The Constant Struggle of Finding Our ‘Edge’
‘TheMarker’, one of Israel’s leading financial media outlets, recently published an article listing 70 accelerators across Israel. (Hebrew-only)
There is no doubt that the world of accelerators is very crowded, not just in Israel but all over the world. Encountering a list this size clearly illustrates that our market is far from a “blue ocean” one, and emphasizes the importance of a question we keep asking ourselves: what makes us different? What’s our edge?
We’re used to this question being asked of startups. What is your competitive advantage? What is your unique value proposition? But as an accelerator amongst many other accelerators, we actually need to answer the same question as well. It’s obviously easier to preach than to practice…
Firstly, for the record, in our eyes, other accelerators are not exactly competition.
On the contrary, at Siftech, our mission is to develop a thriving startup ecosystem in Jerusalem and help more great companies get started here. Our accelerator is one of our key methods of working to achieve this.
We’re a nonprofit with a cause, but we have a for-profit attitude towards the business success of the startups we are supporting. Our collaboration with other accelerators, incubators and stakeholders in the ecosystem (global, as well as local) is crucial for expanding our professional network and creating more opportunities for our portfolio companies.
So we must work closely with others, but still somehow set ourselves apart.
In addition, the core concept of an accelerator is not new.
There are various types such ‘cooperate-backed’, ‘investors-backed’, ‘government-backed’, ‘vertical-focused’, and more. Accelerators are mainly differentiated by their guiding missions and by the type of support they provide their companies.
But we’re all based on the same tried-and-tested model popularized by Y Combinator or Techstars. We’re all variations on a theme. And ultimately, the core value that accelerators provide is the supportive environment they create for their participants. It’s not the funding. The funding definitely helps, but it’s not the main factor.
And therefore, in this sea of programs, it’s hard to determine which programs provides better support and hence more value. This is especially true when the competition is not direct — most accelerators (in Israel, at least) collaborate with one another.
And this just further emphasizes the challenge we face.
We resonate with the startups that we work with. Just because we’re the umbrella under which they work doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle with the same questions, the same need to find our edge.
The struggle is always there. To regularly enhance our value. To stay relevant. To clearly express our uniqueness.
This requires continuous thought and adaptation. Changing the model, iterating it between every round. It’s the reason we decided to de-structure our program for our upcoming round based on our experience and our approach that no two startups are alike. We keep it focused primarily on a network and community and less on education. We will continue to do the educational stuff, but with a focus on developing quality pipeline for future rounds, mostly working with the talented students community in Jerusalem.
If you are looking to get into a startup accelerator, we strongly recommend you to think out loud of the value you are expecting to get from it and to talk to people who were involved in the program (alumni, mentors, investors, etc.) and explore the value this program brings and how it fits your needs.
The challenge of finding our edge as an accelerator is real. And we’re always open to new ideas, fresh approaches, and greater clarity.
This is, after all, an industry of innovation.
*Oh, btw- the applications for round #5 of our program are live, apply here.