The proliferation of accelerators has caused a global shift in the process of venture development for entrepreneurs around the world. Accelerators offer tremendous benefits to entrepreneurs. They provide an excellent network of mentors, advisors, and experienced entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are are able to work on their ventures along side other budding ventures at a similar stage. This type of co-working environment encourages progress and creates a sense of camaraderie amongst entrepreneurs. Additionally, with prestigious or selective accelerators, startups that become affiliated reap the rewards of name recognition in the business community. However, there are some potential drawbacks to joining an accelerator, especially at a very early or delicate stage of development. In receiving funding from an accelerator, you give up a sizable chunk of your business. Certainly funding is a big step toward actualizing the goals of an entrepreneur, but with the receipt of money comes the loss of some rights. In addition, when a venture is part of an incubator, they often must shape their work to the needs or wants of the name they are working under. Finally, there are often mandatory events put on by accelerators that can speak for a significant amount of an entrepreneur’s time. These notable costs may cause many entrepreneurs to think twice before applying for an accelerator right off of the bat. However, there is solution to accelerator qualms.
Pre-accelerators are springing up all over the place. These programs help solo entrepreneurs as well as venture teams with validation and traction before they commit themselves to an accelerator. Pre-accelerators typically run anywhere between one and twelve weeks in length. They provide a range of services including formal curriculum, mentoring, and pitch practice. There are a number of benefits that can be gained from participating in a pre-accelerator prior to applying to be part of an accelerator. Pre-accelerators help entrepreneurs get into the lean startup mindset, teaching them the importance of early customer feedback and product development based on customer demand. Such practices reduce wasted time, money, and other resources. This is an important skill and process to learn before getting too far into their venture. Often times, entrepreneurs have fantastic ideas but do not have the manpower or complete skill set that they need to make it a reality. Enrolling in a pre-accelerator gives them the opportunity to meet likeminded people and potential cofounders for their venture. Indeed, many pre-accelerators only accept solo entrepreneurs for that very purpose. Additionally, pre-accelerators offer easy access to the startup ecosystem. The startup community powers most pre-accelerators. Forming connections with various members of the startup ecosystem can help entrepreneurs gain important contacts locally, nationally, and internationally. In a world where it is not about what you know, but who you know, this is a very powerful tool. When startups join accelerators, they are hoping to attract investors. A pre-accelerator can help startups become investor-ready before putting themselves out there. Pre-accelerators have connections with local angels and accelerators and can only increase the chances of their participants of being picked up by their partner investors. Finally, most pre-accelerators are equity-free, allowing participants to gain important knowledge and tools without losing large chunks of their equity along the way.
One such local pre-accelerator stands out amongst the rest. Tel Aviv University’s Entrepreneurship Center, StarTAU, offers a competitive program called Entrepreneurs Elite. The Entrepreneurs Elite program builds the foundation that early entrepreneurs need to succeed in the start-up game. They learn the background of the Israeli start-up ecosystem and the basics of entrepreneurship and venture formation. Entrepreneurs Elite aims to teach participants how to build a business model, marketing strategies, the legal aspects of starting a venture, business development, networking, finances, the ins and outs of meeting with investors, and much, much more. The program not only teaches entrepreneurs these concepts and strategies, but provides them with hands on opportunities to acquire hard skills. They are able to develop a venture idea, perfect their pitch, and present it to investors during a demo day. Participants are closely advised by experienced mentors and entrepreneurs in their field and thereby gain access to quality advice and feedback from successful, high profile players in entrepreneurial ecosystem.
This participatory approach and close mentorship helps participants get a grasp on what will be expected of them in the start-up community and the confidence they need to jump into it head first.
The start-up ecosystem around the world is constantly evolving and expanding. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs try their hand at venture building every year and fail due to incomplete knowledge of the startup ecosystem and market. Hopeful entrepreneurs must acquire the basic foundation of business know-how before entering the competitive start-up game. Pre-accelerators offer the first step to help aspiring entrepreneurs of today transform into the successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow.