There are a ton of great resources online that talks about which startup accelerator to pick, how to make the most of your accelerator, and how to interview for an accelerator, but not really about how to prepare for your startup accelerator.
If you want to learn more about what an accelerator is, feel free to check out this article because it goes into great detail about the differences between accelerators, incubators, and coworking spaces.
In this post, we’ll cover tips on how you should prepare your team for your exciting (and utterly stressful) journey.
Shall we begin?
Prepare for relocation ASAP
If you’re relocating to a different location for your accelerator, the first thing you should do is ensure that you have your housing plan settled ASAP.
At The Refiners, we bring foreign founded startups to the U.S. from their respected countries. Our upcoming fleet has startups from all over Europe, France, London, Germany, Italy, and more. Therefore, you have yourself quite a handful before you start to think about the program: visas, housing, flight, business collateral, etc.
“Prepare relocation in advance to ensure it doesn't defocus your team's priorities” - Mathias Richemond, Co-founder of Uniyo, Fleet #2
Regarding visas, foreign founders normally get the B-1 Business Visa since our accelerator is 3-months; not including moving in and out of your temporary home in San Francisco.
This way you have time to not only get your housing squared away comfortably, but you also have time to explore the ‘City by the Bay’.
At this point, you should begin reaching out to alumni from previous cohorts of the accelerator. For instance, once a startup signs up for The Refiners, we add them to a Slack Team that includes all alum that completed our program.
Who better to ask for advice than your colleagues that have done it before?
Last thing before you close your relocation duties…
If you have the budget, get business cards printed for your team beforehand.
You’ll be meeting with a ton of entrepreneurs and investors during your stay so you better have business cards handy to give out! To give you a number to digest, you’ll meet with approximately 200+ people in our network at The Refiners.
It won’t hurt to have some t-shirts and stickers printed, either. Try to fit that into your budget if you can, too. If not, t-shirts should be printed for your team at minimum.
How do I run my business during the program?
Now that you got relocation squared away, it’s time to focus on how you’ll continue your business prior and during the program.
Trust me when I say that it will be an uneasy journey. Your business will change, maybe even your product, who knows. So you need to have your team prepared for these pivots and iterations.
"I think it is essential that everybody's role and objectives are clearly defined before starting the incubation. This will ensure the the team is efficient and avoid tensions and frustrations." - Stanislas Berteloot, CEO and Co-founder of Talkus, Fleet #2
Prepare your team with a clear process if you’re leaving part of your team behind. This process should include:
Defining each of your roles during the program
Agreeing to organize all documented information in one platform
Being completely transparent with what’s happening in the program (ups & downs)
Establishing a daily team meeting schedule early in the morning or late afternoon if working separately
Having a clear roadmap to enter the new market
Making sure that business development continues!
This is a great time to reach out to your accelerator to see who their product partners are. When you’re an early stage startup, it’s important to be frugal.
Take advantage of the resources the accelerator has for their startups as well as the free resources available online. The Refiners has a partnership with SendPulse that’ll give its startups SendPulse resources for free.
Learn how to ask, now!
Establish company objectives & KPIs
Before writing this blog, I asked founders from our previous fleets about what tips they had for startups entering an accelerator?
One answer stood out to me, and I believe it’s a necessity for any startup, establish clear objectives and KPIs (key performance indicator) that you wish to hit while in or after the program.
Without a goal or objective, you don’t know what steps you must take in order to achieve it.
To give you an idea, here are some KPIs mentioned from the founders:
# of people met during the program
# of Angel Investors met
# of VCs met
# of new partners met
# of new prospect clients
# of users gained
Gain an understanding of the culture there
For startups joining The Refiners, you're entering a very unique culture in Silicon Valley.
If you’re a startup that’s coming to the Valley, Romain Serman shared an high-level view on the “Silicon Valley Etiquette” on his Medium post.
Read that post and you’ll have an expert view on how things work around here (3 thumbs up).
It’s recommended that you do your research and find great resources online that dives into how to run a startup in Silicon Valley. We have blogs on our website that talks about how to pitch, how to get intro’s, The Foreign Founder Beaten Dog Syndrome (yes, it’s a real thing), and more.
Alter your mindset
Learn how to ask questions.
This is what a lot of foreign founders struggle with. Not because they’re incapable, but because it’s not something they’re used to in their cultures.
In my recent blog post, I talked about how important it is to ask questions and stay curious. People in Silicon Valley appreciate entrepreneurs because of their eagerness to keep learning.
Our program puts you in front of 200+ entrepreneurs including, mentors, investors, and executives. We have what we call, "Mentor Madness" where each founder has 1-on-1 meetings with mentors and investors.
These meetings aren’t meant for you to practice pitching your startup, it’s meant for you to take advantage of the time that these big players in the Valley has taken to sit with you...To give you invaluable feedback and advice to help you succeed.
The Startup Mindset
Mark Coopersmith, UC Berkeley Executive Faculty Director has a great explanation of his Startup Mindset that I believe all startup founders should embrace.
"Staying competitive is critical to business success, requiring leaders who possess the skills and mindsets of an entrepreneur. Anyone can learn to have a start-up mindset -- as long as they take risks, embrace failure and “question the status quo.”
Gaining these entrepreneurial mindsets and skills can be taught and applied if we apply the lessons from Silicon Valley.
Celebrate all wins
It’s going to a bumpy road during the program.
You’ll have to run an entire company at its early stage while attending to workshops, meetings, off-sites, and events...
That’s why you need to encourage your team to celebrate ALL wins during the program.
I hope you found this post insightful with advice on how you should prepare your team for your startup accelerator. If you’re in a startup that graduated from an accelerator, please share your thoughts and tips in a comment below!
Remember that you should always find ways to pay-it-forward. Silicon Valley’s ubiquitous karma mindset is how the culture thrives. Gain an understanding of how it works and adopt it now. You won’t regret it.
Now, get excited about being accepted in your accelerator! If you’re in The Refiners, you should also be excited for the chance to travel to the #1 startup tech hub, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.