What We Have Learned by Joining a Startup Accelerator Program

The MVP Academy acceleration program has exceptional growth opportunities for early-stage tech startups and helps them define their products and go-to-market strategy.

It also helps building and strengthening the teams, along with generating early traction and obtaining pre-seed or seed financing.

At the beginning of 2017, we applied and were selected to join 2 early stage startup programs taking place in Bucharest: Innovations Crossrider and MVP Academy.

MVP Academy Banner Silvia on Demo Day Adi on Demo Day PixTeller Startup on MPV Stage

Innovations Crossrider

Even though it's well known and highly appreciated in many countries, the Innovation Crossrider incubator program was launched and introduced to the Romanian market starting this year (2017).

It's free for anyone to apply, but you have to meet some specific requirements if you want to be accepted. Among the most important, they emphasize trustworthy, the concept / idea and of course, the specific of your startup activity.

If the above-mentioned points are met, you don't necessarily need an MVP. As Cristian Orasanu, the program coordinator in Bucharest mentioned:

"A startup can enroll in our program since its earliest stages. We do not necessarily ask for an MVP, we even accept beta business if we think they're worth it, but also mature projects already launched on the market or that have received funding. There is a similar program in Tel Aviv, also owned by Crossrider, which accepted beta businesses as well, not exclusively with an MVP. It's very important to look at the founders and see if they inspire confidence. We want to see the vision towards their ideas and plans."

Mihai Raneti - CyberSwarm Founder on PixTeller demo day

It is the best-known accelerator program in Bucharest, developed by the How to Web and Tech Hub teams.

Seven of the startups participating in the MVP Academy 2016 including Reflex, Urby and TypingDNA, have earned over 760,000 euros fundings per total, thus adding up to 1.7 million euros total investments in the teams participating in the MVP Academy.

Currently, eight of the products developed by them are active on the market, while the rest are still in development.

MVP Academy Demo Day

They address industries such as artificial intelligence, security, energy, eHealth, agritech, mobility. Most of them have a B2B / B2C business model, and a third of them are hardware products.

The MVP Academy acceleration program, developed by TechHub Bucharest, provides access to over $1 million online services to each of the startups that were accepted in the fourth edition.

For nine weeks, technology entrepreneurs who will be accepted in the program will participate in dozens of one-on-one mentoring hours with local and international specialists.

The purpose is to help the entrepreneurs define better their development strategy, product functionalities and the market they are targeting. The most promising of the MVP Academy teams can receive an investment in exchange for a minority share percentage in the company through MVP Angels, a business angel network associated with the acceleration program.

At the beginning of March 2017, we joined both programs: Crossrider and MVP Academy, having the opportunity to experiment with different strategies, implementation & development methods, new ideas & concepts.

The network effect

The best part of joining these type of programs is the opportunity of meeting new people, some just like you: enthusiastic and hard-working entrepreneurs who have an idea which they believe and put all their efforts, time and finances in.

That's a place where you can definitely learn more and exchange experiences. Who knows? You might end up becoming friends with some of them or create great work connections for the future.

Startup Party

Feelings I got related to some of the people whom I met by joining these programs:

  • • Confidence
  • • Inspiration
  • • Solidarity
  • • Strength
  • • Optimism

You get to meet all the founders and discuss many topics of main interest in this branch. I could list some of the great people that I had the chance to meet, but there are too many and I don't want to skip any.

Mentors

It's not the usual thing to meet tens of people in the same day and trust me, it's a really great challenge to remember all of their names or the projects that they are working on.

Alex & Dan Calugareanu

But what matters is that some of them share the same struggle, challenges, experiencing the good and bad things in between. Who knows? Some of their advice might weigh heavily in your future decisions or why not, make you totally rethink the business strategy.

Resources

The resources that you are offered within an acceleration program can vary greatly from one program to another.

Startup Mentors

For us, one of the best things was receiving a $120K credits from MVP Academy to spend on Microsoft Azure in the following 2 years.

Positive signals for your company

Now let's talk about the positive signals we are all so eager to receive.

The acceleration programs represent the perfect framework where you can receive positive feedback, support and advice or guidance for the following steps you want to follow.

PixTeller Team & Startup Investors

Of course, there is always room for doubts or negative feedback as well but that shouldn't be discouraging, but rather an opportunity to think twice when making further decisions, changes.

Be open to listen and learn. This will have a positive effect not only on your program development, but also for your team.

Poor fundraising or access to investors

Referring to the fundraising, investments, in the past years we noticed that the emphasis focused on the numbers (clients, revenue, active users etc.).

Not all startup programs are created equal

Can location really have an impact over your startup success? You might say that regardless of the place where a startup was born, as soon as there is a laptop and internet connection, you can succeed anywhere.

I can agree that this is valid, but often not for tech startups and not in Romania, because your business growth depends a lot on: mentorship, capital, strategy, costs, building a team, which you can hardly find here.

Another disadvantage is that you have too few acceleration programs in Romania and the differences between their strategies are pretty high, so it is clear that your startup success can also depend on the program you choose to follow.

In the past few years, we have experienced a huge expansion of startup accelerators across North America, which brought along many advantages for the tech communities.

Even though this came along with a sense of excitement, it was proven that there are too few accelerators that worth participating in. Why? It's just because most of them didn't focus on creating and maintaining a good relationship with investors, which makes it really difficult for young startups to jumpstart their fundraising process.

Aligning your startup with the program needs

There's a lot of pressure when you enter incubators to scale, and they can put a lot of emphasis on fundraising and how to go about getting investors. This is fine if that's what you want for your business, but it's not necessary for every company.

It's not a bad decision to bootstrap, not get investment and opt for slow growth. At the end of the day, though, the programs are best for founders who plan to seek outside funding.

Lots of must-attend events

While some events were useful, there were events I wish I could have skipped so I could have focused on building my business instead. Unlike MassChallenge, where you can pick and choose what events you attend, Techstars requires you to attend everything.

Some things you might not want or need for your business.

Time and Costs

Every startup project balances time, costs and strategy. By choosing to get enrolled in an acceleration program, you have less time to work on your strategy, you might have to leave your team and even the city if you don't leave in Bucharest, as I had to.

All this cost you money and time, even though we are referring to a short period of time.

The negative impact on the company

Besides the positive aspects of joining an accelerator program, there are some things that can negatively impact the development and leadership of what we call a "newborn business".

Some of these consequences reside in the fact that you are no longer able to be full-time actively involved in your project, which can affect the teamwork, building the strategy and development or taking quick good decisions.

Final thoughts

When deciding whether or not to join startup incubator or accelerator program, I would suggest you consider the following:

  1. 1. The stage / level that your business is at;
  2. 2. The way you want to build or develop your business.
Silvia Roznovat on Stage

My conclusion underlies the fact that a startup incubator program is mainly addressed to newly born startups that would take any opportunity which will help them get on their feet and set apart from the crowd.

Romanian Startup Teams

On the other hand, participating in an accelerator program can prove to be helpful for your startup for:

  1. 1. A better understanding of your audience / customers;
  2. 2. Planning and building your strategy;
  3. 3. Marketing your product or service;
  4. 4. Understanding more about startup investments.

Therefore, make sure you're being selective when choosing the program you should join and try to time your participation in such a way that fundraising starts immediately after the program ends. I do believe that a great accelerator can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise your business to a higher level.

Until next time, Be creative! - Pix'sTory made by Alex

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