In the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship, where innovation and adaptability are essential, accelerator programs and mentors have become crucial elements influencing the paths to success for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Lately, accelerator programs have risen as instrumental forces driving the rapid growth of startup enterprises. These programs offer a meticulously structured framework, typically spanning between three to six months, aimed at guiding and supporting early-stage ventures. Accelerator programs offer a wide-ranging developmental path encompassing educational elements, extensive business connections, pitching and fundraising training, and mentorship opportunities.
This mixture of mentorship and resource access creates a comprehensive ecosystem that fosters innovation, promotes knowledge transfer, and increases the likelihood of success for emerging businesses.
Entrepreneurs participating in these programs are exposed to diverse perspectives and actively encouraged to refine their business strategies, critically examine their assumptions, and make necessary adjustments (or pivot) as circumstances dictate. Nonetheless, it is crucial to examine the kinds of mentors and mentoring approaches that novice entrepreneurs expect to encounter within an accelerator program.
What do founders expect from an accelerator program?
Since these programs are for novice entrepreneurs, it is worth examining what they expect from accelerator programs and mentoring services, which have become one of their defining characteristics. To get insight into the founders' expectations, we asked the 2023 eWorks Accelerator Program participants via an online survey.
This anonymous questionnaire was completed by 18 male and 14 female founders who are participants in one of the three programs – High-growth Program, EdTech Accelerator and 0Waste Accelerator – offered by eWorks. These 32 respondents constitute approximately 27% of all program participants.
Additionally, to gather more detailed information, we asked three startup founders from the same cohort to share their perspectives on the questions. This article presents what these founders expect from an accelerator program.
A clear understanding of the goals and a structured timeline is crucial
How and when
To the participants, it is essential that the program provides a clear understanding of the goals and objectives. Also, it is important to have a structured timeline and framework to guide participants' progress and to know when they must reach those specific goals.
This way, entrepreneurs can allocate their time, energy, and resources more efficiently. They can plan and break down their journey into manageable steps focusing on activities and milestones that directly contribute to meeting objectives required by the program. They can make more informed and strategic decisions if they understand the overarching goals of the accelerator program. This can lead to better business choices and outcomes.
74,19% of the early-stage founders prefer a more hands-on mentoring approach over an independent learning experience. A hands-on approach allows for the immediate application of knowledge and skills and usually accelerates learning. Besides this, participants can receive feedback on their actions and adjust, leading to continuous improvement.
Suraj Kumar Lachmandas, Founder of MiMIAT, also prefers hands-on approaches because "direct interaction and guidance from mentors with vast experience can provide valuable insights and feedback, which are vital to overcoming the specific challenges faced by emerging startups."
Participants are seeking personalized business advice
The numbers indicate that business-specific advice is more well-received than generic advice. Specifically, 87.10% of the respondents prefer advice focused on their business, while none of the respondents opted for wide-ranging, general business advice.
Judit Szatmáriné Majoros, CEO and Co-Founder at Digital Language Solutions, who also prefers hands-on approaches, points out: "While there are numerous general learning materials available on the internet that people can use to develop themselves or their startup, they may never be as effective as one-on-one mentoring sessions."
This sentiment is shared by the Co-Founder and CEO of Wellow, Derya Izgür, who sees that "in the startup world, there is often a lack of budget to hire senior executives or engage advisory firms, so having a mentor who feels like an integral part of the team can make a substantial difference and bring significant value to the businesses."
The remaining respondents believe that combining generic and personalized business advice is the most beneficial. According to Lachmandas, this blend allows entrepreneurs to "build foundational knowledge and learn best practices across various sectors while also addressing the unique challenges, goals, and intricacies of a specific sector."
Diversity within a mentor pool in an accelerator program is essential because it enriches the mentorship experience. It brings a valuable range of perspectives and experiences, which prove invaluable for entrepreneurs navigating the dynamic business landscape.
Diverse mentors not only provide innovative strategies and a broader network but also offer a unique opportunity for startups to receive feedback and advice from multiple viewpoints and areas of expertise. This multi-faceted guidance enhances the quality and adaptability of the support provided to startups, fostering their growth and success.
A diverse mentor pool can enrich the mentorship experience
Izgür emphasizes the importance of assessing mentor diversity based on achievements and a track record of success. For her, "prioritizing individuals with relevant expertise for specific mentorship needs is key." Entrepreneurial expertise becomes "particularly vital when seeking answers specific to pre-seed startups, ensuring that the guidance is tailored to the stage of development" – she adds.
Furthermore, the importance of access to a diverse pool of mentors is underscored by the findings of a survey conducted among participants. Using a 5-point scale, where 1 indicates 'not important at all,' and 5 signifies 'absolutely essential,' respondents rated the significance of mentor diversity. The results reveal that this diversity is particularly critical in terms of entrepreneurial expertise and industry background. These findings emphasize the value placed on diverse mentorship within the accelerator program, followed by demographic representation. The distribution of the responses was the following:
Szatmáriné Majoros highlights the paramount importance of mentor diversity in terms of industry backgrounds. She believes "mentors with aligned professional backgrounds with the company's operation are better equipped to comprehend the market dynamics, customer pain points and challenges." Therefore, these mentors are adept at offering early-stage founders "invaluable insights derived from their domain expertise", she remarks.
We invite you to meet other innovative startups and their founders of the 2023 eWorks Accelerator Program at our Demo Day, which will be held on the 25th of October at the Esade Sant Cugat campus. It's a unique chance to witness the culmination of hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit.
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