What Entrepreneurs Need to Do After an Accelerator Programme
After accelerating with the help of experts and securing funds. You and some other entrepreneurs are often eager to jump straight into the market, feeling that success is within reach.
But without support, you may face the whiplash of the market which may bring your business to a crashing halt.
Here are three things you need to do after the accelerator programme to leverage your experiences and prepare for sustainable growth:
A. Build Connections
“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.”
Networking with people opens countless doors from investments to sales to partnerships. It is one of if not the most important thing for businesses to do.
1. Programme Follow-Up
After going through an accelerator programme, you would have just met an array of people with either an existing or potential goldmine of resources — knowledge, experience, business ideas, connections and even money. Everyone knows they need to build connections, but how do you build strong connections?
You can set up a group chat on a suitable messaging platform, update them about what is happening and keep the relationships going. You must make reaching out to one another easy and comfortable as a one-time awkward greeting can associate you lacing with personal agenda and disconnection. They are not just your valuable network of contacts, but a group of powerful friends that can help you in the later stages of your business and personal life.
Always display your value and sincerity. After going through the programme, you will have some ideas about how they can grow their business or any referrals for suitable partners or customers. You can extend offers to help them. Billionaire Mark Cuban once said, “One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. Nice sells.”
2. Pre-Existing Contacts
After the programme, you will often be excited to jump straight into work to get ahead of the competition. But before doing so, there is another set of contacts that you already have that can be even more valuable, to whom your words matter and carry weight. There are different priorities of prospects so do not lose your most valuable ones. You can share your insights with them and use your new knowledge to help them.
In addition, you can strengthen your credibility with them by showing your expertise and they could be your first customer, investor or even partner. It is important to spend quality time with them, get updated on what has changed in the time you were away and prepare them for your entry.
Do not wait until the moment you need them then you reach out to them. Giving often will create important connections between you and the relevant contacts.
Once again, nice sells.
With all the buzzing ideas of what to do to achieve success, you need to prepare for operations by structuring the company with the right people and systems internally and externally.
Interestingly, if you are a founder from the emerging markets, you may want to relook into your investment readiness. You may tend to place more emphasis on business skill development and overlook the building relationships between you and investors. This may be a misalignment of values but as an entrepreneur, having strong network with the investors in the accelerator programme can be significant as they tend to have more experiences in understanding the market. They can identify shortcomings in your product and what needs to be done to achieve proof of concept (POC).
Many successful businessmen avail themselves to guide the next generation. You can reach out to these potential mentors in the programme and seek valuable advice from them to ease the learning process. Some of them can even share with you on the various pitfalls they had encountered. Through their guidance, you can avoid committing these mistakes as one fatal move can lead to the end of your entrepreneurship.
With the funds, you can assemble a team that is strong and all-rounded. You must build clear objectives and targets for them and lead them to achieve your strategic goals. The hiring process can be costly yet important as the wrong fit can lead to a snowball of wasted resources — time, training and money.
4. Sales leads
Even before the product is out, you can start getting leads to understand the market better. You can engage potential clients to onboard the trial programmes and in return, add value to their businesses.
Attending events and talks can also help reaching out to others for support. There are many others in the ecosystem that can offer products and services to propel your business.
You can utilise some of the opportunities to improve and increase the success odds. Prevention is better than cure. The risk of hitting a wall can be high and real.
Some markets (especially in Southeast Asia) have multiple high barriers to entry — political, geographical, cultural. Forming partnerships with current players can be a faster and more effective way of entering into these markets. Partnerships can also give rise to new products as synergies are formed to strengthen all parties.
These are the experts who have experiences across various verticals and countries with an adept understanding of the startup ecosystems coupled with extensive networks. Having clear goals can ensure the money spent are worthy as they work to assist in scaling and structuring the business properly to avoid the mistakes countless entrepreneurs have made.
You must look for the right firms and hear from various startups that have worked with them. Always understand the services they can bring to you before shunning it away as an unnecessary cost. They can link you to all the previous groups mentioned.
Internal reporting systems are important to ensure that your talented team is on track to achieving success. There must be proper reporting systems to prevent anomalies from going undetected. These reports do not just need to be metrics but can also include performance reviews and feedback reports to improve company processes.
Accountability and transparency to stakeholders are becoming increasingly valued. Sending out reports about where your company is heading and how it has been doing will ensure the investors that their money is being used well. The last thing you would want from preparing to scale your company is having an investor distrusting you and breathing down your neck for their returns. These reports can also be a subtle call for help and advice to those who have received it.
You can use the findings to refine the product — follow up with the data and feedback. You need to be decisive in changing the business model if necessary.
Ultimately, the product must meet the market requirement.
Being a founder entails leadership.
Creating a culture is never easy but changing it is even more arduous. You must start shaping today to determine the type of culture you want for your company after scaling up.
Matters such as corporate innovation, feedback practices, work ethics, punctuality and even dressing must be set and upheld from the very beginning.
C. Create Go-To-Market (GTM) Strategy
Even with the strong network connections and adequate preparations in place, you will still need a game plan — GTM strategy.
This is the concrete strategy that can be applicable differently to companies. It is to reach and serve the customers in the right markets, through channels, with products and value propositions. The purpose of GTM strategy is create a powerful total customer experience that will attract and retain the most desirable customers while driving high sales and market share growth at the lowest costs. It includes strategising the product quality, pricing, future products or upgrades, marketing channels etc.
Many entrepreneurs had no clear ideas of how the GTM strategy can be executed and they jumped the gun without understanding the big picture or having anything planned properly. As a result, the GTM strategy is not aligned and well-orchestrated, leading to business failures. Therefore, you must always look before you leap to avoid such fatal mistakes.
Planning and executing a GTM strategy are crucial and mark the start of the marathon of your business. In the planning process, you need to anticipate the different challenges and needs. This process will then be going through details and refinements in order to have diverse alternatives and perspectives for you to consider. With a better understanding of the interdependent components and more proper planning, you will have a better position to execute the GTM strategy or change with an alternate plan when things gets more complex.
How long your business can run will be determined by how well the strategy can be executed.
All in all, your end goal is to enhance the overall customer experience to win new customers and retain the existing customers. Nothing else matters.
It can be a whole new world to you as you step out of the accelerator programme. Take a step back and plan it well.
From who to contact, to who to engage, what type of money to spend and how to align the strategy because 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the cause.
And remember to have fun in the journey too.
About BlackStorm Consulting
BlackStorm Consulting (http://blackstormco.asia/) is a boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We mainly serve clients in four sectors: FinTech, Gaming, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), and Manufacturing.
Our clients and connections are internationally present and range from small and medium sized businesses, MNCs, to government agencies.