Maximising the accelerator experience— a how-to guide from our alumni

Aerospace Xelerated portfolio founders shared their thoughts on how to make the most out of accelerator programmes. Here’s a recap.

The 10 AI & Autonomy startups in Aerospace Xelerated Cohort 3

New year, new cohort. We recently announced the 10 exciting early-stage startups joining Aerospace Xelerated Cohort 3. Their disruptive AI and Autonomy applications range from technology for unmanned beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight to optimising complex data gathering for aircraft maintenance teams. Managing Director, Nichola Bates, shares insights into why we chose these 10 companies in her blog post here.

In welcoming our new Cohort 3, we were delighted to invite founders from Cohort 1 and 2 back to talk about their experience with Aerospace Xelerated. We were joined by Cohort 1 companies — Plyable, Perpetual Labs, and Septillion, and Cohort 2 companies — Aiber, AireXpert, HiiROC, Phycobloom, Productive Machines, and Signol.

We kicked off by learning more about the alumni companies and dived straight into their advice for Cohort 3 founders on making the most out of the programme.

How do you approach proof of concept (POC) conversations?

“Be hyperfocused on what you want, but open-minded to other opportunities.”

According to Martin Oughton, CEO of Plyable, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In the discussion, he encouraged Cohort 3 founders to always be present, find the right people and keep in regular contact — whether that’s through a simple thank you email after 1:1s or a follow-up note on your recent progress. He added that “it takes time for large organisations, but they are open and willing to engage. You’ve joined a very influential group of people who can open a lot of doors. Have a goal in mind and find the people that can help you achieve that.”

Jay Ramsay, VP of Product at Signol, advised the incoming programme founders to “be hyperfocused on what you want, but open-minded to other opportunities.” He explained that even if the mentors are not the best fit with the business, there might always be additional opportunities uncovered by these meetings, as long as the founders go in with an open mind. Jay also highlighted how important it was to have an idea of who your key people might be, and “focus on trying to get them to be your champion by getting them excited about what you do.

For Simon Morris, CCO of HiiROC, it was important for him that he didn’t cast a net that’s too wide. He explained, “it’s very tempting to establish relationships with every single person you meet because you are meeting very influential people who frequently have good ideas and are enthusiastic about your technology. If you try and go after all of them, it makes a difficult job almost impossible.” The same principles also apply to sales, Simon underlined, “don’t try and sell to everyone. Use your champion to help you follow opportunities where you’ll get the most traction.”

Andy Hakes, CEO at AireXpert, added to the discussion, “be very deliberate and assertive with your ask, don’t simply expect your champions to take charge.” He encouraged the founders to always do their research beforehand so they know who they're talking to in order to make the most out of short 1:1s. Andy also appreciated the wide network founders are exposed to in a short amount of time and stresses the importance of follow-ups, “you have access to a number of people you’ll never have outside of the accelerator. It becomes very easy to lose track of those people if you do not follow up. All your connections might not close sales at this point, but they will lead to conversations leaning in that direction.

Any advice on how to make the most of the 12 weeks?

We asked Gianmaria Bullegas, CEO of Perpetual Labs to kick off the discussion for this question. Gianmaria shared how Perpetual Labs started the accelerator as a company and technology that was only a few weeks old, and therefore, it was important to establish a goal to achieve throughout the 12 weeks. He said, “It’s important to really understand the problem of your target user, their pain points, and see if you can address them in orders of magnitude better than what they have now.

Portfolio founders who joined us to share their programme experiences and tips

Anne Roberts, CEO of Aiber, agreed and said, “Make sure you know what you want to get out of the programme from the start. Put milestones down. For us it was: what do we need to achieve to get new investment in an environment where the aviation industry has been hit by a massive pandemic.” Anne went on to highlight the importance of optimising the team for the accelerator experience so business can still run as usual, “Not everyone needs to be in all the sessions all the time, so be sure to pull in whoever’s right for the session you’re having and keep detailed notes to share with your team as you go along.”

John Waite and Ian Hu, co-founders of Phycobloom both agreed on keeping detailed notes throughout the 12 weeks. “Have lots of notebooks around and write everything down”, John highlighted, “it’s easy forget how much information you’re constantly being bombarded. I filled 2 whole notebooks and I still look back at the information.

We’ve talked a lot about what founders should do, but are there any things that you shouldn’t do?

“Don’t try and sell to everyone.”

AireXpert’s Andy Hakes believed maintaining transparency and oversharing with the programme team can make a big difference in what you get out of the programme. He shared, “you have the opportunity to be very open and candid about your stage of business. It makes sense to be very open and forthright with where you are in your company’s lifecycle.

David Langworth, CEO of Septillion, shared a different angle, “be realistic about the timescales. If your product resonates with the strategic intent of the company, it can happen really quickly. But if your product requires the company to stop and rethink, or go in a slightly different direction, you’ll need to be patient.

A big thank you to all our amazing Cohort 1 & 2 alumni for joining us and sharing their advice!

If you want to keep up to date about all things aerospace and the Aerospace Xelerated, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and sign up for our newsletter here!

For more information about the programme, please contact the Aerospace Xelerated team:

Gabi Matic — gm@xelerated.aero | linkedin.com/in/gabrielamatic
Wil Benton — wb@xelerated.aero | linkedin.com/in/fatkidonfire
Ksenia Kurileva — kk@xelerated.aero | linkedin.com/in/kseniakurileva
Dana Zou — dz@xelerated.aero |linkedin.com/in/dana-zou

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store