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What’s the deal with pre accelerators?

What’s the deal with pre accelerators?

 (this article was originally posted on Medium here)

Pre accelerators a launchpad for success

Back in 2008 across America we saw the rise of the accelerator for tech startups. In that year there were 16 programs which mushroomed by a factor of 10 by the time we got to 2014 as highlighted by Catherine Clifford in entrepreneur.com.

For those unaware or those that want a quick refresh (or if you know this then skip forward 66 words) it’s a program that lasts on average for 90 days, invests a a low to high five figure sum of funds in return for equity percentage x and can be seen in some cases as the equivalent of a great early stage co founder assuming they’ve a great network and panel of coaches and mentors to hyper charge the initial early phase of your tech startup.

A pre accelerator on the other hand is a step before the aforementioned accelerator but a step after the super early idea stage. On average there is no equity taken from a pre accelerator program and equally no funds are invested. Participants generally should have a working prototype / MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and a hard working attitude is always a must!

As mentioned with the 2008 growth in accelerators above, we might be seeing the same thing happening with pre accelerators. They are fast to deploy due in part to not having the need to fund their cohorts with investment capital. They are run over a short space of time which keeps their overall all cost to implement even lower than a traditional accelerator and either charge participants a fee or raise sponsorship with corporate partners to offset costs. In some cases they draw on local resources of like minded folks that wish to see their tech startup community grow by donating time to manage, speak and mentor while the program is in session.

Full disclosure here is that I used to run the Dublin chapter of Startup Next which was a Techstars program and before that was imagined by the lovely folks of UpGlobal as a ‘Next’ step (hence the name) for Startup Weekend participants to continue their ideas and turn them into companies. Startup Next was a 6 week program that took place one evening per week. Each week for the first hour participants would receive a key lecture on one of six areas of importance including customer development, funding, presentation skills, product, market sizing aaaaaand of course accelerators. The second hour would be given over to pitch and presentation practice to improve their value proposition. Finally participants would receive two back to back 30 minute mentor sessions to bring focus to their goals.

Sadly this program is no more.

But don’t worry… (cue meme)…

Personally I love getting to work with early stage tech startups. For me spending time in the company of great idea owners, highly motivated folks and exciting tech is something I can’t get enough of! Hence why I got involved with Startup Next with an awesome co director Nubi Kay to bring that program to Ireland supported by Google For Entrepreneurs, FCR Media / Golden Pages, Bank of Ireland and a host of insanely awesome mentors, speakers and coaches that gave up their time week in and week out to help early stage founders.

As you can imagine, I missed that program a lot. An awful lot. Thankfully Startup Boost was born / launched / brought in to play. Either way a chance to work with and support great founders is coming back with a new name, same great program and some of the original Startup Next city directors from around the world!

But as always I digress. ‘What’s the deal with Pre Accelerators?’ was the title so fingers crossed here’s my answer to that questioning title.

1 WAIT…Not Everyone’s Ready for an Accelerator

A Pre Accelerator in my opinion draws on three areas to improve its cohort of startups over a short term 6 week intense program. Teams that just missed an accelerator’s latest cohort, teams that are working towards being angel investment ready or most importantly of all, teams that are getting revenue ready by trialing and improving their business model.

2 The Pipeline for Entrepreneurs has Changed

Multinationals, corporates, universities and thankfully the unknown seem to be distinct areas contributing to the current pipeline of entrepreneurs.

Multinationals: Living in Dublin, home to the EMEA HQ’s of nine of the world’s top ten tech companies, I am starting to see employees spin up their own companies. The reasons can be that they’ve spotted opportunities in their own area of expertise, have vested in their stock options and have their own seed capital to invest in their ventures and ultimately have the skill set and connections to bring to bear to use in building their own companies.

Corporates: People from corporates who have spent their lives working within a well resourced large organization can find the transition to being the master of all roles in an early stage company quite challenging. A recent participant made me realize this point as they had previously been an MD of a successful company and had mentioned at the end of the program that they had shortened their window of learning from ‘six months to six weeks,’ in respect of upgrading their skills, connections and ways of thinking to the pace of working in a tech startup.

Universities / Colleges: Improvements in programs from universities and colleges to double down on the raft of highly skilled graduates to setup their own companies is now a great pipeline. For example I see students attending more and more Startup Weekend’s to gain experience and learn new skills as they are hungry to gain this experience early in their lives. These factors and more make me think they are a great fit for pre accelerator programs.

The Unknown: As is always the case I continuously meet rounds of founders that I don’t see at talks, meetups or in my day to day work in the tech startup community but nonetheless are ready to roll out and roll up some really exciting startups.

By no means are these above four areas exhaustive but simply my own anecdotal findings. I feel they all have the same thing in common whereby they need a frame work and structure that can fit in to their routine which a pre accelerator can provide.

3 Fast and Flexible Framework

Sometimes early stage founders feel they are laying the train track just as they need to roll across it so to speak for their companies. With so much happening in those early weeks a pre accelerator has the opportunity to bring focus to early stage founders and leverage the experiences of mentors on program to help better guide their startup locomotive. With a short intense program over a 6 week period, it can be the right amount of time to trial and fix flaws in business models.

Pre accelerators can take many forms but successful programs with participants going on to join accelerators, raise seed funding and most importantly generate revenue, in my opinion is caused by a short and intense program with great talks, mentorship and presentation skill workshops. These factors all add up to what helps shape the participants focus on the core business objectives and helps lead them to success.

P.S.

If you want to know more about Startup Boost (which I highly recommend you do!) just head on over to our splash page here startupboost.org and pop in your details or get in touch with me directly here to see how I can help answer your questions.

Alternatively if you are based in Dublin then why not come along to our information evening on the 20th of July. You can reserve your ticket by clicking right here!

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