Starting a business is a new and exciting venture. You’re full of enthusiasm, and all of your friends are supportive. But soon, the excitement fades, and long days and lonely nights set in. You realize that being an entrepreneur is challenging. There are successes and failures, excitement and frustration. You understand that you need discipline, focus, and resolve to carry you through.
Last summer, when my business partner and I started Credential Cabinet, I was sure that we had all of these traits. We had taken on other big challenges at different points in our lives and pulled through. Founding a startup, I was sure, would be no different.
After building our minimum viable product (MVP), we thought it would be a good idea to join a startup accelerator to get more business experience and access to capital. Little did we realize how the accelerator experience would improve our company and solidify our resolve.
At the beginning of November, Credential Cabinet was accepted into the JFE Network’s fall accelerator class in New York City. This program is an 8-week accelerator program that jumpstarts new businesses in the tech sector.
Now, having nearly completed the program, I feel that we have improved our business plan and sharpened our focus. We have gained new insights we hadn’t thought of, such as strategies for pricing, sending cold emails, and financial modeling. We are also more eager than ever to be successful.
Why? Because of the mentorship, camaraderie, and the environment we were exposed to in the accelerator program.
The mentorship aspect of the accelerator helped to lay bare the value of our business, our strengths, and our weaknesses. We feel more confident about our product, and how to sell it. With respect to weaknesses, we received perspectives from many mentors. Each had slightly different opinions about the problems we presented, enabling us to coalesce around what could be the best strategy.
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Yes, you have your team, but there are only so many folks who decide to step out and build a startup. Your friends and family get to relax at the end of the day, but sometimes your days don’t end. We found that each of the other teams in the accelerator were in similar positions. There is comfort in knowing that you are each experiencing the same problems. While each business has different peculiarities, no one’s issues about teaming, sales, strategy, or legal issues is really all that unique.
Participating in an accelerator program makes your business feel more tangible. Even if your company has traction and revenue before starting the accelerator, which we did, the experience of participating in an accelerator raises the awareness of your company and creates positive peer pressure to succeed. Additionally, the accelerator sessions and schedule move so fast that you really feel an uptick in the pace of your work.
If you’ve founded a startup, I would highly recommend going through an accelerator. Not all accelerators are the same, and each has different rules, but through the experience you’ll get real, unbiased advice. (See my previous article on how to choose an accelerator vs. an incubator.) Since accelerators take a small stake in your company, they can only make money if you succeed. Given this realty, it is in their best interest to help you build a better company.
The mentorship, camaraderie, and fast pace have given us a new perspective on our business. Ultimately, as with any program, the benefits are equal to the amount of effort you invest, but we feel better about our chances for success, and now have even more tools to reach our goals.