Accelerators – Founder Perspective 2: Then & Now

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… a continuation of Founder Perspective, where I discussed the value we received from our time in an accelerator.

GET TO WORK.

After Demo Day, in November of 2011, we left Montreal on a high of success.

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We closed angels and VCs that we were working with, we moved back to Vancouver feeling like heros, and got to work on the reality of building not a pitch or an idea but a real business.  After the high of Demo Day comes the long slog of recruiting and selling.  We had some success in our first year, building the company to a team of 8 and a run-rate of about $1mm annually, and then we acquired SuperRewards, which took our business to a larger scale again.  Today we are about 25 people between San Francisco and Vancouver, and profitable.

COHORT VS COMPANY.

Accelerators are very good at one thing: accelerators get startups investment-ready.  Some programs say that they are for later-stage companies, but the value is only there if the startup is still not ready for venture investment.  Before the seed or A-round, the problems facing a company are EXISTENTIAL.  The question during an accelerator is SHOULD THIS COMPANY EXIST.  Is there a real opportunity, can we get anyone to give us a chance to try?  This is what accelerators excel at, as I cover in Part 1.

The thing to remember is this:

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This is the classic Startup Curve by Paul Graham, which we all know and love/hate, tracking our progress quarter by quarter.  (I can tell you exactly which segment of this Playerize is on right now, but my lips are sealed.  If you’re big, buy now before we eat up all your upside 🙂

The thing to remember… is just HOW VERY EARLY Demo Day is on this timeline.  It’s the gold star.  It’s before the investment, before the TechCrunch, before the sorrow and the hope and the growth.  It’s before everything other than proving your idea is worthy of a serious look.

Demo Day means your startup has surmounted an existential challenge, but there is a lot or road left with no babysitting.

THE SKILLS TO SURVIVE.

This is a scary curve for those who run accelerators.  A program may be three months long, but it’ll be 3-7 years before any possible acquisition.  And while the accelerator shepherded the startup through that first existential crisis, the eventual success of the company is not built on a pitch or a mentor, but on the ability of the founders to execute and operate over that long timeline, at a scale that they likely have never experienced before.

This is the breakdown of my time during the accelerator and after.  To create better outcomes, we need to create better managers and CEOs.

Pie Charts

NEXT.

#3: Some suggestions for training better operator CEOs in accelerators.

Then I’ll get into Accelerator Hacks for founders going into a program.

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