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Tips for Accelerators from Brad Feld and Ian Hathaway

Thanks to Fred Wilson’s blog, I came upon this video where economist Ian Hathaway and Techstars founder Brad Feld talk about accelerators and useful tips for running a good programme.

I’m paraphrasing Brad here, but some best practices he mentions for a successful accelerator are:

  • Understanding what an effective mentor is and knowing how to effectively engage with them over a 90-day period (I have been and still am a mentor on a few accelerator programmes and cannot agree with this enough)
  • Having a rhythm for the programme that is absorbable by founders (so not too fast or too slow)
  • Getting an understanding with the founders that there will be stress and conflict and that’s part of the programme, as it accelerates learning (getting pissed off with feedback probably indicates you’re a bad founder)
  • Building a positive lifetime culture around the accelerator which feeds on itself and where people learn from each other

Some things to avoid:

  • Not helping mentors understand how they can be effective
  • Not setting expectations around the outcome of the accelerator (if a founder expects a seed round at the end of it and that’s not in your plan, that’s a problem that needs to be tackled at the outset not the end)
  • Not focussing on the people (as Brad said, the idea is what gets you in, but after that it’s all about the founders themselves as individuals; not all people are cut out to be founders)
  • Not having an approach around scale: how fast do you want to grow? Many accelerators stall as they haven’t figured out how to build a sustainable model (this is true for any business)
  • Not having a uniform POV around what you are trying to accomplish (I have faced this problem when multiple people are involved in a project, so Amen to that).

And a bonus resource I didn’t know about till now: the Global Accelerator Network.

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