Advice from the Pros

A collection of free resources for entrepreneurs and advice for start-ups.

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How Accelerators Work

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Few hard and fast rules

  • The “fail fast, fail often” concept is misunderstood.
  • Entrepreneurs should be “learning machines”–learning from their failures.
  • Startup growth is usually slow, but not always.
  • Most startup investors have a 10 to 20-year timeframe in mind.
  • Entrepreneurs have to be willing to put in that time to make their company succeed.

The 1 percent

  • Only 1 percent of applicants are accepted to a Techstars accelerator program.
  • Most applicants will not get in the first time they apply.
  • Their investors look for six things: team, team, team, progress, market, idea.
  • The people on the startup team are extremely critical in the early stages.
  • Entrepreneurs do “stuff”; they make things happen; they run through brick walls.
  • The markets Techstars invests in are usually either growing or shrinking, not flat.
  • A great idea is “bonus points,” not crucial, if you have a great team in place.

It’s about the people

  • It’s important to have a variety of skill sets on the team.
  • Tech-savvy is great, but you also need to be able to talk to people, or have someone on the team who can.
  • Founding CEOs will often be replaced as the company grows.
  • The founder has to be willing to relinquish that position if it’s for the long-term good of the company.
  • Founders should take pride in their role as the founder; that title will never change!

The decision-makers

  • The investors choose people they like, who are passionate about what they are doing.
  • Directors at each of Techstar’s 22 locations have a lot of say in the selection process.
  • Only 10 to 15 companies (out of hundreds of applicants) are chosen for each location.
  • Startups should focus on building value for their customers, not on an exit strategy.
  • Angel investors typically have more patience than venture capitalists; they are more willing to wait for a return on their investment.

Make progress

  • To get an investor, you have to show that your company is making forward progress.
  • People who are passionate will do whatever it takes to make things happen.
  • Keep learning, keep trying.
  • Techstars’ key “product” is the huge network of contacts and mentors they offer to their startups.

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