as the head from startup pipeline at Techstars, I’ve had conversations with founders, attended events, spoke on venues like londonbusinessblog.com’s Disrupt, and hosted numerous Twitter Spaces. Each time, I’ve told the founders why they should join an accelerator.
Now I’m changing things up and going to outline six reasons why you shouldn’t join an accelerator.
If you only need financing
You’re better off going to VCs, angel investors, crowdfunding, applying for grants, or seeking venture debt. Accelerators usually take up more (equity) because they bring in more than just money. They give you funding and fundraising opportunities, mentorship and networking, workshops and usually a place to work. If you don’t need all that, you don’t need an accelerator.
Accelerators are great because they are a compelling mechanism to achieve your most desired result at the end of the program, but no one is going to drag you out of bed every morning.
Keep in mind that financing will solve your money problems, but not everything else. You’ll still have to figure out how to acquire customers, find the best talent, build an incredible product, build a great advisory board, and get to a product-market fit.
To do customer development:
Customer development, also known as customer discovery or idea validation, is the idea of validating your startup idea. You don’t need an accelerator to tell you to talk to your customers. You should do it anyway. Why else are you building the thing you want to build?
Yes, many accelerators accept companies at the idea stage, but usually we assume that primary or secondary research has been done to show that you are building something that people said they would use and/or pay for.