Not Quite Out of Style: 3 (Potential) Reasons to Join an Accelerator

I usually don’t write responses to articles I’ve seen on the web. In fact, this may be my first one.

Earlier this morning, I read an article on medium.com entitled, “The startup world has matured. It’s time for most accelerators to go,” by Ivy Nguyen. In so many words, Nguyen emphasizes that most information about starting up a company can be found online for by business experts and individuals who have previously entered or owned accelerators. She wonders why many entrepreneurs are pressed to join “every university, program, every backwoods local chamber of commerce, and ever corporate entity” who don’t want to appear “last” in the accelerator game.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but as a millennial woman who is building a business, I can see the advantages of joining an accelerator.

Face-to-Face Learning – I am all for learning information from the Internet. As a first time entrepreneur with limited resources, the Internet is my go-to for advice. I’ve probably read hundreds of Forbes, Inc.com, Harvard Business Review (and many other) articles that’s published on the web to be on top of my game. This is nice and all, but nothing beats in-person interaction. I believe that participating in an accelerator or a similar program can help first-timers ask questions in real time. The problem with the Internet is that since so much information is available, sometimes it’s hard to determine which theory or solution is the “right” one and you can waste several hours trying to find the best answer. If I have learned anything, time is money and sometimes the Internet can be one of our biggest time wasters.

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The Internet is a great tool. But…face-to-face interactions has its advantages.

Relationship Building – A few days ago, I purchased a copy of a report called the #DianeProject, sponsored by an organization called Digital Undivided. The report highlights the challenges that black women face in tech entrepreneurship and gives several solutions on how industries can address disparities. One of the facts that stood out to me was that of the out of the 88 black women-led startup companies that participated in the report, 34 percent participated in an accelerator. Those who participated in these programs were almost 40 percent more likely to receive funding for their companies. In reality, black women startup founders only raise $36,000 on average, while the average (mostly white male-led) start-up raises $1.3 million. The 34 percent referenced to show that participating in accelerator programs does show some advantage. Maybe investors think these individuals are more serious. Maybe. I do know that the women in this group probably created strong relationships, which in turn may have helped them, secure funding. It’s no secret that the tech and startup world has a serious problem with diversity. As a young black woman, I recognize the advantage of potentially participating in an accelerator, because of the relationships and connections fostered among cohorts, instructors, accelerator partners, or future investors. There are just some individuals from traditionally disadvantaged groups who just don’t have these types of connections or resources lying around. Being accepted these programs is another story: I am pretty sure there are reasons why there are not more minorities entering accelerators, because if there were not, the tech industry would look a little more diverse than what it is today. We’ll save this topic for another post.

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Joining an accelerator can help entrepreneurs access resources and relationships they may not have access to on their own.

Free Publicity – I moved to Cincinnati, OH years ago with the slightest idea of what an accelerator was. I had no intentions of being an entrepreneur and had some grand scheme of working some 9 – 5 for the rest of my life. Then, the Barter Babes happened, and the rest is history in the making. Over the years, I’ve seen more and more accelerators sprout up in the area with one thing in common: all their startups get unmatched publicity by local and sometimes national media. I’ve met startup owners that have never been covered in a blog, let alone the business section of someone’s newspaper or two-minute segment on the news. What I see in Cincinnati is that if you are a part of any of the big accelerator programs, you will get mentioned in the news, and the accelerator will gas up your vision up on social media sites. Now granted, media publicity does not guarantee an investor is watching your local news with a checkbook next to his or her Lay-Z-Boy and the enthusiasm to give you money. But media placement can increase your visibility to the people you want to connect with, which may include mentors, customers, investors, or partners.

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Media placement through accelerators can help increase your visibility.

Overall, this piece was not written to defend accelerators. Nguyen’s article inspired me this morning, and I believe she made darn good points about using the Internet as a start-up resource – I am a living testament of finding information on the web to enhance my business. What I failed to mention earlier is that she also provided helpful advice to choosing an accelerator in the article, which I plan to use if I decide to follow this route. I wrote this piece as an outsider and observer who can see the potential advantages of joining an accelerator. With all things, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are just starting out in the tech world like me, I am sure we will find out all three if the odds are in our favor.

Did you read Nguyen’s article? Do you think accelerators are becoming played out or a necessary resource for entrepreneurship? Tweet me at @TheWriteGirl_!

Whitney L. Barkley has worked one-on-one with startups and small businesses over the last five years and is now embarking on a startup journey of her own. She is the founder of the Barter Babes, an online platform that helps female entrepreneurs exchange start-up services to eliminate business barriers.


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