Do Accelerators Accelerate?

With entrepreneurship becoming increasingly “sexy,” more and more people are taking the risk of becoming entrepreneurs. Previously in India, starting up your own venture was an option for people who weren’t able to hold down a regular job. Now, people are giving up lucrative job offers in a bid to create something of their own, boosting their own personal wealth and the economy in general, not to mention creating additional jobs. Entrepreneurship is fast-becoming the preferred avenue for smart people who dare to take risks and realize their dreams in doing so.

Beyond this, the adoption of the internet and technology is a huge plus for India and the startup community. Approximately 300 to 400 product-technology startups were formed every year around 2006 and 2007. That number is now between 1,200 and 1,300.

Seeing that trend in India, other senior entrepreneurs, educational institutions and governmental bodies have taken the initiative to open incubators and accelerators.  So what’s the difference?

Incubators are for entrepreneurs in the ideation stage who are developing an idea and creating a prototype of the technology.

On the other hand, if you are very clear about the market opportunity, your solution and your approach to the market, this is when an accelerator makes the most sense for you. For instance, TommyJams, a startup from the current batch of Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in India, came from the Stanford Incubation Program, and based on their feedback were able to comfortably gain a lot from the Accelerator. They knew the direction they wanted to move in and it was easy for us to help them build on their business model.

So, for an entrepreneur at this stage, the next obvious question is “do accelerators, in fact, accelerate?”

As the name suggests, an accelerator program helps you fast-track your business quickly. The resources made available at the program will help you refine your technology and the business model fast. Resources include access to market/customers, technology resources, design resources, business mentors, financial resources and a network of high-potential entrepreneurs, just to name a few.

Accelerators help you live out the philosophy of “failing fast and failing often.” The program can help put you in front of customers who either validate your hypothesis, or urge you to go back to the drawing board to find a better usage scenario. With repeated failures you find out quickly what won’t work, and hone in on what will work.

Most entrepreneurs bring a rich background of technology, believing they understand all its nuances. This “inside out” view sometimes hampers the viability of the product. Bringing in outside experts not only helps architect the technology better, but also makes it scalable, robust and elegant. “Technology” and “product” are sometimes interchangeable in the minds of the entrepreneur.  But product development and product management are different sets of capabilities necessary to build good enterprises. You should enter accelerators to get the best technology, product mentors and resources to help you build your product in the most optimal way.

Additionally, accelerators can provide great design mentors and resources. Microsoft Ventures Accelerators provide startups with extensive design support and have helped many companies reposition their businesses. For example, when Explara came to the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in India, they were called “Ayojak.” We were able to help them with a complete rebrand and revamped UX, leading them to grow their customer base exponentially.

In today’s fast moving and changing world, organic growth of business could mean a wasted opportunity. Entrepreneurs look to expand the business through funding from investors – angel, seed and venture capital. Accelerators attract investors as they seek out good startups to back and spend resources in making them even better.

Last, but not the least, most entrepreneurs find working with equally competent, highly motivated people very valuable to their acceleration process. For example, Microsoft’s accelerator programs have access to the worldwide alumni and participant network, helping your startup to grow on a global level.

If you believe your startup is accelerator-ready, I would encourage you to apply for the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in India. This four-month intense program will give you access to a great mentor base, potential customers and investors. You’ll also have a lot of fun while working alongside some of the brightest minds in the country. To view the full Bangalore accelerator page, click here.