Should You Join a Startup Accelerator?
Accelerators have now become an integral part of the startup ecosystem. First time founders can leverage on an accelerator network, on scaling up and rapidly accelerate the startup.
You should join an accelerator if
- You are looking for mentorship and feedback.
- You enjoy intense environment and competition.
- You know your idea is a real business.
- You like the accelerator team and your future manager.
- You understand the offer terms.
The right accelerator for your startup depends on many and varied factors — but do extensive diligence to make sure your programme meets your expectations.
After looking at a number of attributes, I found out about Startupbootcamp Fintech (SBC), the leading global fintech accelerator. However, I have already missed the deadline. I decided to send an email to Fiona (former COO of SBC).
Fiona replied to me within an hour. I quickly prepared my pitch deck for PolicyPal the next day and Steven (MD of SBC) invited me down for a meeting on the following day.
Over 450 startups applied and SBC selected top 20 startups for their selection days.
3 days selection programme — Deep dive workshops, alumni lunch, psychology tests, funding support and pitches. PolicyPal is in top 10 of SBC cohort. Can’t be more thankful for this opportunity.
It’s not rocket science. With just a little bit of preparation you should be able to rise above the noise and significantly improve your chances of getting on the shortlist. Any startups looking to apply for accelerator, here’s my tips -
- Describe what your startup does and why it’s unique.
- Be concise and opt for simple descriptions with the use simple words, drop the jargons, because a main reason why you get declined is that the interviewer didn’t understand your startup.
- Show why you are different and why your team will succeed.
- Your answers need to be concise and clear.
3 months on, PolicyPal grew from an idea to MVP, with 500 users during Demo day.
Why did we choose SBC instead of other accelerators? SBC is a global accelerator, has the best network, the best mentors, the best advice to give you because they see the most fintech companies, and they are very strong at selecting them.
Figuring out what’s most important as a founder. One of the hardest things about being a first-time founder is that you have no idea what will be valuable and what will be a waste of time. Should you go to this pitch? Should you try to look into another area? You know you can’t do everything, but you also worry about missing a big opportunity.
The mentors at SBC would advise you to drop all of the unimportant things and focus on building product that your customers want, driving growth and/or revenue. Weekly check-ins make sure that you keep your eye on what’s important and don’t get lost. The first thing they ask you to do is launch, in case you have not done that yet. SBC teaches you not to want your feature or product to be perfect before shipping. Ship today, and make it better or nicer over time.
As soon as it is live you will have more information and data on what the real problems are. The team of SBC is really good at helping you to answer these questions, both during and after the 3 month programme.
Half a year after demo day, PolicyPal has grown from 3 to 11-person team with over 8,000 users today (thanks to the wonderful team). Being the only female founder in SBC 2016 cohort, I am extremely thankful that SBC is leading the example of accepting more female founders into startups/ accelerator programs. I think my experience would be extremely different and more challenging if I had not been able to connect with so many founders and mentors in the network.
The challenges you overcome during the programme, the things you learn about yourself, the value you create, the people you get to know give you a sense of freedom, play and empowerment. You get to work with amazing people who, like you, love building huge, amazing things. How incredible is that?! It is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. With that said you definitely don’t need to participate in an accelerator to build a successful company.