It was one of the hardest decisions to make of my life. And we were running out of town to make it. My co-founder and I were seated together in a room getting increasingly dark as the sun set. We had been making great strides as a two-person team. We had clients, revenue, and had even gotten a little investment.
But we knew we needed something different. We were falling into a rut, and were seeking out inspiration beyond just the two of us in our small, leased out space. And we needed funding. Enter stage left, an acceptance offer from one of the top accelerators in the country — but it was halfway across the country. There were two options on the table: on the one hand, we could stay put, nurture our current clients and — who knows — possibly generate enough revenue to support our runway needs. On the other hand, we could take our chances, drop everything, pack the car and make the two-day drive to a place neither of us had been. My co-founder looked out the window. We both took in the gravity of the moment: Before the sun comes back up, we could be gone. He then looked back at me. “You got a coin?”
Choosing the right accelerator/incubator (or choosing to do one period) depends upon a lot of scenarios. And it’s important for you to know the important ones. Hopefully, this post will help you think through the decisions keenly:
* Can you dedicate 3 months to this? Many people are interested in the funding, without considering the workload as well. To fully get the most out of your experience, you have to be willing to put in long days and nights. This can be on average 16 hours or more. The reason why is because while in an accelerator, you now have two roles — the first is to run your company like you’ve been running, while the second is to make the most out of the accelerator’s resources. This could be pitching investors, searching for advisors, adding team members, or looking for clients. This all-day affair means you don’t get a chance to actually run the business until after hours.
* How strong is the accelerator’s network? This factor is more impact than even the funding. While funding is obvious, the network allows your business to truly branch out and thrive. This network can help you find clients, serve as legal/financial advice, and even contribute to your company’s funding.
* What are the terms? While the funding should not be the most important consideration, it should be a consideration nonetheless. You want to at least come out of the accelerator in the same position as when you came in. At the end of the day, it is about runway.
* What is their reputation? Do they provide sales and marketing advice? Will they help you make pitches? Do they have contacts you can leverage? Or is it simply a desk you sit at for three months?
Once you have an idea for these questions, begin searching for accelerators to apply to using Angel List or F6S. Both have an abundance of resources available, and make it quite simple to find the accelerator that fits your needs.