As an entrepreneur, when your company gets to a certain stage the question of whether join an accelerator often arises. I was no different, I had heard a lot from fellow entrepreneurs about the pros and cons. Truth be told, I was skeptical as to whether they added any real value to your company. But as they say, ‘if you never try you’ll never know’ – I took on the challenge and applied for the MAN Impact Accelerator program.
We are an Indian based agritech startup called farMart, and we were part of the MAN Impact Accelerator’s first cohort. The accelerator is built to help scale socially responsible ventures on a journey to different startup ecosystems across Europe, India, South Africa and USA. Through this article, I wish to share my experience with the program, in order to help other entrepreneurs understand the value and experience of going through an accelerator program.
As we focus on building our startups, we often get so bogged down in the details and day-to-day operations that it seems impossible to look beyond the first six months to a year and we most definitely forget the bigger picture. A week of mentoring sessions in between your busy schedules provides a hawk eye view of your business and the direction you are heading. Over a period of 7 months, we interacted with over 150 industry leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers from 4 different continents. It’s phenomenal to watch the best minds come together to help you solve the challenges in your business. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we leveraged years of accumulated wisdom from the mentors to make important changes to our business, which are already beginning to bear fruits.
Experiencing the vibrant startup ecosystems of Paris, Munich, Mumbai, Cape Town and San Francisco provides unique insights into customer behaviour in international markets. Gaining insights from local mentors on how some of the startups are solving similar problems in their country can provide you with answers to some of the questions that are keeping you up at night. Cross-collaboration opportunities with local startups is also a real opportunity.
Building a socially responsible business
The current generation of entrepreneurs are building companies with different values than those of the past: values that are not solely driven by profit. Millennials are rejecting the status quo and building companies which are valuing human and cultural capital and protecting the planet by making it more sustainable. The accelerator not only helped us rethink our company’s mission but also helped us design a framework to measure the impact our company is having on people and the planet. In the coming years, this will become a very important metric to measure your growth, as studies have shown that customers are beginning to show more loyalty to companies that are impact-driven.
Most accelerators take an equity stake in the company, which is part of their business model and totally acceptable. But entrepreneurs in most cases are skeptical about giving equity without knowing the outcome. However, the MAN Impact Accelerator program was one of a kind, as it does not take any equity whilst providing in-kind support of up to USD 50,000 which includes free travel, accommodation and free access to mentors. When I told this fact to my entrepreneurial friends, the look on their faces told me a story. We live in a world of givers and takers. So what exactly does MAN Truck & Bus and Yunus Social Business get from this selfless act? They believe that rather than simply donating money (which is also important), helping entrepreneurs scale their business will result in a multiplier effect in society, thereby generating a greater value per dollar invested. So if you or your investors are worried about giving up a stake, this is the least of your problems.
We were a part of a cohort of 8 amazing startups. We often do not talk about the level of mental stress and challenges that any entrepreneur has to go through. We are always told entrepreneurs are supernatural and can handle anything that comes their way. However, MAN and YSB acted as a true stress buffer, as the program weeks stimulated conversations during dinners, beachside walks and bus journeys with other startup founders. Besides their emotional support, we provided each other direction as we each lived very similar experiences. During my journey, I made lifelong friends from around the world that I can always rely on. This was one of the biggest personal takeaways from the program.
Maybe, an accelerator isn’t for you. Whilst accelerators often run for a short period of time, they are jam-packed and take serious time and personal commitment to be a part of. Luckily, we were three co-founders so we took turns to attend the program weeks. So if you are a single founder, this might be something you want to consider!
All in all, my final judgment is that joining an accelerator program is truly worth your time. It really helps you understand your business and helps you reinvent and advance your business model for the future.
Do you want to hit the ground running with your startup like Alekh Sanghera from farMart? The #MANImpactAccelerator is now accepting applications for batch 2. Accelerate your startup, learn from experts, and get technical coaching along with an indirect grant and support of up to 50,000 USD for each startup (equity-free).
Apply before September 23rd at http://impact.man.eu/ and watch this program teaser for more information about our program!