As an entrepreneur, I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of having the support of a startup accelerator & venture capitalist community. When I first started Mobilize, I was fortunate enough to be part of both The Junction and UpWest Labs programs. Today, we’re supported by amazing VCs like Trinity Ventures, Hillsven Capital and Array Ventures, giving us access to a massive network of entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors. These networks are the first I turn to whenever I need good advice, to recruit awesome talent or just hang out with like-minded individuals.
Accelerator programs are becoming a more popular route for founders to launch their startups. The number of U.S.-based accelerators increased nearly 50 percent each year between 2008 and 2014. According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, 172 accelerators invested in nearly 5,000 U.S. startups which raised $19.5 billion in funding collectively. These companies went on to raise additional funding, and hold an average valuation of $15.6 million after participating in a startup accelerator program.
At Mobilize, we’ve worked with dozens of amazing accelerator & VC communities like Bessemer Ventures, Startupbootcamp, RocketSpace, Seedcamp, Scale Venture Partners, Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, and many more. These amazing networks, like all of you, are always looking to increase their value proposition to their community of founders. This can be challenging when you’re supporting hundreds of companies—unlike smaller VC firms.
So...How do you make sure each company feels part of your network?
Demo-days and guidance on how to secure funding aren’t the only advantages to joining a startup accelerator program. There are many more advantages that are critical to helping a startup founder succeed. Here, I’ve curated a list of seven things every accelerator should give their community of founders.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to stay up to date with relevant news and trends. However, the last thing an accelerator should want is their founders spending time researching articles and resources all day. Articles about hiring, growth, business models, are always circulating the Internet. Trends are always changing and emerging. It’s super helpful to your founders if you can sift through the noise and pull out the ones worth reading.
Action Items: Make it a habit to share this content in one accessible place for your founders—whether it’s through a weekly article roundup email or a live discussion thread.
Throughout your journey as a startup accelerator manager, there’s a high probability you’re meeting so many thought leaders and experts along the way. From sales experts, marketing gurus to influential investors, keep track of these experts and share those connections with the founders in your startup accelerator program.
Action Items: Create a directory of relevant experts, their contact information and areas of expertise that’s easily accessible to your founders. Make it a point to ask them what help do they need and do one-on-one intros on a weekly or monthly basis.
In addition to introducing your founders to experts, it’s just as important to introduce them to other entrepreneurs and startup founders. Similar to what I mentioned above, make sure that you make it a regular habit to connect your entrepreneurs to each other. A supportive community where founders can learn from each other can make your accelerator stand out from other accelerator programs.
Action Items: Create a directory of the contact information for all of your founders, including role, industry and expertise. Give them an online space to enable discussions, and make it a habit to introduce them to each other one-on-one or host group AMA sessions.
Take networking to the next level and host live events. Startup founders in your accelerator are going through different things and dealing with different issues from fundraising, recruiting to building company culture. In-person events encourage founders to connect with each other and talk about the challenges they’re facing while building a company.
Action Items: Plan one event each quarter around a specific theme—for example fundraising, hiring or company culture. Bring in an expert to give a presentation, and leave the rest of the time for networking.
Hiring can be one of the most challenging parts of being a founder. It’s so important to find the right talent for the right positions. However, not all founders have an extensive network of talent. It takes time to build an impressive rolodex. As the leader of a startup accelerator, it’s only in your best interest to help your founders find the most talented employees and executives.
Action Items: Create a registration form on your website to let potential candidates show interest in your portfolio, and create a directory of talent based on those interested candidates. Then send a weekly or monthly report of these candidates segmented by role. Make sure it’s also easy for your founders to tell you about open positions, ask them to send you the job descriptions to circulate around the directory of talent.
Help your founders’ startups build brand awareness by regularly sharing their blog content, case studies and updates on social media. It takes time to build an audience, and your founders need help in this area in order to reach the right people and potential customers.
Action Items: Send a weekly request to your founders to share news and content with you and other founders. Then tweet at least one update to support each founder in your accelerator every week. You can also create a spotlight series on Facebook & Linkedin highlighting one founder’s content or accomplishment.
Startups are budgeted in their early days, but that doesn’t mean they should be limited to resources and events. Making sure that your founders are hanging out in the right events or using the best tools is critical. The tech ecosystem is very supportive one. Corporations are usually providing startups with unique offers and event organizers always save spots for early-stage entrepreneurs. Make sure you are aware of all of these perks and set up a system where startup founders can regularly access these perks and discounts.
Action Items: Hire an intern to do research and create a list of all the perks you can offer to your startup founders. This should include discounts for events, conferences, company outings and office supplies. Make this list accessible at all times and share updates about new perks and when they’re available.
The accelerator and VC ecosystem could be the most supportive community that your founders have, and that can be a make-or-break difference for their company. Make your support their secret sauce for success.
Using Mobilize, we’ve had many startup accelerators help their founders flourish by using our platform to support their accelerator community. We’re always happy to share more best practices. If you’re interested in learning more, book a 20-minute consultation with me and I’m happy to discuss.