need to show up and be accountable every single day. If you can’t commit, unfortunately it doesn’t make sense to apply.
- What if I fall behind?
It’s my job to make sure that you don’t. Further, there isn’t a specific amount of work that everyone does. It’s tailored to your startup — we work on the tasks that will have the greatest effect, the 80/20 rule stuff. It’ll be very rare that you’re doing the same exact thing as anyone else, so “falling behind” is relative.
- Should I still apply if I’m building a physical product?
Yes, absolutely. We love those and have great mentors / advisors for them.
- I’ve been working on my startup for a while… is this still good for me?
If you’re stuck, yes. We start with the fundamental pieces of the problem you’re solving and the customer you’re solving it for. This is often an eye-opener, especially to those that have been banging their head against the wall for months.
We’ll take a mix of people who recently started working on their idea and people that have been working for a while but have hit a serious roadblock.
- What if I get accepted, enroll, but the Tacklebox Accelerator isn’t a good fit?
I’d never hold you or your money hostage. If the program isn’t working for whatever reason, you’re entitled to a full refund.
- How much time will I need to commit each week?
There will be ~7 “scheduled” hours per week, 6 on site as a group and 1 hour of one-on-one time with Brian. However, you’re welcome to book as much time with Brian each week as you’d like. Additionally, you should be at least matching outside of the program what you do inside.
Ideally, I’d say 20+ hours a week. That’s tough — it’s a lot of time. Startups are tough.
- Do I need to live in NYC?
Yep. But if all goes well, we’ll run these in different cities. Email me (email@example.com) and let me know what city you want us to come to next.
- What if I have a vacation planned / some other commitment?
Since the 5-week period is such a short amount of time, it’ll be tough for this to work. Feel free to reach out and discuss individual cases — there may be something we can work out.
- What if I can’t afford $2,000?
Both full and partial scholarships are available. Mark the scholarship option you’d like to take advantage of on the application.
- Who are the mentors?
The list of consistent speakers/mentors will be up on the website soon. However, the most important mentors and advisors will be targeted to the startups we accept. We’ll figure out what you need and find a way to get you in front of the people who can help the most.
- “I’d love to, but I don’t have time for this”
Not really a question, but something I hear a lot of. And yes, you do. At the end of the day today, make a list of everything you did and how long it took. 20 hours / week is about 2 hours / day on weekdays (on average), and 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday. If you wake up an hour early and cut out the hour of TV most of us watch at night, then use Saturday morning and Sunday evening, you’re there. I guarantee you in 5 weeks you’ll be happier that you missed 25 hours of sleep, a few hours of nightly television, and 5 Saturday mornings.