We’ve already completed week three of our Spring 2021 Northern Max Accelerator programme, where we’re providing 11 weeks of intensive mentoring, support and investment to 18 young digital and technology focused businesses.
With just seven weeks left until pitch day, here are 12 quick tips to help any start-up get the most out of an accelerator programme.
- Make the most of the accelerator’s network
A strong business network is key to the success of your company – and an accelerator program offers you an unrivalled opportunity to quickly grow this essential professional asset.
Accelerators bring together the best minds from across many different industries, so connect with as many of these key people as possible.
The network you grow will help accelerate your company after the program. It will support you with your current business and all your subsequent businesses. It’s your resource and your set of shortcuts around the business world.
So, don’t be shy, become a networking machine – and start as early in the programme as you can. Connect directly or ask for introductions. The other cohort members, mentors, investors and stakeholders – all of them should become nodes in your network.
But remember, good networking is driven by giving, not taking, so always think about how you can help those you connect with.
- Help your cohort and ask your cohort for help
The great thing about being on an accelerator programme is that your fellow cohort businesses are often very different and have their own challenges to solve. So, if you’ve experienced some of these challenges before, offer your insight.
Likewise, if you need help, ask. Someone in your cohort may be an expert in an area where you need advice or have been through a problem you’re facing.
- Be open to mentorship
Tune in to everything the experts and mentors running the programme say. Challenge them and ask as many questions as you can. Be open to their advice, even if this means pivoting your business or making significant changes to your model.
After all, these experts are investing their time and energy in you – and their goal is in line with yours. Plus, they’ve been through it all before and have the knowledge and experience to help your idea becomes a sustainable business
- Be engaged and stay engaged
Take full advantage of the meetings, events, and life at the accelerator. You might just meet a pivotal individual or discover an idea that transforms your business.
Try to participate fully in the accelerator’s program — even the activities that don’t seem relevant to your business. You’re there to try new approaches and push the envelope. If you’re not doing that, you’re not making the most of this opportunity.
- Be proactive and take full advantage of this experience
Your accelerator will fly by, and you’ll only have a brief period to make the most of the resources available to you. So, throw yourself into the entire experience and squeeze as much out of it as you can. Attend all the sessions and workshops and proactively engage with the mentors. And don’t wait for the programme’s team to chase you – you should be chasing them!
- Take it seriously
With accelerator programs, you’ll likely be working in an environment where the rules are relaxed. Remember though that the programme team are focused on results, and you should be too.
As with any mentorship, it’s important to dedicate yourself fully to the experience. If your program gives you assignments, do the work and do it well. Attend any meetings fully prepared to ask targeted questions. Take coaching calls seriously by having a goal set for each session. Don’t over-invest yourself in anything else while enrolled in the program. Make the time to make it work.
- Make it your own
Remember, there is no road map for entrepreneurship so aim to get from the accelerator what you need to progress and grow. The experts will respond well when you think outside the box and ask for things that aren’t part of the standard program.
- Be prepared to pivot
Don’t let your enthusiasm for your business idea overshadow the facts. Don’t be afraid to adjust your solution on the fly as the market’s real pain becomes apparent. Your accelerator is a supportive environment to do this.
- Test, test and test your idea
Don’t be afraid to experiment and ask big questions of your business. You’re surrounded by people who are actively supporting you and want your business to succeed. Your mantra should be ‘test, test, test’ – and that applies to all aspects of your company.
- Give feedback
If you want things in your accelerator to work better, feedback your ideas or concerns to the programme team. It’s better to do this during the course of the program than simply complain at the end. It’s also a way for you to help the next batch of start-ups. Previous cohorts probably helped make your program better too.
- Check your ego
When participating in the programme, check your ego at the door and switch to a full growth mindset. You may be sceptical of what you will learn but you’ll soak up so much more if you’re fully open to what the programme has to offer. So actively listen, participate as often as possible, and take notes!
- Enjoy yourself!
Entrepreneurs go through plenty of ups and downs. That’s true of the accelerator period as well, but a good accelerator is there to help make the difficult days less terrible and the good days even better. Much like sixth form or university, you’ll look back at this period as one of your start-up’s golden ages. So, work hard, progress quickly, but enjoy it while it lasts.