The availability of business accelerator programmes has increased over recent years so there are more opportunities to get involved. Let me give you an overview of what accelerator programmes are and then review the benefits that you can gain by participating. you benefit by joining one?
Generally speaking, an accelerator programme gives developing companies access to training, advice, mentorship, investors and other support that will help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses. An accelerator programme can help from the very earliest ‘lightbulb’ stage, through to the time when a business needs help scaling up or attracting investment.
Some programmes are free once your application is accepted while others charge for participation.
How you can benefits by joining a business accelerator
The opportunity to dispassionately validate your idea
Every innovator with an ostensibly good idea thinks that theirs has huge potential and will plug an unfilled gap in the market, leading to untold riches and recognition. However, as we all know, not every bright idea can be a success. In reality, most ideas for new products and services barely get off the ground.
Being selected to take part in the right accelerator programme gives you a chance to really validate your idea and test your hypotheses. Is there a market for your product? Do the financials stack up? Do the costs involved in the development and/or manufacture make it a viable proposition? Is it investable?
When we’ve had an idea for a while, it’s only natural to become emotionally invested in it. The mentorship and expertise found on an accelerator programme will help you to make a clear-headed and dispassionate evaluation of whether your idea has legs.
Furthermore, a good programme will help you make the adjustments and course-corrections that may be required – saving you from wasting months, or even years, heading in the wrong direction.
The support available to you
Many budding entrepreneurs who end up on accelerators don’t come from business backgrounds and soon learn that launching and growing a new business can be a daunting endeavour. Accelerator programmes will address participants’ knowledge gaps (not to mention offering plenty of reassurance and emotional support!) by providing mentors, success stories and subject experts to support you and equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to get your idea off the ground.
The valuable experience and hard-won advice shared by successful entrepreneurs can be lightning in a bottle for fledgling founders. Many programmes, such as BioAccelerate 2020, set aside time in their schedules to invite founders and directors in relevant fields to offer their wisdom and to share their journeys with the cohort.
Learning what investors are looking for
Unless you’re fortunate enough to be in line to inherit the family fortune, you’re probably going to need investment at some stage to grow your company and to bring your product or service to market.
Accelerator programmes invariably end with some sort of pitch or demo day, where you’ll demonstrate the progress you’ve made over the course of the programme to a panel of industry experts and potential investors. Learning how to present to these types of audiences will be vital in securing funding at the various stages of your startup’s journey.
Gaining access to facilities and equipment
Though we are witnessing a proliferation of business accelerators at the moment, not all programmes are alike. There are, of course, overlaps and similarities: most programmes will teach participants about core topics such as finances, intellectual properly, branding, product development and so on. However, some programmes go further.
Sector-specific programmes, and ones that are aligned to universities or innovation parks, can often also provide access to cutting-edge facilities and equipment, not to mention the pre-eminent expertise that you would expect to find at an academic institution.
For example, the BioAccelerate programme offered at AberInnovation gives startups in the biotechnology, agri-tech and food and drink sectors access to their brand-new £40.5m campus, which includes a state-of-the-art biorefinery and a Future Food Centre.
Meeting like-minded business-owners and innovators
When you spend time on developing a new product or service you can feel very alone. It is important to keep up your morale and motivation and one way to achieve this is by finding a welcoming and supportive group of peers who are on similar journeys.
It is therefore imperative to find the right programme that has rigorous and robust selection criteria to ensure a cohort of inspiring and ambitious entrepreneurs. There are bound to be dark days and moments of doubt as you iterate and develop your proposition over the course of an accelerator programme. A supportive group to bounce ideas off and provide feedback will help you navigate these more challenging times.
In an increasingly interdisciplinary world where problems often require a multitude of solutions, these relationships may even lead to opportunities in the future.
You can gain huge benefits by joining a business accelerator programme. Do your research and find the best accelerator programme for your sector and business then apply. It could make all the difference in getting your product or service to market and building your business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Jones is from AberInnovation. Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AberInnovation) provides world-leading facilities and expertise within the biotechnology, agri-tech, and food and drink sectors. Set in stunning scenery between the Cambrian Mountains and the Irish Sea, the £40.5m Campus offers an ideal environment for business and academic collaboration to flourish.
For more information about BioAccelerate: https://aberinnovation.com/en/our-community/bioaccelerate/