Taking Advantage of Startup Accelerators

Last week a company that I advise, Qimple, got accepted into 500 Startups. It’s great to see. Lots of people are congratulating them on Facebook and Twitter. They’re incredibly excited. In Canada we buzz about our entrepreneurs “making it” south of the border. All warm and fuzzy.

But let’s be clear: Qimple hasn’t won squat. Getting into an accelerator is hard (the odds are against you), so when you do get accepted it feels like victory. It’s not. Startup accelerators are only as useful as you, as entrepreneurs, make them. Granted some accelerators are definitely better than others, but most of them will have some level of value–if, and only if, the entrepreneurs going into them seize that value.

As a startup founder you’ll get as much out of an accelerator as you work to extract from it.

Nothing will come easy. The time will feel like a blur. You’ll get overwhelmed. Mentors will bombard you with feedback, input and opinions. You might realize that you’re further behind than when you started. The experience is meant to be intense. Really intense. The experience is meant to compress years of learning into a very short period of time.

Your job as a startup founder is to accept and control the chaos. Find meaning within the chaos and maximize the return on your investment and the risk you’re taking. If you can’t figure out how to leverage the accelerator for your benefit you’ll only be left with the overwhelming aspects of it and not the benefits. Accelerators are built on volume–their job is to identify great talent, help for a short period of time and push people out the door. They churn through tons of startups each year. You on the other hand only have one startup and it’s your entire life. So you have to take advantage of the accelerator. Sit back and you’ll be trampled. Lose your way and you’ll get buried. Soak it all in (because it’ll be one hell of an experience) but don’t forget to be aggressive and seize the opportunities put in front of you.

As for the team at Qimple–I know they’ll crush it. They worked really hard to get into 500 Startups. Now they have to take advantage of the situation and win. Good luck guys!

Photo from Crystian Cruz on Flickr.