Getting the most out of an accelerator programme

Garren Givens, founder of social commerce site Dibsie, wrote a great post on Venturebeat explaining how founders should think about accelerator programmes. As the number of programmes mushrooms there is inevitably going to be some bad ones to go with the good ones, and so this is a topic that founders need to think more about.

His main point is that at their heart accelerators are venture capital funds. They exist to make money for their investors. Whilst the principals might love working with startups when push comes to shove they will have to prioritise making the numbers work.

His second point is a great one. I’m going to quote it in full:

One of the common pain points I’ve heard from friends in all the top accelerators is that they get tons of feedback, much of which is confusing and even conflicting. If you ask for a critique, you get criticized—and knowing what to filter is on you. Have conviction in your decision-making, or risk paralysis by analysis. Never have I taken so many meetings in such a condensed timeframe or chatted so much about Dibsie and social commerce. And some folks just don’t get it (which has sometimes made me wonder if I do). But what I’ve learned is to seek out the folks that really understand our space and our goals, and to elevate their feedback above the noise.

In the early stages of a company soliciting feedback from a wide range of people, including those with contrary opinions, helps to speed the iteration of the plan and increase the chances of success. However, the feedback will inevitably be conflicting and as Garren says the difficult part is deciding which advice to take and which to ignore. It is challenging to be open to criticism and new ideas whilst at the same time being able to quickly discard comments which are unhelpful, particularly when great ideas can come from the most unlikely of places and even experienced people sometimes come up with bad ideas (myself included). Good innovators are particularly adept at rising to this challenge.