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Tag: startups

Why I believe most startup accelerators will not help your startup

plastic-rocketWith startup accelerators popping up all over the world, this might not be the most popular thing to write. However, it is something that has been on my mind for the past year. As a mentor for one startup accelerator and a visitor of many, I have gotten to know the inner workings and discussed them with others. And they all lead me to draw the same conclusion. Most accelerators do not fit the needs of startups.

So where is that gap between the holy grail in startup growth and my own statement? Well, let me put it this way. There is a distinct difference between the way forward for a great startup and the goals of an accelerator. This might sound strange to you, but unfortunately, it is very true. The biggest problem is the way in which most accelerators focus on the business model and their demo day. The success of most accelerators is judged on the performance of its startups on a podium on the last day of the program. And most see the number of startups leaving the accelerator with funding as the biggest factor for success. Unfortunately, this is often much further from true success than you would think.

Through the years, I have worked with, spoken with and advised a lot of startups. They all had their share of challenges and even though many saw their funding as their primary problem, it seldom was. I will not deny that you need money to pay your team and improve on your startup. However, more often than not, money will not solve the problems, but only make them bigger.
As a startup, your first focus should be on product development, finding a connection to your market and launching and developing the leanest product you can. Most accelerators agree with this up to this point. After which they will then go and work with you on your business models and marketing strategy to make sure that you are going to get funding down the road. For most startups, this time is put to much better use if they can focus on product development and finding the connection to their market through the feedback of their users. After all, money will only speed up the process and if the direction of the startup is not 100% right, it will only send your startup on a course to distance yourself from the market more and more.

That, to me, is another problem that comes with startup accelerators. Usually, the founders of the accelerator are paid, but none of the mentors are. And there is a problem with that strategy. Naturally, I am such a philanthropist that it never bugged me. But I know that not getting paid brings out the worst in people. I know that many mentors in accelerators only mentor startups in which they see a possible monetary gain over time. Subsequently, they try to steer the startup onto the course which they believe will bring in the big money. This might not be in the interest of the startup at all, but as the mentors are part of the program, their advise is followed. And before you know it, your startup has turned into something that is chasing the possibility of big money with a super smooth pitch, while alienating itself from its potential user base.

So, are all accelerators evil? No. I think the original idea of a startup accelerator can still be successful. But we need to remember what the original intention of an accelerator was. It was meant to speed up the process of startup development and launch the startup into a higher orbit than it could have obtained in the same timeframe otherwise. If you read this correctly, you will see that there is no specific mention of money or business model in there. Those can be part of the process, but should never be leading. The leading factor in an accelerator is whether they can help you develop both your team as well as your product beyond what you would be capable of yourself.

If you ask me, this is the best -and only- way a good accelerator can work. In my opinion, this is also the only way in which an accelerator can make sure that the startups that go through their program will become exceptional and will achieve great successes. Unlike startups that are built up on a diet of business models and the chase for investment money. It is rare to see those rise beyond average bread and butter companies.

If you are considering joining a startup, make sure you ask the right questions and have a clear idea what is going to happen. And if it is not purely aimed at developing your team and your product, you are better off gathering your own team of mentors around you. It will allow you to grow faster and be a better quicker than you think.

Got a startup? Be on stage at LeWeb’11!

Yes, LeWeb will have a startup competition again. This year LeWeb is looking for the three best startups for the Social/Local/Mobile (SoLoMo – yes, the theme) marketplace. Is that you? Well, it might be if you have got anything to do with any of these. And the best way to find out is to enter the competition.

Something that I personally love in the approach to the competition this year is that they will be including a video element in their competition. And they have already said that creativity and originality will be the key to success. So, bring out the video equipment, the pizza, drinks and snacks and do an all night brainstorm with your crew how you are going to storm this competition. Read more on the LeWeb’11 agenda.

Btw. why do I love that video element that much? Because I know it will be fun to do, but also because I know it can pull your team together more. Hanging out and trying to get the weirdest ideas going to present your startup will get the most out of your team and bring you closer together after the stress of regular business. How do I know? In 2008 I ran a video competition with Erwin Blom and Lucien Burm. Soocial did a great movie that took the complete Next Web conference by storm. (They were not actually in the end results for the competition as they also won The Next Web’s own startup competition.) Take a look at it below and then get to work!

Hassle Free from Soocial on Vimeo.

Startups bedankt! We komen terug!

Vorige week donderdag en vrijdag was The Next Web.  Daar is mij pas echt de impact van onze kaarten actie duidelijk geworden. Tijdens allebei de dagen heb ik mensen ontmoet die door onze actie naar The Next Web konden komen. Het was geweldig om het entousiasme te zien voor The Next Web en alles wat er omheen plaatsvond. Het meest tekenend was voor mij het moment dat ik mijn jas ging halen en bovenaan de trap iemand naar me toekwam, mij de hand schudde en mij hartelijk bedankte voor de twee geweldige dagen. Om eerlijk te zijn geeft dat ook wel een geweldig gevoel. Maar het kwam uiteraard allemaal niet door mij, maar door de sponsors die geld beschikbaar stelden en door Erwin Blom en Lucien Burm die ook veel tijd hebben gestoken in de promotie van de actie.

Startups zijn aparte bedrijven. Het gaat om passie. Het gaat om gedrevenheid. Het gaat om af en toe lang doortrekken om een deadline te halen. Maar het gaat ook om samen lachen, dromen en jezelf boven op je visie zien staan. Het gaat om boven het maaiveld uitsteken.

We gaan dus door. Nederland kent te weinig startups en te weinig aandacht voor de startups die er wel zijn. Het is een geweldige bedrijfstak waarin prachtige dingen gebeuren. En wij willen stimuleren. Startups bedankt voor jullie inspiratie. En succes, we gaan elkaar nog vaker zien.

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