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Today’s Founder Friday post comes from Joseph Fasone, founder and CEO of Pilot (NYC ’15).

Pilot was lucky enough to participate in the Techstars NYC Winter 2015 program. It was an amazing experience and the reason for posting this.

There are many good reasons for not participating in a startup accelerator.

  1. Not the right timing. If you’re about to have a baby at the start of the program, it’s probably not the best idea. Accelerators are exhausting.
  2. It’s not the right location. If your business only operates in New York and you need to be close to your customers, it may not make sense to attend an accelerator in Austin or Berlin.
  3. Your ego is too big. If you’re a self-proclaimed business master and think “I just don’t need an accelerator. It’s not worth my time”, check yourself. With this attitude, you’re probably not equipped to handle the slap-in-the-face known as feedback. You get a lot of that in accelerators.
  4. It’s too dilutive. If you’ve just raised a $1M+ equity round or you have an otherwise complicated cap table, an accelerator may be very dilutive. I personally think trading a small amount of equity for increased chance of success is a great trade, but not everyone agrees with that.

I’m sure there are plenty of other valid reasons, but I’ve been hearing one particularly awful excuse over and over again:

“Techstars sounds great, but I honestly think our company is just too late-stage for it.”

(— real quote from a founder who emailed me last month.)

Unsurprisingly, one month later:

  • No, his company has not launched yet.
  • No, he does not have real customers.
  • No, he did not ‘go viral’ or raise money.

That is one of the more ridiculous examples. Another founder I spoke to had a business that was doing $20K MRR and operating in one market. She was convinced that the company was on the right track with no assistance needed and decided not to attend an accelerator.

Let’s get something straight. Companies with a built product and paying customers require the same amount of ‘acceleration’ as fledgling ideas.

I’d even go so far as to say that companies with paying customers will benefit from accelerators more than those that don’t.

Acceleration is about learning how to grow, and then growing faster.

If you are thinking about an accelerator program for your startup, talk to entrepreneurs that have done it. Ask me, or ask some of these people:

Moisey Uretsky, DigitalOcean (@moiseyuretsky)
Isaac Saldana, SendGrid (@isaldana)
Nick Taranto, Plated (@nicktaranto)
TJ Parker, Pill Pack (@tjparker)
Rami Essaid, Distil Networks (@ramiessaid)

I encourage every entrepreneur to check out Techstars. There are awesome programs running in +21 cities around the world. If you think your business can win, accelerators help make that a reality.

Apply to Techstars today. 

Joseph Fasone Joseph Fasone
Joseph Fasone is the founder of Pilot (Techstars NYC Winter ’15), which provides fiber-optic Internet to businesses in New York City. Prior to founding Pilot, Joseph was the Director of Information Technology for WeWork. He currently resides in New York City. @jpfasone

  • Nikki

    Great post Joseph! Thank you for this. What stopped me from applying is the fact that I don’t have a co founder. Any advice on this? Much success to you!

    • Joseph Fasone

      Thanks, Nikki! You shouldn’t let the lack of a cofounder stop you from applying. While statistically Techstars has backed more teams with co-founders, there’s no explicit rule. In the application process, you’ll simply have to prove that you’re able to build a strong team around you.

      Also, for what it’s worth, I’m a solo founder!

      • Nikki

        Wow! Really? I could have sworn somewhere that I read you had to have a cofounder. I really want a team, just haven’t gotten there yet. Have any Educational startups applied for Techstars? I’m in the online education field. Thanks for responding Joseph!

        • Joseph Fasone

          Plenty of EdTech companies have applied, and Techstars ran an awesome EdTech accelerator in partnership with Kaplan back in 2014… you can check out those companies here: http://www.techstars.com/content/blog/announcing-the-12-companies-for-kaplan-edtech-accelerator/

          I’ve also pasted some excerpts from the Techstars FAQ as they might be helpful.

          I’m a single founder. Can I get accepted into Techstars, or do you only look for teams?

          While we don’t screen applications just because they have a single founder, it does make things more difficult. We look for great, balanced teams who have a full range of skills. We strongly advise you to seek co-founders who balance your skillset. For example, if you’re a strong developer, you might consider adding someone with business and/or marketing experience. If you’re a great business evangelist with no developer, it’s very unlikely we’ll accept you into the program, so go find a rock star developer to join you.

          I’m a single founder. How can I find a co-founder?

          Check out Techstars FounderMatch. We also suggest your local tech meetups, and a healthy dose of networking. Check out some of our events as we occasionally have Founder meetups.

          • Nikki

            Outstanding. Thanks again for your help 🙂