12 entrepreneurs share their must-ask questions when considering a startup accelerator program.
By the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Great news! Your startup got accepted into an accelerator!
The next few months will be a whirlwind. So before you hop in feet first, make sure it's the right accelerator for you. Learn from what other entrepreneurs have learned. We asked them: "What questions should entrepreneurs ask when considering an accelerator program?" Here's what they said.
1. What Will I Gain Besides Money?
"All accelerators are going to offer some amount of seed money, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because you will be giving up some amount of equity in order to join the program, you want to make sure it’s worth it. You should look for a program that can offer you strong mentors, access to business resources, connections, important business knowledge and access to strategic partnerships." — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
2. Which Accelerators Will Teach My Company?
"Accelerators are investors. Some accelerators would rather see you shut down and join another portfolio company's team if it becomes clear that your company can't provide a return. A new accelerator opens every day, so it's important to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. Look for top-notch mentors, investors and cohort companies that you can learn from. " — Heidi Allstop, Spill
3. Does the Accelerator's Goal Align With Mine?
"Different startup accelerators have different opinions of what defines a successful program. Some accelerators focus on revenue generation, while others focus on a funding outcome at the end of the program. As you consider accelerator programs, be sure to understand what the ultimate goals are for the accelerator. Compare that with your own goals for your company before committing to participate." —
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
4. What Does the Data Say?
"Accelerators are all the rage these days, but most have shown to do a poor job helping startups succeed. Check out the accelerator data on www.seed-db.com/accelerators, and decide if an accelerator is right for you." —
Wade Foster, Zapier
5. Is the Accelerator Top Tier?
"I think accelerators are like MBA programs. The very best ones (TechStars, Y Combinator) typically pay for themselves many times over. They provide a network, access, education and more. The next tier down might be more of a mixed bag. I'd be thoughtful about exactly what you'll get out of an accelerator that is not in that elite tier." —
Erik Severinghaus, Simple Relevance
6. Who Are the Mentors?
"You should join an accelerator program because of the people it will connect you to -- not because of the money it gives you. Look at who the mentors are and identify who you need to know. Most of the time, accelerators will have a page with info about all of their mentor connections. Here's an example from the accelerator I'm a mentor with, SparkLabKC." — Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.
7. Does the Accelerator Have a Past Rate of Success?
"Accelerator programs are a bi-directional relationship. The partners of these programs are assessing your potential to be successful. You should evaluate their past rate of success because you are forgoing other investment engines in favor of this option. It all comes down to trade-offs, and the most objective determinant is made by evaluating past performance. "—
Matt Ehrlichman, Porch
8. Is It Worth the Equity?
"Before working with TechStars, I wondered if the program and small investment were worth the equity. Now, coming out of the program on the other side, I know that my experience was worth the equity. The mentors, coaching and support that came from a top-tier program were top notch and totally worth it. " —
Paige Brown, Dashbell
9. Can I Speak to Graduates of Your Program?
"There are so many accelerator programs today, and they can be valuable. I have been in one myself, and it definitely helped me focus my idea and get the help I needed to move it forward. You should speak to graduates of the program. Ask them what they really thought of it, what they got out of it and how the program helped them succeed." —
Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World
10. Am I Ready?
"There are more accelerators to choose from than ever before, and startups are going to these accelerators earlier. Make sure there is something to accelerate when you apply (a team, a product and some initial costumers) so that the mentors, services and investment can make a difference. Remember that you only have 10 weeks or so until demo day, so make them count."—
Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me
11. Should I Earn my MBA First?
"Accelerators are great, but many MBA schools offer them free of charge, and you will graduate with an MBA when it's over. This is highly valuable in every sector. You also get free advice from a range of experts, and some even offer business plan competitions with prize money. I'd encourage you to consider if you are ready for the program, then decide if earning an MBA would be a better choice."—
Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects
12. Whom Can They Introduce Me To?
"If you've got a great idea, plenty of accelerators will take you. But all accelerators are not created equally. To narrow down the pool, you should take a look at their connections. You want accelerators that can introduce you to investors, mentors, startup founders and other people who can help you throughout your career." —
Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
What's your top question to ask before joining an accelerator?
This post originally appears on Startup Collective.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.