I'm often asked by startup founders if they should consider joining an accelerator. The answer depends largely on who they are and what they're trying to achieve. Here’s my beginners guide to the London scene.
What’s an accelerator?
As the name suggests, an accelerator is designed to speed up your startup, to help you focus and make quick decisions. The crucible of an accelerator makes for a more refined business strategy. By the end of the process, in theory at least, your startup should be a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Accelerators attempt to help you by doing some or all of the following:
- they're three months long
- teach regular classes and give lots of homework
- give you an experienced mentor
- plug you into a network of useful people
- give you some seed funding in return for equity
- help you find your next funding
Who is it useful for?
First time founders will find accelerators most useful. If you've been through it all before you probably won't learn that much, although you might still find the support and contacts useful.
At what stage in my business should I join?
In theory an accelerator should be of use to anyone from one man bands to profitable businesses. In reality, most accelerators best accommodate and look for businesses who have the following :
- a team, usually at least two co-founders but many will accept one founder
- a great idea which is distinguishable from the competition, solving a real problem
- a product which is scalable
- a working MVP or prototype
- an idea of who your customer is
Do I need to have revenues?
No, most accelerators will accept your business without revenues.
I need seed funding, should I join an accelerator?
Don’t do it just for the money; there are other ways of financing a business. However, if you generally fit into the categories above then it can be a great option.
London accelerators to consider
TechStars London, €75k for up to 12% equity, one of the most well known global accelerators. Also run Barclays accelerator
Seedcamp, award winning, offer funding, mentoring based at Google Campus
Oxygen, €21k for 8% equity, 13 weeks, next intake Autumn 2014
Startupbootcamp Fintech, €15k funding for 8% equity, great pedigree, 3 months programme, next intake starts August 2014
Accelerator Academy, 12 weeks, no funding, optional equity for mentors;, classes once a week, based at Innovation Warehouse — I’ve had positive personal experience of them
Wayra, 6 months upto €50k funding, global
Collider (b2brand), provide funding and great connections to brands
The Bakery (for marketing/comms), 8 weeks, £5k funding
Bethnal Green Ventures (social / environmental)
BBC Labs, 6 months, no funding
Wise Guys (b2b), 4 months, funding available
HealthBox (health), $50k, next intake July 2014
Distill Ventures (booze), funding, drinking and more (run by Diageo)
Public Service Launchpad (public services), £9.4k funding, 14 week program
Frontrow IO (fashion)
Emerge ventures (edutech)
Entrepreneur First, for technical graduates, funding available
I'm sure I've missed a lot off the list, please mail me if you want me to add one.