It is paradoxical that accelerators mostly follow the same model and expect to deliver outstanding results. The truth is accelerators are likely to fail by not breaking the startup accelerator mold
It is no secret that a few years ago, startup acceleration was a tough term to describe, mostly because of its novelty and original way of fostering early stage startups to grow rapidly. Pioneer accelerators as Y Combinator and Techstars helped bring this concept to the mainstream.
Back then, the essential question was how accelerators could enable businesses to succeed in such a short time frame. Has this fundamental question been answered? Yes and no.
The clearer the startup acceleration model becomes, the more criticism it incites. So can accelerators make big wins using the same model year after year?
Breaking the standard
The startup world is booming like never before. Accelerators are looking for ways to create distinctive value for startups, ultimately leading to successful exits. However, it is paradoxical that all of them are following the same pattern and expect to deliver outstanding results. The truth is there’s a high chance of failure by not breaking the startup accelerator mold.
Undoubtedly, startups appreciate accelerators’ support and are increasingly applying to participate in these programs. But what are the main qualities accelerators must deliver to be desirable?
Focusing on individually tailored value
Accelerators worldwide are holding on to the standard accelerator model, which consists of a limited, fixed duration program, cohort structure, wide network of elite mentors, working space and, of course, funding in exchange of a certain amount of a startup’s equity stake. These perks surely seem like a great combination of business backing factors for early stage entrepreneurship. But just imagine thousands of prosperous ideas, each having a unique business model, scaling perspective and growth pattern.
While there are many high quality startups that could benefit from participating, accelerators should not assume that the generally structured program will be successful due to the number of advisors or hours spent in general mentorship sessions. On the contrary, the emphasis should be put on the in-depth analysis of each startup, its potential and individual metrics. The value brought and tailored to individual startups enables faster support and the ability to evaluate startups’ growth potential more objectively.
Replacing “universal” with “unique”
It goes without saying that the high quality of expertise of a given accelerator is what makes it exceptional. Though accelerators maintain the standard model, they also tend to operate within a particular niche, be it a regional focus or a specific industry. But replicating the same model that worked for the pioneers doesn’t mean it will work for all accelerators. Therefore accelerators across the world are looking for ways to stand out.
Flexibility is the key
Having a pre-defined acceleration program may seem like a way to go secure approach – unless you want to take acceleration to the next level.
Softened terms, such as extended support, flexible program duration, funding based on individual business needs and potential may help you become not only desirable, but also a trusted acceleration partner. Customized support is directly associated with likelihood to succeed. The more you are focused and flexible terms are offered, the better the results will be.
The insights above have already led StartupHighway, the first Baltic accelerator, to develop an improved accelerator program that combines the proven model with a flexible individually tailored program. This year, major attention will be put on this new innovative approach, and startups are free to apply now.
The standard model proved to be successful for the world’s most famous accelerators. But like in any other business, surpassing the competition with unique qualities is as important as gaining respect and know-how. Startup acceleration’s standard approach has already started to shift – it is only a matter of time until we see what it delivers in the long-term.
The views expressed are of the author.
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