Startup Accelerators: What To Expect When You Are Accelerating
What two Co-Founders learnt from their experience of being part of Blackprint Booster’s accelerator programme.
No money and no friends; our life before an accelerator programme
Being a Co-Founder is hard enough. Being an English-only speaking Co-Founder in Germany is even harder. You have a great (you hope) idea and now need the money, network and time to turn it into a real business. This is where an accelerator comes in handy, as you will no longer have to work in a public library or spend far too much time in coffee shops to get your business going.
First of all, you should find the right kind of accelerator. Think sector-specific, not sector-agnostic. Yes, the agnostic ones usually have more money, but they don’t necessarily have the network, and this is more important than you realise. We were lucky enough to be introduced to our accelerator through a related startup (thank you Wohnungshelden!), but there are plenty of resources to take advantage of, such as F6S, Crunchbase and StartupBlink.
Now you just have to get in. This is where you will have to develop your idea (depending on your stage) and learn how to sell it. Applications can be difficult, and these will be followed by further calls, discussions and a final presentation of your idea to a panel. These steps are good practice, as they will prepare you for the later stages of your accelerator programme.
Workshops: laying the foundations and a bit of structure
An accelerator isn’t like an MBA. You have an intense 3 to 6 months to cram in workshops, networking opportunities and investor meetings, all while still building and refining your product. Workshops are therefore key as they help you define a core set of objectives that every startup should know and define, such as product / market fit, sales strategy and KPIs.
Market fit: If you’re pre-product, this can be difficult to gauge. However, it’s important, as you don’t want to spend time and money developing something that no one will use. Talk to customers early on and ask what they currently do, what annoys them most, and what they want. Then give it to them.
Sales strategy: With no sales, you have no business. In Mietwise’s case, our sales strategy changed early on. Define your sales strategy early, as it’s important to understand who your target audience is and what they will pay for your product. Also remember, cheap or free isn’t necessarily good.
KPIs: These can be difficult to determine, and change dependent on the business model and sector. We found using KPIs as a target useful, as they then become something to works towards, not only keep track of. Also, get in touch with Arndt Schwaiger, he has a pretty good strategy that works.
Network, network, network… and then network some more
If you’re in the right accelerator, they should have a great network. Although there are a number of impressive sector-agnostic accelerators out there (Techstars, Y Combinator, etc.), we learnt the more sector focused an accelerator is, the better. Think L’Atelier for FinTech and Blackprint for PropTech. Funding is nice, but customers are core to your business.
Introductions: When you’re in a certain sector and country, you realise very quickly how close-knit your community is. Introductions are important, and your accelerator can “open hearts and minds” very quickly. Always remember, your customers are part of this community too.
Name dropping: This irritates my Co-Founder beyond belief. However, I feel that it can work a treat when done properly. Yes, a little shameless I must admit, but when you mention ‘that person you know from your accelerator’, there is an instant connection and you’ve suddenly found common ground.
Events: They’re important, but don’t just attend any and all events, as this can get expensive and time-consuming. Also, have a clear sector and stage approach. For example, we only attend PropTech events and those relevant to Seed funding. See, Founder Institute and Startup Grind for local events.
And so it all ends, and starts, with Demo Day
The last 3 to 6 months haven’t been in vain. An accelerator programme is a crash course in business, designed to point you in the right direction once you graduate. It has provided you with the foundations (workshops) and introduced you to the people (networks) you need to know to develop your business further. And now it’s time for Demo Day.
Demo Day is an accelerator company’s graduation. However, you do it in a room full of investors in the hope that you raise that much-needed Seed round to take your business to the next level. For this, you must prepare, as Demo Day could in effect be the beginning or the end for your startup. Now it’s time to remember everything you’ve learnt and put it into action.
By the way, if you fancy popping along to our Demo Day, please feel free to register for it here. We look forward to presenting what we have managed to achieve over the last five months. You’ll also be able to meet our fellow batch 3 companies, Exquance and Stegimondo. Along with some of Blackprint’s previous batch companies; AllVR, RoomHero, VRnow & Wohnungshelden.
Yes, we even have an epilogue
As you might have guessed, this article is somewhat of a plug for us and our startup, Mietwise. Even so, we are two founders going through the (sometimes testing) steps of founding and running a new PropTech company in Germany. As such, we intend to share our experiences and knowledge in the hope that we can help others do the same.
The Mietwise Team,
Jonathan & Storm