Life-long Lessons from Microsoft Accelerators

When we joined Microsoft Accelerator in London with my first startup, Triggertrap, we made the mistake of thinking that since we were already pretty well-established and operating in the hardware space, there would only be so much we could learn from the accelerator program.

Writing that now, I’m realizing how ridiculous it is that we ever believed that for a second.

Life-long Lessons from Microsoft Accelerators

Not only was the Microsoft Accelerator instrumental in developing Triggertrap as a company, but the thing I hadn’t counted on was quite how much the learnings from the program would impact me further down the line.

As fate would have it, about a year after the London Accelerator program started, I moved to San Francisco for family reasons and left Triggertrap in the capable hands of its very first employee, Mat. Over the course of three years of ridiculously hard work, Mat went from operations assistant to managing director of the company.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a new challenge was waiting—namely, becoming co-founder and CEO of a brand new startup called ScreenCloud.

ScreenCloud couldn’t be more different than Triggertrap, which is a B2C photography hardware manufacturer. If anything, ScreenCloud is trying to do the exact opposite: we’re a B2B SaaS company that’s explicitly trying to put an end to hardware in the digital signage industry. Instead of manufacturing or selling expensive hardware solutions, we use apps running on smart TVs to replace the hardware required for digital signage.

As I threw myself at this new undertaking, I came to a realization: Everything I’m doing every single day is stuff that we covered as part of Microsoft Accelerator's program. Yes, I have a couple of startups under my belt now, but it’s impossible to deny just how important the lessons from Microsoft Accelerator turned out to be for each of these endeavors.

The rigorous focus on customer-driven development, customer validation, prototyping, launching fast and iterating rapidly have all been profoundly important. The relentless focus on metrics and customer funnels have been indispensable.

And, ultimately, the contact network I built up as part of Microsoft Accelerator have been nothing short of gold dust. I still meet up with a couple of my fellow accelerator startup alumni whenever I can for mutual support and advice, and one of the potential advisors we are speaking to about ScreenCloud I met via the accelerator program as well. Finally, we are talking to a particular part of Microsoft for a potential service integration with ScreenCloud—a connection I wouldn’t have been able to make if it hadn’t been for the Microsoft Accelerator alumni network.

It’s embarrassing that I moved on to a new startup before I really started to fathom how valuable the Microsoft Accelerator was to me personally, and to any and every future company I’ll be involved in. Needless to say, these days, I wholeheartedly recommend Microsoft Accelerators to everyone who will listen. And if they won’t listen—well, that’s their loss!

Haje tweets at @Haje, and blogs at Haje.me. Also, don’t forget to check out ScreenCloud on one of the world’s very first .cloud domains: screen.cloud.

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If you're interested in participating in a Microsoft Accelerator, please make sure to check out our programs. The Seattle Accelerator is accepting applications until November 20, 2015 - apply now!