Making the Most Out of the Sheraa Accelerator
The deadline for the second cycle of Sheraa’s Accelerator program has come and gone, and with it will come the selection of the second cohort. And if you’re a startup who has applied for said accelerator, you just might be one of them.
Such programs are intense, potentially-overwhelming, and require a metric ton of effort, dedication, and prioritization. To make the most of out of it, you must ask yourself: What do you seek to achieve? What are the most important areas of your startup that need improvement? How can you leverage what the program offers and fine-tune it to your needs?
When you have a clear idea of what you want the program to help you accomplish, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by all the benefits on offer, and can focus your time and attention on the ones most suitable for you and your startup.
For example, while several expert mentors may be available – and while it is important to get feedback from people from various backgrounds and with varied opinions – it is vital to find a mentor or two whom you “click” with.
This does not mean finding someone who likes everything you do (which you won’t; our mentors are wiser than that), but rather finding someone you’re comfortable asking questions and speaking your mind to. Someone whose expertise you know you’ll always trust. Someone who you can see becoming a friend, and who is almost as invested in seeing you succeed as you are.
Don’t feel pressured to like every single expert or constantly seek out the advice of each. This will only confuse you as you will naturally receive conflicting opinions all the time. Hear them out, yes, but always consider which piece of advice suits the mission of your startup best, and act accordingly. Then find that person – or people – you click with and focus on fostering that relationship.
And always, always ask questions. Sometimes you may not know what you want to ask until the conversation begins, but go in with that intention, so that you always come out wiser and more knowledgeable than when you went in.
Speaking of advice, one of the most important things to consider is the legality of any business activity, and who better to provide that insight than a lawyer? When it comes to legal advice, take everything seriously, and be completely open about your current status.
It’s essential to know where you stand so you aren’t caught unawares by a law you didn’t know you were breaking, or by a clause in a Non-Disclosure Agreement or client contract.
Lawyers and legal consultants are expensive, so utilizing as much of the free legal advice the Sheraa Accelerator provides as you can is a wise move. Take the time to learn what the best hiring practices are, how to process salaries and visas should you need to, what criteria your product needs to meet to reach industry standards. It could mean the difference between a successful venture or being stuck with an unfair client, a hefty fine, or worse, jail time.
Then there’s the money.
It does not matter how much you’re given; what matters is how you use it. It could be tempting after receiving your first cheque to blow the cash on the latest web/app features or equipment, or on hiring a paid-intern or full-timer for a position you’re not even sure you really need. If you don’t know what you really need to spend the grant on, you’re more likely to spend it on anything.
But not only is that behavior irresponsible, it’s unsustainable. You would soon find the startup broke and in chaos.
Bootstrap wherever you can, and find out exactly what it is you need right now to get your startup to the level it needs to be. You’ll be surprised to realize how many services you can get for cheap or for free, and how well you can manage without the more expensive ones.
Once you know what you really need, then do your research on how to get the best quality for the lowest price. And keep track of your spending so you always know where you stand financially. See what you need to budget for, where the money is going, and how much of it you have left.
Ingrain this habit during the accelerator, and it will continue to serve you even after you’ve gotten investors to invest in your company.
In the Accelerator you may choose not to focus on finding investors as much as you focus on finding new clients, or honing your product; this is up to you and your priorities.
If you do want to find an investor, however, know that finding the right one(s) is just as key as finding the right mentor. The money is good to have, yes, but cultivating a strong, friendly, cooperative relationship with all your investors is important too.
Investors need to believe in you and your startup, and you need to earn and maintain their trust. Having a clear budget that shows them exactly where their money is going and the returns it’s generating will go a long way towards that.
The Fellow Founders
Another way you can add value to your Accelerator experience is to interact with the other startups in the cohort.
Engage with them and their ideas, and accept their feedback on yours. They may have insights and advice that you would not have gotten otherwise. You may even see opportunity for collaboration. Don’t see them as competitors, but rather as co-workers.
After all, running a startup is lonely work, and no one knows that better than your fellow founders. If nothing else, you will come out with a support system for when the going gets tough.
To sum it up, yes, accelerator programs are hard work, but they make the harder work of floundering around in the unknown without as much guidance, financing, or opportunities, that much easier.
If you play your cards right and hit the ground running, already armed with the knowledge of what you want to get out of it, the Sheraa Accelerator will be all the more valuable, and truly get your startup to the heights it wants to reach.
And if you’re a startup that hasn’t applied for the Accelerator, keep an eye out for the next round in February!SEE ALL STORIES