Two years ago global entrepreneurship platform Gust estimated 193 accelerators in Europe
. To date, we believe the number of startup accelerators, incubators, and startup studios is even higher. The abundance of choices creates a paradox of choice
in many founders’ heads – how to pick the best one? Let’s try to answer this using a real-life example.
We were approached by WeXelerate accelerator, who is currently in a rolling a call for applications for its next batch. The program is open to companies from all over the world and hosted 2 Finnish startups in their previous batch. We exchanged a few notes with 2 Finns who joined WeXelerate to figure out what is the program like and what kind of value startups can get from being a part of it.
WeXelerate offers a 4-month program which includes a wide range of training courses, lectures, and workshops designed to prepare startups and their companies for future challenges. Over the course of the program startups receive personal coaching from WeXelerate partners, talk to potential corporate customers and attend networking events.
“I have been positively surprised by how good and well-thought-out the program has been. Lectures span across a wide variety of topics, some excellent visiting speakers, the staff is very helpful and the environment is amazing,” shares Jarmo Ollila from GBuilder. “At the same time, the program acknowledges that we have to run our businesses so the schedule is not too heavily packed.”
“All of my mentors have been helpful – and I have “recruited” a couple of more. One mentor set up a meeting with us at the company he runs and helped in a number of different ways beyond that,” says Manne Pyykkö, founder of Bizmind. WeXelerate invites mentors from their corporate partner network, thus making that it easier for startups craft solutions matching their needs. There are more than 100 experienced mentors who have profiled themselves as serial entrepreneurs, executives, experts or consultants for many years.
Besides knowledge and coaching session, the accelerator provides tools for startups to help them with funding. One of them is Investory – an online tool that manages startup relations with their investors and makes it easy to communicate.
“We are not using the tool at the moment but are committed to using it with investors-to-be. That way certain potential investors can follow our progress and get our deck,” says Pyykkö.
“The best part of the program has been the other start-ups. It is so motivating and inspiring to meet and work with such a great group of people,” says Ollila. Startups run their operations in nearly 9,000 square meters space in the heart of Vienna, and have plenty of opportunities for networking. WeXelerate organizes plenty of meetups, get-togethers and themed events dedicated to a particular industry so that startups connect not only with the community but also beyond that.
This is a tricky one. Whether you are part of the accelerator program or not, onboarding the first customers will always depend on how well your product or service matches their needs. WeXelerate has a rich network and definitely helps to open a door or two to corporate clients.
“Accelerator so far has helped us in market research and we have also booked a few meetings with potential clients,” said Ollila. After one month, from which only two weeks were spent on site in Vienna, GBuilder has not secured any customers. “In our business, the sales cycle can be really long, up to 2 years or so. Our goal for the program is to get familiar with the market and get connections and meetings. Hopefully, those will develop into clients.”
Thus, while being in the program, you should not expect the accelerator to bring clients for you – it is your responsibility as a founder to make sure connections provided by the accelerator convert into paid clients.
What happens after?
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Each year the WeXelerate Accelerator graduates around 100 startups focusing on five industries – Infrastructure & Energy, Industry 4.0, Media, Insurance and Banking, and cross-industry technologies such as the Internet of Things, Mobility, Artificial Intelligence, Bots, Blockchain and Cyber Security.
When a startup graduates the program, from that point the startup becomes a part of WeXelerate alumni community. That means, they have the door open to accelerator network and key players. The graduates also receive some PR support and get their progress shared on accelerator channels.
The call for applications for WeXelerate program is now open. Startups and scaleups can apply by May 9: https://www.wexelerate.com/