How to Take the Suck Out of Raising Money: Choosing an Accelerator Program

By Iris Gonzalez
RealCo is but one of several accelerator programs available in San Antonio for entrepreneurs to grow their startup. Courtesy image.
Joshua Lawton Belous
Joshua Lawton Belous

Joshua Lawton-Belous is a serial entrepreneur and investor who works with startups in San Antonio and across the state of Texas. He contributes today’s guest post. You can follow him on Twitter @AlertingMainSt.

Raising money sucks. Bringing a team together is hard. Building your dream seems like a bridge too far.

If you’re an entrepreneur or have an idea that you want to make a reality, you’ve thought at least one of these things before, if not all of these things. You may still be thinking them right now. Believe me, I have been in your shoes.

Having founded companies, raised money, built teams, and invested in companies, the only thing that gets easier over time is raising money if you’ve already had a successful exit. People love investing in winners. The problem is if you haven’t started a company that has made investors money, then raising money sucks.

But what can you do about it? If you’re an entrepreneur, you already know that the startup life isn’t easy. What you are looking for are ways to break through the noise and accomplish your dream. You know that there isn’t an easy button, but you also know there is a way that doesn’t require you to put your head through every wall in front of you. Fortunately, there is a middle way. It’s hard. But it’s a path that a lot of the successful entrepreneurs have taken: Accelerators.

There are a ton of accelerators out there. All of them are structured differently. Some of them have specific industry focuses. Some prepare you for investors. Knowing which accelerator is right for you is the key to making the accelerator that you join accelerate you.

So what questions you should be asking?

Do I have a market for my idea?

Everybody has ideas. The question isn’t whether you have a good idea. The question is, will somebody pay you for your idea? Whether it’s a new product or service, the test of an idea in business is if there is a market that will pay for your idea.

There are two programs in Texas which can help you with market validation and research for your idea and business: Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs out of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M New Ventures Competition.

[Editor’s note: San Antonio-based entrepreneurs can and do participate in startup programs in relatively nearby Austin. San Antonio-based Dearduck founder Katy Aucoin is in the Austin Techstars program’s current cohort, for example.]

In addition, San Antonio has a variety of startup programs that can help with market validation, from 3-Day Startup weekends to student entrepreneurship programs. Check Startup San Antonio’s Resources page for more information on what meets your needs to validate your idea before launch.

Can I scale my idea into a fast-growing business?

Now that you’ve validated your idea, it’s time to launch and start generating revenue.

[Editor’s note: Another guest post offers early-stage companies options for funding, see the Pros and Cons of Startup Financing Sources.]

San Antonio-based entrepreneurs have options for finding an accelerator program that is right for you. From EPIcenter‘s focus on sustainable energy to Scaleworks and Realco programs for business-to-business (B2B) software as a service (SaaS) companies, or even Break Fast and Launch, the nation’s first culinary accelerator, chances are you can find a program for the vertical you are in.

Don’t forget to consider an accelerator like Quake Capital which does not focus on a specific industry or accelerators like SKU which specializes in helping entrepreneurs scaling a market-validated consumer product goods company.

When deciding which accelerator is the best fit, consider funding, access to your market’s decision makers, and help with finding talent to round out your team as some of the factors for consideration.

Can I or do I want to move to another city?

Often accelerators require you to move to where their accelerator is. For some teams, this is a good idea.

[Editor’s note: The Cityflag co-founder team is currently participating in a Techstars Arcadis accelerator program in Amsterdam until June, read Cityflag One of Ten Startups in New Techstars Arcadis Accelerator for details.]

For those in the media space, maybe moving to New York City during the accelerator will be beneficial. However, moving has its own issues and not everyone can make it work. If you can’t move or moving would have a negative impact on you or your startup there are some fabulous online accelerators for you to consider like Techstars Anywhere Accelerator that will help grow your business.

Do I want to give away equity?

Unless you plan on bootstrapping your company or using debt financing, you are going to have to sell equity in your company.

Whether it’s to attract top talent or bring in investments, at some point you will no longer own 100 percent of your startup. This is why it is important to guard your equity and make sure that you are using it for wise investments. If equity is precious to you and you’re not ready to give equity away yet, don’t worry. While the majority of accelerators take equity, there are some that do not take any equity.

From Newchip’s Global Online Accelerator to MassChallenge there are options that do not require you to give away equity. Make sure to ask questions up front before signing any agreements to make the best choice for your startup.

Featured image is a courtesy photo from the RealCo accelerator program in San Antonio.

 

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