Accelerators force you to compress a year’s worth of business activity into a three-month period. Wide ranges of topics including legal infrastructure, funding, branding, financial modeling and Food and Drug Administration pathways are strategized, planned and executed. After some thought, I thought it was best to break down the first month of a business accelerator into three phases.
Weeks 1 & 2: Drinking Out of a Fire Hose
The first two weeks are some of the most intense and knowledge-packed days you can imagine. The speakers we have don’t just lecture us; they are heavily engaged with us. Instead of a 15-minute stroll through a PowerPoint, we have in-depth dialogue on things like hospital supply chains, customer discovery, FDA 510K strategy and intellectual property protection. Each day ends with a to-do list around 15 items long. By lunch the next day, the list has already doubled. All the while, we are aggressively practicing our 60-second pitches. This is also the period in which we meet most of the mentors, and based on expertise, develop a core set of relationships around our particular topics.
Week 3: Breaking the Huddle
So now we know all the things our company needs to do. This week is about the transition from planning to execution. You start prioritizing the to-do list, reiterating the Business Model Canvas, having key mentor meetings and build out the financial model in conjunction with your strategic roadmap. We attend more formal investor meetings, allowing investors to get to know us and set expectations. In short, week three is figuring out very specifically how we’re going to execute the hefty workload from the first two weeks.
Week 4: Execute
The strategic game plan laid down last week is incessantly executed. Customer discovery is crucial, so emailing, calling and meeting with your customer segments and key influencers happens daily. Branding (or re-branding in many cases) really takes shape and the company culture develops organically. Directional and strategic moves are made that really commit companies down that respective path. In a few ways this is when the “rubber meets the road” because momentum starts picking up as small milestones are met. Things become more organized and less hectic as the path narrows; however, it continues to be an incredibly steep road.
In summarizing the first month, Louis Diesel, co-founder of LineGard Med, said, “Prioritizing and executing milestones appropriately is vital for any medical device startup. It can be easy to become distracted by the many variables of the monstrous hospital supply chain.”
Something that is abundantly clear from the first month of an accelerator is that you aren’t in little league anymore. People are putting trust not just in your app or your product, but in YOU. Investors invest in people and companies, not products. The investment capital is not yours, it is theirs, and it is your responsibility to be a good steward of that capital and eventually give them a sizable return on that investment. That realization is important to make early because it gives you a respect for the relationship, and pride in your craft.