Why do startup accelerators get into trouble?

Although the ways that an accelerator can get itself into trouble seem to be almost limitless, the reasons why things go wrong can typically be narrowed down to just a few simple causes

Here’s why your accelerator may be struggling:

  • the model for your accelerator is based upon a ‘successful formula’ which, despite having a reassuring track record, is much more poorly understood than it seems
  • the environment that your accelerator is operating in will almost certainly have some subtle but critical differences from those where something similar has been successfully tried before
  • the types of founders and startups applying to and being accepted by your accelerator are probably quite different to those that have successfully been through a similar accelerator program

These causes can all be summarised as resulting from:

  • the limited extent to which accelerator practices have been systematically investigated and evaluated
  • the differences between the theory and practice of running accelerator programs
  • the wide range of configurations that characterise different accelerator programs: this is despite the fact that most accelerator programs are inspired by only a few different, well publicised operational models

The ways that things go wrong at accelerators can often be traced back to decisions made at the outset, long before there are any signs of trouble.

They include such things as imagining that nothing more than a strong entrepreneurial background (perhaps occasionally supplemented by some specialist expertise in the relevant sectors of certain applicants) will be all that will be required (in terms of skills and capabilities) for those whose job it will be to attract and sift through the applicants.

It transpires that even if those involved in the screening process have had extensive experience in conventional business development and creation, the batch or ‘cohort’ requirements of accelerators often impose their own ‘hidden dynamics’ on just about every aspect of an accelerator program.

If these are not taken into account, there is a risk of failure (or at the very least, of serious underperformance and ultimate disappointment) for which the accelerator management team may be completely unprepared.

Discussions regarding the attractions of the ‘batch-based approach’ of the accelerator model tend to focus almost exclusively upon the benefits of collaboration between the startup teams.

The consequence of this particular focus is that insufficient attention is paid to any special requirements in terms of the skills, capabilities and processes that are needed to ensure that the resulting unique combinations of working and learning environments are managed in a way that will produce the desired results.

Research that we have been conducting into various accelerator approaches has shown that it is in fact quite possible to identify these ‘concealed requirements’ that inevitably confront (and at least initially, go unnoticed by) accelerator management, and to put in place the resources and procedures required to effectively address them.

If you are interested in obtaining our help, please contact me at the number below, or email me:

Peter Friedman

Peter Friedman

   iij Consulting

Phone: 01582 696911