The skinny on startup accelerators

By General

RDV sketch

Speakers looking pensive, only mildly upstaged by Brent Grinna’s pants

If you have a startup that’s launched but needs to grow, how do you choose, apply to, and make the most of a tech accelerator experience? Monday’s Rough Draft Ventures Sketch brought together four accelerator alumni and professionals to demystify the accelerator process — the pain and the perks.

Several themes emerged:

  • Accelerators are competitive, and can afford to be choosy. Have your startup pitch down cold. Make your one-minute video clear and focused on business value. Know who your CEO is, and how decisions will be made.
  • Accelerators can unlock a broad network, so if you’re lucky enough to be accepted, make the most of the resources made available to you.
  • Every member of the founding team should show they are actively learning. Share new ideas and lessons learned — even when those lessons are “we chose the wrong direction, and here’s why.”
  • Speaking of the founding team, having a strong technical co-founder matters. A lot.
  • Be serious about your startup. Applicants who are merely in love with the glamorous idea of start-up life will swiftly be weeded out via a five-year grueling process of starting a business.
  • Don’t rule out incubators. While they don’t offer investment, they provide space, enable connections to business services, and valuable introductions to mentors. And you don’t give up 6%.
  • Women apply at much lower rates than men — for example, given odds that only 20% of applicants are accepted, many women will choose not to apply. In contrast, men will apply even when their likelihood of success is roughly a snowball’s change in hell. There’s an opportunity for women to step up and stand out in the accelerator applicant pool.

Thanks to Natalie Bartlett who ran the show for Rough Draft Ventures, and to speakers Brent Grinna, Merrill Lutsky, Karen Murphy, and Katie Rae for sharing insights and ideas — and staying late to connect with the students.


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