The accelerator business is moving fast, and everyone is figuring it out as we go. Accelerators are quickly becoming more diverse, the contexts accelerators operate within are changing quickly, so a look at the model of your programme can add value quickly.
When I sit down with directors to help design their program, here are the questions I regularly ask:
For your startups, the goal doesn’t have to be a funding round, but it should be a founder goal that is clearly defined such as an early client, a loan, or a validated business model. It doesn’t even need to be objective or measurable, as long as you can somehow evaluate it. A clear definition of this goal will help make other design decisions, and will be the bedrock for improvement with every cohort.
In reality, it’s herding cats. Every team will choose its own path, and attempts to predict their needs beyond the first few weeks cause frustration. If you’ve run an accelerator before, you’ve experienced how founders retaliate against scheduled activities they don’t find helpful. They just want to get on with their company.
Often, it makes sense to schedule placeholders for workshops and mentors, so founders can schedule their lives around those times without conflict, and you can fill them with relevant help as needs arise.
If you’re looking for founders to make frequent course-corrections, for example, it makes sense to ask them to report on learning goals than on metrics. A metrics focus tends to lead to optimisation activities, whereas learning goals keep the focus on fundamentals.
So it’s worth considering what truly defines progress, so your questioning and reporting mechanisms instil the desired culture.
It’s your job, as an accelerator, to shorten these lead times to days and hours. This means a lot of time over-invested in getting resources, connections and knowledge at the ready, especially in the early days.
When the program starts, it’s prudent to reevaluate these needs with your teams, letting them lead the discussion. A post up is useful way to do this.
As much as we’d like to think stand-ups, weekly meetings or playing table football will help us spot these problems, it’s the founders peers who naturally have this insight. No matter how cool you are, you’ll always be bad cop to their good cop.
Installing a culture and structure of peer-support that focuses on avoiding wheel-spinning can help. How can you do that? (If you’d like, check out Braintrust, a peer-support format we’ve developed over the last 3 years.)