Accelerator bubble?

A big part of spiking on a startup idea is getting out and exploring the business domain. So I’ve been taking advantage of these urban months and visited a number of meetup groups and networking events.

It’s been fun and informative. Mostly. And I’ve enjoyed a few free drinks. But there’s a common thread across all tech startup sectors, and that is the presence of xyz accelerator programme.

I get the idea behind it. Take some energetic folk with a potentially great idea and give them a few quid to get something going. It’s a gamble but if there’s enough new projects coming through the doors, someone’ll make something that works. It won’t be airbnb. This is London. Not Silicon Valley. But it might be something that takes off and becomes a household name within its niche sector.

But what about the startup companies? The 15 grand investment investment isn’t to be sniffed at, but if you’re coming from a tech background, you can save that cash in a two or three months and bootstrap yourself. Kinda like I just did.

Leaving aside the financial gain, what can an accelerator offer a startup? Or rather, what does a startup need from an accelerator?

There’s the business saviness and investor connectivity, for sure. An accelerator should be well primed to do that. In fact, that’s what they do. Primarily, utterly, totally and one hundred percent.

Knowing how to build business connections is critical and not being able to network with the right people will help any venture on its way to failure. Sounds like an accelerator could be a training course in business development.

But what really concerns me about the the plethora of startup accelerators is that many of these ventures have just picked an industry where there doesn’t seem to be too-many-accelerators-yet and launched right in. Domain knowledge is the most important thing a new venture needs and I don’t think that just ringing up an expert and putting their photo on the about page of a website really qualifies.

If I were on an accelerator programme, I’d want to be working with experts in the domain. I’ve not got into explaining why I think this accelerator phenomenon is a bubble, but you might be able to deduce that when people start rolling out copycat business models just because they can. Well, watch this space.

Written on October 14, 2015