An accelerator is a school that helps entrepreneurs get their venture to the next stage. Most importantly, accelerators prepare founders for the Demo day where they can raise their next round of financing. These schools are most useful for founders with little startup experience or for foreign startups looking to enter new markets.
When you have to sift through the many accelerator programs offered, it is easy to get confused. Luckily, we put together eight criteria you can consider when deciding which accelerator is the best fit for you.
Criteria #1: The program’s length and location.
When you join an accelerator, you are usually expected to attend the program on site. So, if the accelerator is in California or New York, you would have to move there and stay there until the end of the program. Consequently, depending on the program’s duration, you will have to make significant changes to your life and to incur living expenses.
Criteria #2: The program’s structure.
Not all accelerators are the same. Some have a marketing focus, some are more geared to product development. It is wise to look at the program’s curriculum to choose the program that is the best fit for you.
Criteria #3: The program’s track record and the number of years in existence.
Getting into such famous accelerators as Y Combinator or ERA Accelerator is not possible for everyone. Thus, out of the ones that accept your early stage startup, you should focus on those with the best track record and most years in existence. Once your startup grows a little more, you can always apply again to get into the more popular accelerator programs.
Criteria #4: Level of oversight.
Some accelerators are more hands-off and some are more hands-on. You should choose an accelerator that matches the level of oversight you are most comfortable with.
Criteria #5: Sector focus.
Accelerators may have an industry focus which provides a more tailored experience for the participating startups. For example, they may teach a sector-specific curriculum and give you access to mentors with deep subject matter expertise. If you are entering an industry that requires a lot of technical knowledge which you don’t have, a sector-focused accelerator may be a good choice for you.
Criteria #6: The access to and the quality of mentors.
Mentors are the key value offering of any accelerator program. You should find out what kind of mentors each program provides and how easily they are accessible. Ideally, mentors are available on a weekly basis and cover all areas of expertise that you would need to grow your business.
Criteria #7: Terms - $ Invested vs. % equity.
Unfortunately, accelerator terms are usually non-negotiable. Therefore you should review carefully what you are signing up for to make sure that the percentage of equity you give away is commensurate with the investment they offer.
Criteria #8: The number of companies funded after the Demo Day.
This is one of the most important criterias because getting funding is the main goal of the program. Usually, very successful accelerators publish this number online. Therefore, if you cannot find this information easily, it is a red flag, and you may want to pursue another option.