by Jessie Kang
What is truly the value of joining an accelerator program? Huge names like Y Combinator, TechStars, and AngelPad beckon to dreamers, promising growth, mentorship, and an opportunity to get some mind-blowing figures as funding. Alumni of some of the top accelerators have listed “learning how to fundraise,” “establishing a team,” and “extensive training,” as some takeaways from their experiences. And these are the same outcomes that these accelerators promise when you submit that application for their program, hoping to get past the competitive 3% acceptance rate. But what is it that you can really get out of these startup breeding grounds? When you really get down to the nitty-gritty experience of joining an accelerator, what do you walk out with at the end of each day?
EPIC, the entrepreneurship student group at Northwestern University, started a program this academic year, called Launch, the first student-run accelerator here. It’s an intense ride and there’s only more to come, and there’s no doubt that one of the biggest reasons the cohort chooses to stick through with this hardcore program is the people involved. Being a part of Launch means that you receive coaching from not only the student leaders of Launch (who have been involved in every step of the startup journey, from founding through failing), but also from entrepreneurs-in-residence providing office hours, and keynote speakers offering very concrete “pro-tips” on very real issues that entrepreneurs face.
As such, one unquantifiable gain shines through in the testimonials of past participants of accelerators, whether they were part of a student-run accelerator like Launch, or part of a giant one like Y Combinator. They never fail to mention the valuable connections made in their time. Connections with founders, investors, employees, unfathomably valuable advice from mentors and partners, and leaving with a network of true friends that mean so much more than just a professional connection – these are the real takeaways from being in an accelerator. Yes, you will learn the hard skills it takes to build a business, and that’s the expectation, but people walk out with so much more, having been totally immersed in an environment where everyone’s about helping each other grow as entrepreneurs, with relationships that will last years down the road that will only continue to give back.
At the end of the day, business is about people. It’s about understanding people, delivering value to people, and working with people to make that magic happen. And if you’re convinced that you can learn all that there is to learn without the help of an accelerator, think again about the people you’ll miss out on, before you say no thanks to that intimidating 3%.
*quotations taken from http://onforb.es/20XWz9I