Accelerators have been around for almost fifteen years now. Throughout that time, they’ve supported and funded thousands of startups, many of which have turned into powerful companies and positively impacted communities large and small.
The reason for that success is, in many ways, due to what accelerators offer every startup that works with them:
- A Community of startup peers to grow your company alongside.
- Connections to investors, corporations, and customers who can infuse cash into newly formed businesses.
- Coaching from both the accelerator managers and guest mentors.
In the past few months, our worlds have completely changed. Yet, what hasn’t changed are the things that every startup needs: community, connections, and coaching. Every startup needs a group of peers they can call on, cash to keep going, and mentorship to help guide them through strategic questions at any given time. This is why, as we think about the next few months and years, accelerators are more important than ever.
Why? Because they’re doing the things they’ve always done: Provide community, connections, and coaching.
Here’s how that’s happening now.
Most accelerators have always brought together a cohort of startups to an office where they would go through an accelerator. This cohort became something much more than just a group of peers — they become family and a group to rely on. For the three or four months a startup goes through an accelerator — and even after a program — this cohort provides feedback on their fellow startups’ pitches, products and go to market strategies.
Now that most of us are working remotely and feeling increasingly isolated, this cohort is becoming a group that people can rely on for help, advice, and connection. They’re a group of peers that you can trust for feedback without fear of being turned down. They’re a safe group. And, as we are forced to stay away from people, the community created by accelerators is becoming one of the go-to places for startups looking to connect.
When accelerators first started fifteen years ago, one of the reasons they were so successful is that they introduced startups to investors, corporate partners, and potential new customers. Before this, a startup would typically have to go and visit multiple investors and customers via coffee or office visits, which was both time consuming and inefficient. The accelerator flipped everything on its head, physically bringing investors to the startups instead of the other way around.
With startups not able to visit with investors, corporates, or customers in person anymore, accelerators are continuing to find ways to bring connections to startups.
For instance, look at what Boomtown is doing. They just hosted their latest demo day, and that virtual demo day allowed them to feature their latest startup cohort to hundreds of investors. Or, if you check out gener8tor’s Insurtech conference, they just had 40+ insurers (corporate partners) come together to watch and get to know of the insurance companies in their community. Both are great examples of how accelerators are stepping up their efforts to create meaningful connections between startups, investors, corporations, and service providers.
A challenging thing about our world right now is that it’s changing — quickly. And, having coaching to guide and lead us is so incredibly helpful. Coaches, mentors, and counselors help us work through our anxieties, give us the wisdom to navigate the future, and provide a listening ear as we’re wrestling with questions related to our businesses. For me, having a coach during COVID-19 has been a saving grace. It allows me to run my successes and worries by him in a safe place.
Accelerators have always provided coaching, and they continue to provide it today. It comes from both the accelerator managers as well as from mentors they bring in who can provide general business advice or specific, tangible wisdom. In times where there is a lot of uncertainty, we need all the help we can get. And this coaching, which is a huge part of an accelerator’s offering, is something that every startup I talk with is finding to be incredibly helpful.