If your startup needs funding and you’re not sure where to turn, you may feel overwhelmed. After all, there are a myriad of ways to get cash for your startup, and none seem particularly easy. However, one of the best ways to advance your startup and improve your chances for funding is to join a local accelerator.
“Seed accelerators also known as startup accelerators are fixed-term, cohort-based programs, that include mentorship and educational components and culminate in a public pitch event or demo day.” At an accelerator, founders learn what it takes to convince potential investors that their business idea and plan are solid.
1. Make connections.
For entrepreneurs who live outside Silicon Valley, it’s tremendously valuable to be able to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and investors in your area. If you haven’t had a chance to get involved in your local startup scene, this will be an excellent opportunity to do it.
Most entrepreneurs find that simply being exposed to insightful mentors makes the experience worth it, although there are many more benefits to participating in an accelerator. You might come away with new friends, potential partnerships, and possible investors, all of which will benefit your startup.
2. Expand your perspective.
Sometimes simply connecting and communicating with others about our ideas can give us fresh insight. If you’ve been focused on offering a menu of services or products and haven’t budged from the original idea, there’s a good chance you’re not entirely focused and delivering results. Accelerators can encourage you to think bigger about your startup by breaking free from imagined limitations.
An accelerator can teach you more about your product or service and help you answer important questions about your company, like:
Who is my target audience?
Does my product matter to my audience enough for them to pay for it?
Is the price right for my audience?
Are we headed in the right direction, or is there another way to do this?
Feedback from experienced founders, investors, and mentors will prove especially valuable to you here. Don’t arrive unchangeable on any idea. Adaptability is one way to ensure future success. If your current plans and process were perfect, you wouldn’t need an accelerator’s help. So, remember to be coachable and receptive to advice from mentors and other entrepreneurs.
3. Practice makes perfect.
Being in an accelerator gives you a unique opportunity to practice your pitch in front of real or ‘mock’ investors. One startup, Credential Cabinet, spoke about the benefits of this practice:
“Because we were in an accelerator, we also got to pitch in front of “mock” investors before the pitch event. These were investors who could provide unbiased feedback. There is no “correct” way to pitch. There are many articles about what to say and what not to say, but basically it boils down to telling a captivating story, demonstrating that you have a great team and product, and that you’re serious about building a great company. You should know the material on your slides, as well as the supporting facts.”
Credential Cabinet improved their pitch and credited their accelerator for it in 4 ways. They were able to:
Practice pitching to get it right
Receive unbiased advice from investors
Better understand every step of the pitch process
Learn what didn’t seem to work
4. Checkout the competition.
Participating in an accelerator will give you a unique opportunity to check out the competition close-up. Whether you’re participating in-person or remotely, you’ll be able to watch and evaluate other startups’ pitches and listen to the ways they answer investor’s tough questions.
This translates directly into value for many companies, like student loan-focused startup LendEDU, founded by Matt Lenhard and Nate Matherson (founders of Shop Tutors). They received the funding they needed from the Iowa Startup Accelerator and Built By Iowa after completing a 90 day accelerator program. They noted how much their fellow participant’s pitches helped them tailor their own:
“Seeing where the weak spots were in our own pitch and other startups’ pitches was so helpful to us. It really made us take the time to put together the best pitch for LendEDU, and that’s what made our success possible.”
Even if the products and services are vastly different from your own, you’ll take away some important lessons and learn from others’ mistakes. Conversely, other startups will be able to learn from your pitches. It creates a really educational environment that can spell success for smart entrepreneurs who are willing to listen.
Participating in an accelerator could be a worthwhile option for your startup because events like this provide extensive coaching, training, and mentoring that ensure you’ll have plenty of practice pitching your startup to investors (perhaps while being shot with a Nerf gun to up the pressure).
What could that do for your startup?
This article has been edited and condensed.
Debra Carpenter is passionate about being creative. She creates smart, compelling content about startups, small business, entrepreneurship, freelancing, and women in business. She contributes to the Huffington Post and Startup Grind, and lives near Nashville, TN. This post was originally published on Startup Grind, here. Connect with @hello_itsdeb on Twitter.