By Sébastien Gibier
Among the (many) steps on the road from an idea to a successful business, the decision to join a startup accelerator program for early entrepreneurs is a fundamental one.
It often raises very deep questions, sometimes even going so far as to question the very nature of entrepreneurship, the genesis of the project, its ambition, its outline. Joining a startup accelerator can only be achieved after having thoroughly considered the implications of such a process and the opportunities it might create. Let’s shed some more light on some key questions early-stage entrepreneurs need to ask themselves…
1. Where am I in the startup journey and how mature is my business?
Let’s first shed some light on the difference between an incubator and a startup accelerator. An incubator is officially defined as a company that helps new and startup companies to develop. This means it works best for startups that need support from its embryonic stage to the development of its product, an accelerator focuses on scaling the startup business to the next level. The accelerator is therefore only effective if the startup already has a foundational structure, an existing customer base and has potentially also achieved traction. If your startup meets these requirements, there are a lot of accelerators to choose from. Some accelerators take equity, but SAP.iO Foundries, SAP’s global network of top-tier startup programs is equity free. The SAP.iO Foundries offer companies whose business models are expandable and can be extended through SAP solutions.
When joining an accelerator program, prerequisites such as understanding the sales cycles, being able to effectively communicate with experienced sales teams and experienced program tutors are key.
One of our first graduates Grégoire Saint-Guily, CEO of Brennus Analytics believed that his solution might be a perfect match for Customer Experience solutions and SAP customers. Our past success with other startups convinced him to apply for the accelerator program at SAP.iO Foundry Paris. One year later, Brennus Analytics solutions has been successfully integrated with Customer Experience solutions, and both are now fully functional for our customers.
2. Where am I going and how do I strike the right balance between my business and a startup accelerator?
Knowing exactly what you’re getting yourself into is necessary for a successful partnership with a business accelerator. Who are your allies? What are their stakes? What are their challenges? What are your priorities when it comes to common development goals? How do you find common ground for your respective solutions? What are the specific career paths of your tutors? All these questions will determine how you will make use of your time spent with a startup accelerator.
It is important to understand this and to know how an acceleration program will benefit your company.
A startup accelerator’s creative and organization process serve different expectations for the company accelerating. This will vary depending on the business, but to a certain extent, it’s always about looking for a “return on investment”:
- Creation of an ecosystem of partner and innovative solutions
- External innovation, with a view to potential acquisition
- Acculturation and involvement of internal teams
Partnering with one of the leading IT companies such as SAP can be a real lever for success and acceleration. There are now 5–6 major players in the world of technology at the service of other companies. If you want to grow in this market, it is of the utmost importance you know these players, their challenges, their positioning as well as your own position in relation to the solutions they offer. With whom would you like to collaborate? Why? How can your solutions integrate with theirs? How can you complement them?
SAP systems are involved in 77% of global transactions. Our clients are therefore as numerous as they are varied, and often face specific problems. Knowing who they are and what their problems are, as well as knowing the SAP solutions that already exist for these customers, are therefore crucial element to know in order to be able to position your offer on the SAP market.
3. Time vs. value?
Joining a startup accelerator requires a hands-on mentality — all SAP.iO Foundry participants can attest to this. It’s important to choose the right time when joining a startup accelerator program. Pick your battles!
You must have carefully analyzed the value for your company against the time you’ll need to invest in this program. If you’re just looking to add an additional logo on your website, then you’re in for a disappointment!
To be perfectly upfront with you, startups that are fully involved with the Foundry will immediately draw benefit from it.
In my opinion, the nature of the title’s question also raises another fundamental issue: international expansion. I will come back to this in a specific forum, but you should already ask yourself the following: Are you ready to look beyond the existing boundaries of your business? A startup accelerator will also give you the opportunity to step back and give some thought to this.
If you feel concerned and you’re ready to take the plunge, then it’s high time to roll up your sleeves and get started on your application. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments section!
Have an excellent day.