When you’re launching a new business, there’s so much you’ll need to think about beyond the business concept itself. How can you find the right employees? How will you market the business? Are you taking all the proper legal steps in setting up your business? And, most importantly, how will you finance your ongoing business operations?
Rather than doing it alone, many business founders discover that joining a short-term accelerator program for startups can help them gain access to the mentorship and capital they need to take their companies to the next level. These programs typically provide fledgling companies with access to office space, training sessions, networking events, seed funding and introductions to venture capitalists in exchange for a small equity stake.
Here are five worth considering
The highly selective TechStars program hosts annual programs in Boston, Boulder, New York City, Seattle, and San Antonio, with 10 startups in residence at each location. The program provides training sessions, legal advice, seed money, and mentorship from founders of high-profile companies like Warby Parker and Birchbox. The accelerator’s success stories include SocialThing, a social media aggregator acquired by AOL in 2008; email marketing program SendGrid; and Brightkite, a social networking program acquired by Limbo in 2009.
Y Combinator, based in Silicon Valley, has been investing in building startups since 2005. One of the program’s distinguishing features is weekly dinners with tech luminaries such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Some of Y Combinator’s most high-profile graduates include Reddit (often dubbed the “front page of the Internet”), room-rental site Airbnb, and file storage company Dropbox.
This Bay Area incubator is dedicated to helping digitally focused companies that are ready to scale and begin generating revenue. Though this accelerator doesn’t directly provide seed funding, it helps its companies seek funding from VC agencies. Successful program grads include Livefyre, a social commenting service.
Pittsburgh isn’t known as a mecca for startup activity, but this incubator is working to change that. The 20-week program offers new companies office space, business support, mentorship, seed funding, and a chance to pitch to venture capitalists. One of the program’s graduates, The Resumator, has since licensed its recruiting software to many major tech companies like Pinterest and Hootsuite.
This program, with locations in Philadelphia, Austin, New York City, and Israel, provides up to $25,000 in seed funding to each enrolled startup company. The accelerator focuses on providing a collaborative community, and gives each startup founder individual mentorship and coaching. In addition to a more general program open to all types of companies, DreamIt offers a specialized program that focuses on health care companies. Recent grads include IndieWalls, a service that helps venues find work from local artists; KidNimble, an online platform for finding out about children’s activities; and Costa Rican app developer Sabor Studio.
If you’re interested in incubating your business in an accelerator program like one of these five, be prepared for an intensive application process, and, if chosen, an even more intensive experience in the program, with plenty of late nights. Although the process may be challenging, it will help you refine your business model, gain access to mentors and valuable business contacts, and give you a great shot at obtaining the funding you’ll need to take your fledgling business to the big-time.