Question: What’s one thing first-time entrepreneurs should look for in an accelerator or incubator program?
"The quality of your accelerator class will have a larger impact on your startup than the investors and mentors in the program. Your fellow founders will help you work through early startup challenges. Your fellow startups will recruit the best investors to your demo day. Your fellow CEOs will become your strongest business network in the coming years."
The Program's Alumni
"When I participated in an incubator program, the two most helpful resources were the other entrepreneurs in the program and the program's alumni. Both understood exactly what I was facing and were willing to help in any way they could. Also, interview as many alums as you can about the program. Their failures or successes should help you better understand the program's values and shortcomings."
Flexibility to Leave
"Make sure you read all the fine print and find the best incubator for you, preferably one that gives you the flexibility to leave. Some incubators are making entrepreneurs contractually commit to staying for a minimum period of time. I wouldn't want to be obligated to stay for two years when my business and needs could change dramatically in the startup stage. "
"How good is the program at keeping ties with its alumni? How good is it at creating systems that allow you to connect with friends of friends? How open and willing are the people involved to share their contacts? Internal networks, such as incubators or accelerators, have to be able to pay off after the demo day."
"First-time entrepreneurs need to look for accelerators that offer the ability to create relationships with key individuals. Whether they're partners, advisors, potential clients or investors, the most important thing is building relationships. When all things are equal, people do business with people they like. "
Other Companies' Successes
"Industry and domain expertise matter. That's why venture investors focused on a particular industry tend to outperform their diversified peers. Similarly, accelerators that have helped similar businesses scale quickly will be able to offer more value. Do your homework on previous companies backed by that accelerator and the background of the principals involved."
Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
"Investors, employees and customers have a few things in common: they make decisions based on the quality of the relationship, they make decisions based on trust and they make decisions based on the potential value. Incubator and accelerator programmers are no different. You should make your decision based on the quality of their relationships and the trust they've created in their community. "