This past summer I was a member of 500 Startups, one of the top accelerator programs in the world. For those who aren't familiar with 500 Startups or other accelerators (like Y Combinator or Tech Stars,) it's helpful to understand how these organizations function to fund Silicon Valley startups and technology innovation across the globe.
Imagine a venture capitalist. A venture capitalists gives a startup money in exchange for equity in the form of convertible notes or shares. An accelerator utilizes a similar tradeoff with additional variables.
Many accelerators provide a startup company with cash, a working space, mentorship, a community of other startups, a network of entrepreneurs, and opportunities to pitch to investors, in return for a percentage of the company's equity.
Every year, thousands of eager entrepreneurs get accepted into accelerator programs where they spend the next few months vigorously growing their business. Unfortunately, a majority of these startups still fail in the months after leaving the program.
By taking advantage of the resources and opportunities of accelerator programs, startups can increase their chance of success in the long run. Here are six ways you can take advantage of your accelerator program to maximize your chances of long term success:
1. Make friends
The other entrepreneurs who work beside you are some of the best friends and connections you could ever have. These are people who think like you, and whose ideas are innovative enough to place them alongside you in the accelerator. They are creative, intelligent, Type-A, hardworking, and persistent. These people can someday be your employees, employers, and introduce you to companies and investors.
2. Be engaged
Take full advantage of the meetings, events, and life at the accelerator. You might just meet your newest developer, or discover an idea that changes your business. Stay alert so that you'll never miss out on an opportunity
When your cohorts and mentors talk, close your mouth and listen. They have either been in your shoes or are currently in your shoes. There is no single path to your success; you must always keep your ears open for advice and guidance.
4. Respect your mentor
Utilize your mentor as best you can. Listen to everything they say, challenge them, and ask them as many questions as you can. After all, they invested in you; their goal is in line with yours. Plus, they've been through it all before.
5. Use their network
Your accelerator has a first or second connection to thousands of successful entrepreneurs and investors. Dig into this network for tools to grow your company.
6. Learn from Failures
Many people try to learn from other company's successes to find out what works. Learning from failures is equally important. Talk to companies and find out what hurt them the most, and try to avoid it.