Saba Karim is director of the startup pipeline at Techstars.
As the head of startup pipeline at Techstars, I’ve been getting on calls with founders, attending events, speaking on stages like ZebethMedia’s Disrupt and hosting countless Twitter Spaces. Each time, I’ve been telling founders why they should join an accelerator.
Now, I am changing things up and going to lay out six reasons you shouldn’t join an accelerator.
If you only need funding
You’re better off going to VCs, angel investors, crowdfunding, applying for grants or seeking venture debt. Accelerators usually take more (equity), because they provide more than just money. They give you funding and fundraising opportunities, mentorship and networks, workshops and usually a place to work. If you don’t need any of that, then you don’t need an accelerator.
Accelerators are great because they’re a forcing mechanism to reach your most desired outcome by the end of the program, but no one is going to drag you out of bed every morning.
Keep in mind that funding will solve your money problems, but it won’t solve everything else. You’ll still need to figure out how to acquire customers, find the best talent, build an incredible product, assemble a great advisory board and get to product-market fit.
Do you just need funding? Lucky you. For crowdfunding, you can’t go wrong with Republic or WeFunder. For venture debt options, check out SVB or Mercury, and OpenGrants for, well, grants.
To do customer development
Customer development, also known as customer discovery or idea validation, is the notion of validating your startup idea. You don’t need an accelerator to tell you to talk to your customers. You should be doing it anyway. Otherwise, why are you building the thing you want to build?
Yes, many accelerators accept companies at the idea stage, but it’s usually on the premise that primary or secondary research has been conducted to show you’re building something people have said they would use and/or pay for.