17 Things I Learned From A Business Accelerator

startup communities thoughts Nov 18, 2014

Recently I signed up for a business accelerator here in Canada and to tell you the truth I was very hesitant at the beginning. I had been working on my business for 4 years so the company was already profitable and I was afraid that I was too far into the process for my business to benefit from an accelerator. Boy was I wrong! What follows are some of the things that I learned from going through the accelerator.

1. Why focus on the pitch?
I used to criticize why business accelerators always focused so much on the pitch instead of rather using the time to go into more detail on various aspect of the business. It wasn’t until I went through the process myself that I realized that the pitch is actually a reflection of every aspect of the business. So when mentors are criticizing the pitch they aren’t just telling you how to improve your pitch but how to improve your business.

2. Set Goals!
If you want to get good results, no matter what your doing, set goals and make sure that they are SMART. I have actually done that for years now but it is always good to be reminded of the importance of goals.

3. Weekly status updates
Sending weekly status updates to a mentor forces you to look at the past week and judge if you are on plan or not. This can help you to get a better overview of your progress and realize if you should be doing something differently or not. I found it very good to start every weekly update by first writing the goals I had set and then using them as a basis for the rest of the update.

4. Leadership vs. Management
It’s a question of working in your business or working on your business. We all tend to get caught up in the day to day running of the business (management) but then we aren’t able to focus on the growth of the business (Leadership). When you are starting up your company you have to do both but at some point you have to try to transition from management to leadership and guide your company to growth and success.

5. Become a thought leader
We met with a lot of successful entrepreneurs and one thing I noticed is that very many of them were thought leaders in their field. They were active in everything that connected with their industry and regularly spoke at conferences and other events. Making yourself the expert will strengthen the position of your company.

6. Raising the right amount
When you are doing a funding round it is very important to raise the right amount of money. What the right amount is depends on how much money you need to reach a critical point in your business, the geographical area that you are raising in and the investors you are talking with. Raising too much or too little can be terminal for your funding efforts.

7. Know why companies get acquired
Even though you shouldn’t build up your company with the focus of being acquired you should still know why companies get bought and know the value it would create for the buyer.

8. Stretch your limits
We tend to limit ourselves in so many ways, thinking we can’t do this or that. The only way to get over those limits is to try and stretch them as much as we possible can and sometimes you need to get outside help and that is were business accelerators can assist.

9. Practical vs. Investable
When I started my company I didn’t have a dollar to spend on it so I had to be very resourceful and I had to work very hard. Eventually I built up a profitable company but it was a very practical company because if I wouldn’t have made it practical it wouldn’t have survived. In the accelerator I had to make the transition from a practical profitable company into a scalable investable startup. Most startups that bootstrap must go through that transition if they truly want to impact this world but trust me, from a mental point of view, it is a difficult transition to make.

10. Setback are normal
It’s part of the process for most startups to have setbacks and sometimes extreme setbacks. As long as you learn from those setbacks instead of giving up then you are on the right track.

11. Marketing to investors
I think this might be the lost chapter in every marketing book out there. Usually if you want to get a customer to hand over money for your product/service it is up to you to market it in such a way that the customer feels like they can’t be without it or that it will improve their lives in some way; many times this is done with the help of a marketing seo services company. Trying to get money from an investor is no different.

12. Kill the ego
The only way to become a truly good entrepreneur is by realizing that you don’t know everything and you can’t do everything by yourself. You need to open yourself up to the advice from the mentors that have much more experience than you do and be willing to ask for help. This was probably one of my more difficult lessons, I felt like I had gotten so far without help from anybody but when I finally killed my ego and was willing to seek help I realized I could get so much further that way.

13. Network
It is amazing what it can do for you to build up a good network. It might sometimes take years to become clear to you the power of your network but believe me you will eventually see it. So keep on being active and networking at every chance you can.

14. Continually improve yourself
As a founder there is a very thin line between you and your startup and all that you are reflects in the company’s success. If you can improve yourself then you can improve the startups chances of success. If you improve your communication skills you also improve the company’s sales ability. If you improve your self-confidence you improve the company’s abilities to promote itself. You are the company, so work on yourself and improve both.

15. Find the right people to work with
Be very careful when picking who to work with, be it an employee, co-founder or investor. The people you surround yourself with in the early stages of your business can kill it or help you raise it to new heights. Hire slowly, fire quickly and take good care of the people that prove themselves to be awesome.

16. Feel comfortable with your pitch
When your are working on your pitch you must of course take into it all the most important things a possible investor would want to know. But make sure that after you have made the pitch great that you make it yours. Make it reflect you and your company, don’t use words that you feel uncomfortable with and make sure to emphasize your passion more than anything else. And then practice it like a thousand times 

17. Humility and Self-confidence
I think the key to success is a interesting mix of humility and self-confidence. You have to have the humility to know that you don’t know everything but at the same time when you are talking about your company you have to talk with so much self-confidence that nobody doubts that you will make it into a billion dollar company.

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