What it means to join an accelerator

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Trevor Townsend

Trevor Townsend CEO

Participating in a start-up accelerator program might just be able to give you the knowledge, expertise, and connections you need to scale up your business. However, it is important to think about whether an accelerator is the right fit for you and your business and whether it is the best means of enabling your success.

We spoke to Trevor Townsend, CEO of Startupbootcamp Australia, about all things accelerators – what they are, what they’re for, identifying if they’re right for you, and what to expect before, during, and after you join the program.

Tell us about Startupbootcamp Australia and your role

Startupbootcamp (SBC) is a global network of industry-focused accelerator programs in strategic hubs across the globe. We run 20+ programs around the world: from FoodTech, Internet of Things (IoT), Fintech, Smart Cities, Smart Energy, and more. Our tailored 3-month accelerator programs are designed to support ambitious early-stage companies to grow in the most relevant industries.

I am the CEO of Startupbootcamp Australia, working with a team of very talented operators every day to ensure the success of the start-ups in our programs and the success of our business. SBC Australia is committed to tackling the world’s biggest problems through innovation. That is reflected in the industries that we have chosen to focus on and the start-ups that we select for the programs.

What is a start-up accelerator?

A start-up accelerator is a program that helps entrepreneurs with new businesses gain the specific knowledge, skills, and network they need to successfully grow their ideas. We’ve seen it described as a “mini MBA for business owners”.

How can an accelerator help a business achieve success?

All accelerators have different methods to ensure success for the start-ups- mostly centered around providing knowledge, skills, funding, and access to networks. Without the help of accelerators, start-up founders would be aimlessly trying to find the right avenues to access tailored knowledge, the right investors, and build their customer base during the developmental stages of their business.

To give you more context, we firstly focus on equipping start-ups with a tried-and-tested method for growing a business and helping them test those skills along the duration of the program. Secondly, we provide start-ups with a little bit of funding to help their growth over the three-month program. And lastly, but most importantly, the start-ups in the program have access to an ecosystem that will be integral in their development during and after the program. This includes business mentors that can help with certain difficulties the founders will inevitably face, investors that are looking to fund promising ventures after the program, and corporate business leaders that are looking to work with start-ups to bring innovative ideas into their business.

This recipe: knowledge + practical skills + funding + network = magical combination to ensure the success of businesses in accelerators.

How to know when an accelerator is right for you?

Start-up founders are notoriously known for “hustling”. “Hustling” to stay afloat can only be sustainable for so long. An accelerator streamlines that process to help founders be more targeted with their efforts and see results.

So an accelerator is right for start-ups and founders that are at the early stages of development, working on validating their idea, building connections, and growing- businesses. Whether they’ve been working at the business for 2 months or 10 years, if the business hasn’t reached a stage of consistent growth where there is no longer a need to keep “hustling”, they could benefit from an accelerator.

The other opportunity is for start-ups and scale-ups that are trying to enter a new market, overseas. For some businesses, it might be worth joining an accelerator program specifically targeted at helping companies enter new markets. The SBC Energy Tech Hub program fits into this category.

How to know when an accelerator might not be the right thing for you?

Accelerator programs are for companies that are at the early stages of growth in a particular market. It’s not as useful for start-ups that have gained momentum in their growth and have a clear product-market fit. That can be different for different founders on what they deem appropriate growth for their business. A good accelerator program can help companies that have started gaining momentum as well by helping to take them to that next level.

Also, some early-stage founders might deem it unnecessary to join an accelerator because they have the right knowledge and skills from starting a previous business, and have all the right connections in the industry they are innovating in.

Is joining an accelerator the right thing for all businesses at all stages of the early-stage spectrum?

There are different accelerator programs for different businesses across the early-stage spectrum. For example, usually accelerators are for start-ups that have a running business that includes a product and a couple of initial customers. On the other hand, there are pre-accelerator programs that take in founders that don’t have a product or any customers and take them through the process of getting to that first stage in the development. Also, as mentioned above, there are accelerators that take in scale-ups and help them enter new markets.

When start-ups are deciding whether an accelerator program is right for them, it’s about clearly assessing their goals and making sure they align with what the accelerator program can offer.

What is required to get accepted into an accelerator program?

Again depending on the program, there will be different requirements and it is highly competitive. But essentially, across all accelerator programs, the main requirement is an eagerness to learn, and desire to participate in the process. Plus a bag full of passion for solving problems.

Depending on the type of accelerator these essential items are scrutinized using different metrics. For example for a pre-accelerator, showing a passion for entrepreneurship and commitment to an idea would suffice. But for an accelerator some extra validation, such as working product, a small set of early adopters coming on as customers, having raised some funding, or having built a team, all demonstrate a large amount of effort has already gone into building the business.

What will be expected of you once you join?

Once you join the program expect to be bombarded with knowledge, skills, and feedback on your start-up from all angles. The content you learn plus feedback from mentors, investors, corporate business leaders will give you insights that you never would’ve considered. You’ll definitely be hit by a wave of information that might seem overwhelming in the beginning but will ultimately be highly beneficial.

What happens after you have completed the program?

After you complete the program, it’s about taking the next right steps to maintain growth. This includes going on to raise funding or working with one of the corporate partners on a pilot. Only in very extreme circumstances do the start-ups lose momentum and fail. With Startupbootcamp you join our alumni program and continue to receive business support and mentoring as required.

For all the SBC programs around the world, 76% of the companies that went through a program are still functioning successfully 1 year later.

Can a business still raise funds after completing an accelerator program?

Yes, of course. The accelerator program sets most companies up to raise funds after the program has finished. Through the investors that you meet during the program and through the progress that companies have made, they are in a great position to continue their growth by raising.

Is there anything additional you think readers should know?

Innovation is a very powerful tool that we have to create new things, change the status quo, and solve problems for different people and for our planet.

Founders around the world are seeing problems and building solutions but they lack resources and support. Through the accelerator programs, we provide them with the right framework and networks to compensate for this minor setback and empower them to create the change they want to see in the world.

Innovation is the way forward for the world and we are humbled to be able to be part of the process and part of the founder’s journey.

How can people get in touch with you?

People can get in touch with me through LinkedIn, Trevor Townsend, or via email, Those are the main channels of communication that I check on a daily basis.

For those looking to get in touch with a particular program, the best thing to do is fill in the designated contact form for each accelerator. You can find all our accelerators here.