5 Reasons Your Accelerator Needs Go-To-Market Programming

Here are the five primary reasons why your accelerator needs go-to-market programming (including a detailed guide to help you implement best practices today).

1. Your founders need a go-to-market strategy to satisfy the new standard of investor-readiness. 

Times have changed for accelerators. It’s no longer enough to help your founders build their pitch deck, organize their data room and prepare for a demo day. 

Investor-readiness is now the natural byproduct of customers and revenue that result from a systematic go-to-market strategy. 

More venture capital is being invested, but it’s primarily being allocated to startups that follow a go-to-market strategy to find product-market fit. Investors are looking for founders to come to the table with a traction narrative that demonstrates signs of predictability and – ultimately – scale.

Don’t stop leveraging your network and the network of your alumni and mentor communities to make introductions for your founders. But, first spend time with your founders helping them identify and validate their Ideal Customer Profile.

This guarantees that the introductions you make are relevant and timely. In turn, that protects your founders’ limited runway by focusing it on the activities that are most likely to produce the most useful results in the form of investable traction in the least amount of time. That’s an investable narrative.

Continue to organize mentor talks and coaching sessions. That exposure to success motivates founders and expands their networks. But, compliment community building activities by allocating a significant amount of program time to the actual work of finding product-market fit and growing revenue.

A go-to-market framework and curriculum empowers your founders to set realistic, objective and achievable market milestones, promotes accountability and delivers the real revenue results required to secure funding from venture investors and to satisfy the new standard of investor-readiness.

2. Your founders need a go–to-market strategy because revenue solves everything. 

As an active investor in secondary markets, the most common mistake we see founders make is selling too much of their company, too early in their startup journey. When your founders are forced to raise capital to avoid going out of business, rather than choosing to raise capital to grow faster than their revenue affords, the impact on their cap table can be devastating.

At the early stage, the best people your founders should raise money from are their customers. Customers don’t take equity or a Board seat, and they only want your founders to help them.

Outside funding should subsidize growth, not mask a poorly constructed go-to-market strategy. Venture capital is synonymous with “big, fast” capital. But, a venture capable entrepreneur is only one type of entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur is someone who wants to work in their own business and not someone else’s business. That’s just as true for a shoe store owner as it is for a SaaS founder.

The revenue growth that results from a systematic go-to-market strategy empowers your founders to decide for themselves what type of entrepreneur they want to be. And, if they decide to raise venture capital, revenue enables them to do so from a position of strength.

Your go-to-market programming will also help your founders to avoid the most common – and often fatal – consequence of a misaligned early investment.

By implementing go-to-market programming to help your founders raise capital from a position of strength, you enable them to maintain the ownership that venture capitalists require as a threshold to consider them for investment (i.e., your founders need to own roughly half of their company after their Series A).

3. Your founders are actively looking for help with their go-to-market strategy.

Your founders are overwhelmed with go-to-product and fundraising resources, but they have few tangible resources to help them go to market. You can be their solution by implementing a go-to-market framework and curriculum.

As a partner to dozens of accelerator programs around the world, we see first hand the demand that founders have for go-to-market programing. As an investor, we also meet thousands of startups that have been through multiple accelerator programs without ever touching go-to-market strategy.

The world is over-crowded with product development bootcamps and most colleges offer a computer science degree. But, your founders do not have access to market development bootcamps, and very few colleges in the world offer even a single course on entrepreneurial sales. This is your opportunity.

Your founders have access to low-code and no-code tools, software development frameworks, code repositories and plug-n-play APIs. But, there is no Ruby-on-Rails of go-to-market, there is no GitHub of sales, and there is no Heroku of biz dev. Your founders need a framework to systematically get to market.

By giving your founders what they want, not to mention what they need to succeed, your founders will succeed, and so will you. 

4. Go-to-market programming differentiates your accelerator from the competition. 

You’re working hard to attract the best founders and to help their startups to become investment-ready. Like every other accelerator program, you’re probably helping your founders build an investment pitch deck, organize a data room and prepare for a demo day.  

Differentiation is more important in a post-COVID world where accelerators are now fully virtual, and public funding has increased, spawning more competition. Founders are considering a wider array of accelerator programs, not just the ones based in their community.

They have more choices to select a program that is tailored to the specific problem they are working to solve, the market they intend to serve and/or the customer base they are looking to acquire, rather than a generic accelerator (even nationally recognized programs).

You can attract the best founders and set yourself apart from other accelerators by doing more than helping your founders build their product and raise money. Help them become investment-ready through customer acquisition and revenue.

Go-to-market programming will differentiate you from the competition and attract a diversity of founders with the highest potential to succeed.

You can beat the competition by helping your founders build and execute a tangible go-to-market strategy that yields real revenue results.

5. Go-to-market programming creates results relied on by your local investors

A go-to-market strategy and the resulting systematic revenue are investable signals that your startups are solving significant problems in a scalable way.

Savvy investors know that if your founders are struggling to win customers and grow revenue, more funding is unlikely to change that. A systematic go-to-market strategy will.

We find that this is especially true in our partnerships with accelerators in nascent startup ecosystems where access to professional venture capital is relatively limited. The pressure to create real revenue results with a limited runway is greater when the subsidy of venture capital is unavailable. 

The capital providers in nascent startup ecosystems tend to be traditional wealth investors. These angel investors are typically turned off by the theater of the demo day, and they require a more thoughtful and detailed approach to revenue than a single slide or two in a pitch deck filled with optimistic promise, but otherwise devoid of details addressing bottom-up business building.

In short, this investor type (and savvy venture capitalists) requires investable insights that go deeper than a large Total Addressable Market. Helping your founders scope their TAM is an important step to attract investors looking for the potential of a very large exit in a relatively short period of time.

But, a Total Addressable Market –  regardless of how many trailing zeros it has – is relatively meaningless without a go-to-market strategy that gives investors confidence that your founders will use investor funding to systematically acquire customers and revenue. 

When you solve your founders’ execution gap with go-to-market programming, you’re able to speak the language of those investors. In turn, they’ll attend your demo days, and your founders will secure investor meetings and raise capital that is aligned with the scale strategy of your founders and the requirements of later-stage investors. 

Conclusion

Among the various reasons why your accelerator needs go-to-market programming, the five primary reasons are:

  1. A go-to-market strategy is now table-stakes to satisfy the new standard of investor-readiness; 
  2. The systematic revenue that results from a go-to-market strategy empowers your founders with choices, including the option to scale fast with venture capital;
  3. Your founders know they need this help and have few resources to rely on. This is your opportunity;
  4. Competition to attract top founders is at an all-time high. Beat the competition by filling the gap in go-to-market programming; and
  5. Few places have the abundance of venture capital as Silicon Valley. Encourage capital in your community to leave the sidelines and participate in your startup ecosystem by generating the unique investable insights that result from a go-to-market framework and curriculum. 

The real results your founders will experience from a systematic go-to-market strategy are clear. However, building the detailed and structured programming to regularly help your founders achieve these investable revenue results requires time, money and expertise.

That’s exactly why we created a detailed guide on the specific steps you can start taking today to help your founders meet the new standard of investor-readiness. Download your copy now:

Free Pitch Deck Starter Toolkit

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