Business Accelerators. A Startup’s Perspective
While researching a feature on business incubators and accelerators, we came across Chris Hexton, an entrepreneur with Invc.me who has been through the accelerator process and was able to share insight from his own experience.
Having recently progressed through the Sydney-based accelerator Startmate I can safely say that it has certainly been one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life – both for my startup and myself personally.
Before joining Startmate my business partner and I ran our own consultancy and Invc.me (our startup product) was nothing more than a pre-alpha prototype that we used internally. We had no real plan and no real momentum. Things are a lot very different now and, upon reﬂection, I feel there are there are three key things that we have learnt through Startmate that have changed our approach to building a product.
1. Focus. It’s not impossible to build a startup on the side whilst maintaining a day job but, having tried both, I can attest to the fact that spending 3-4 weeks solidly testing your concept and assumption with real customers is the best way to ﬁgure out if you startup has any chance of success. Bootstrapping is a ﬁne way to fund your startup but in the future I know I will always take a few weeks to spend 80% or more of my time validating a concept new concept before I go any further.
2. You must be honest with yourself. The moment when you come up with a new idea is a great one. It feels so great that it is extremely hard to own up to yourself when it looks like it won’t work out. As part of Startmate I have learnt that in order to achieve success whilst incurring the least cost (opportunity and real cost) you have to not only rapidly test each hypothesis but be honest with yourself about the results. Your initial hypothesis often looks like “I think customer X with features A, B and C would pay $Y for product Z”. You need to test this and, if the result is negative, move on to a new angle or test a new hypothesis. This isn’t
giving up or changing your vision, it’s just being real. Many readers might know this is the philosophy behind Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup”.
3. Competition is the best motivation. As part of an accelerator program you are usually given ofﬁce space and work closely with other companies over a short period of time (three months, in the case of Startmate). Along with the excellent knowledge passed down from the Startmate mentors, we have learnt as much from the successes and failures of our fellow startups. Seeing a colleague meet success drives you to want to do the same. On top of this, starting a business is a hard road and having friends to turn to and a network to ask for help or introductions goes a long way. This is particularly true if you move to a new city (e.g. San Francisco): an accelerator can give you an instant network.
Overall I would highly recommend Startmate and the concept of an accelerator program. If you get the chance you should deﬁnitely apply to your nearest accelerator and get on board an amazing ride. Regardless of your concept, an accelerator will increase it’s chance for success many times over and even if it fails you will have grown as a person. To reference a great article by Daniel Tenner, you should aim ot make all decisions a win-win to ensure you always come out of something having grown personally or professionally. In my experience, an accelerator is certainly a win-win.
Chris Hexton is the co-founder of Invc.me, a time management, invoicing and payment system for freelance professionals in emerging markets around the world. He previously founded Semblance Systems, a web and iPhone application development company based in Sydney, Australia.
You can reach him on Twitter via @chexton or via email chris [AT] invc [DOT] me