You’ve got a big idea and the bold nature required to bring it to market. You’ve heard the statistics about how many startups fail, but you know you’re different. You block out the noise and soldier on. Smart. But don’t for one second think you’re immune to becoming one of the walking dead. You can be on the right track and still need to get asked hard questions and be introduced to the influencers that will grow your ecosystem.
As an entrepreneur, driving passion, fanatical discipline, and grand vision are criteria for building your business. As a cofounder and CEO, I’ve been through the early phases of building a startup: from the inception of an idea to fundraising and taking a product to market and everything in between. My company recently closed a $1.25 million funding round and has raised $2.5 million total to date. But at those early startup stages, it was temping to think that we could do it all on our own: we knew our idea was killer and that the market was ready for it. What else could we need?
A strong business makes use of the resources available to it. My team and I decided it was important for us to reach out to an accelerator program to refine and validate our go-to market plan. We engaged with an accelerator that takes a hands-on approach to help startups and growth companies build, launch, and scale.
If you’re about to jump into an accelerator program or you’re just researching your options, continue reading for a few of the lessons we learned so that you can continue to move forward with confidence and foresight.
As a company, my team and I knew who we were and who we weren’t. As young, hungry entrepreneurs with limited resources in our city, Phoenix, we knew we needed experienced, well-rounded advisors to help us see our blind spots. That’s exactly what an accelerator program can offer you.
While in our accelerator program we refined our market strategy and developed team dynamics, which were a big part of our success. If you’re an entrepreneur considering an accelerator program, get to know the team that will be brought on board to work with you. A good fit between the working teams is critical for the success of the partnership.
Think about who you need to meet to find success. My team needed guidance on our launch plan and introductions to contacts with robust experience in our industry. Your company may have different needs. Who is the best person for your company to meet right now? Is it an influencer in the software space who can give you raw feedback on your user interface? Is it well-respected business financiers who can help you nail down a tricky business structure?
When considering an accelerator, ask what networks of people they have access to and how this would work in your favor. An accelerator can make the introductions that help you thrive. Our connections have continued to give us invaluable introductions long after our contract ended.
I recommend that other entrepreneurs looking at accelerator programs remember to be deliberate with their timing of engaging an accelerator. Don’t make the mistake of rushing–or lagging behind. When you enter the program is critical to finding success. If your team is not ready for coaching, you’re on board too early and you’ll waste time struggling. If you find yourself saying, “I’m ready to go to market, but I’m fuzzy on how to best proceed,” you’re ready for guidance.
My team and I spent eight months preparing to launch our first product prior to our engagement with our accelerator. If I could do it over again, I would have engaged in the accelerator program earlier. Accelerators can add invaluable guidance in early stages of a company’s development, and by developing our product without an accelerator, we missed out on guidance during our building stage. If you include an accelerator early enough, the focus on validating features and refining your product will help you avoid costly rework.
If you’re looking to keep your strategy and go-to-market plan exactly the same as you’ve been dreaming of it, don’t go to an accelerator. You have to be willing to take in constructive criticism, and implement change. Your concept may change, often many times over. This is not bad. Having a static idea that needs refining and keeping it immutable are both excellent ways to ensure your startup’s demise. There are market-proven paths to success, and an accelerator can make sure you are putting your best foot forward as a young company.
My team and I already had a firm idea of our product and who we were as a company. However, we needed to be asked the right questions and have our team augmented by additional resources in order to grow. Our accelerator program helped us by hammering out the uncertainty we had around key strategies and plans and making introductions that have held lasting value.
I am proud of the work that my team and I have done, and I’m glad we were humble enough to reach out for help when we needed it. Don’t let your dream slip through the cracks by thinking you can or should do it all yourself. By leveraging up the strengths of an accelerator program, you’ll find yourself connected, confident, and growing your revenue stream.
—Ron Robertson is the cofounder and CEO of Picmonic. He is at the helm of Picmonic’s mission to lead and inspire a new era of learning through innovative and effective educational solutions. Robertson has been integral in strategic planning and execution, product development, and recruitment of Picmonic’s talented team.