The most successful accelerators are the ones that can consistently attract the best founders and, in turn, venture investors.
However, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult for any single program to do, as the number of accelerators continues to surge and virtual-first programs create global competition.
It’s become more challenging for accelerators to stand out in a crowded market.
So, what’s the future of accelerators?
The Accelerator Stack
The future of accelerator programs belongs to building a cohesive network of accelerator partners to work strength-to-strength and create bridges for ongoing startup growth.
Let’s build an Accelerator Stack.
A tangible series of separate accelerator programs that share common values but specialize in specific stages along the founder journey.
By taking a collaborative, partnership-driven approach, an Accelerator Stack overcomes the limitations of any single accelerator’s business model and provides ongoing support to founders throughout their entire startup journey.
Most founders already go through multiple programs, but it’s hard to know which is the right fit and there usually isn’t much guidance post demo day. An Accelerator Stack solves this dilemma.
Cooperation over Competition
Accelerators shouldn’t be in competition.
Especially, given the fact that the accelerator business model remains highly constrained and does not easily lend itself to long-term programming, scale or dedicated resources.
Instead, with an Accelerator Stack, accelerators can work together to support their best founders by ensuring that once they graduate they continue to receive the help they need to thrive.
At GrowthX, we already do this with dozens of great programs that graduate their seed-stage founders into The Revenue Accelerator, the only program 100% focused on sales help.
In many cases, our accelerator partners offer our program as a competitive scholarship to the top companies coming out of their program. In turn, over 80% of our cohorts come directly from our accelerator and investor partners. And over 50% are fully-sponsored by those partners.
When founders arrive at your front door from a trusted partner, founder acquisition costs go down, the decision-making process is more efficient and the caliber of founder is higher.
Long-Term Problems; Short-Term Help
Accelerator programs are typically short-term, usually lasting only a few months which is nothing in comparison to the lifecycle of a founder.
For instance, an idea-stage founder needs help with customer interviews and MVP development. A pre-product-market fit founder needs help identifying their ideal customer profile and building and executing their go-to-market strategy.
These stages are quite different and require different advice, expertise and alike. This is creating a new kind of problem in which we’re beginning to see a considerable rise in the number of founders who have participated in 4 or more accelerator programs with little progress to show for it.
The entire founder journey can be served effectively with an Accelerator Stack.
These distinct stages can also run 8-16 months apart. However, most programs only last 12-16 weeks. This has led to wide gaps in the help that founders need, most especially with respect to sales help.
An Accelerator Stack would create a fluid relay race, with each accelerator running a full leg of the race focused on their area of expertise with a ready, willing and able partner waiting to receive the hand-off and continue to help the founder towards a successful outcome.
This is where a massive opportunity for an Accelerator Stack presents itself.
Help Founders Run Their Entire Race
Instead of graduating founders from their program and leaving them to figure out what’s next, accelerators can partner with other programs to create a clear path for continued growth, help and support.
We call this the Accelerator Stack.
The Accelerator Stack approach provides a competitive advantage over almost any other program by enabling founders to join a full track of accelerators and receive the help they need at every stage of their journey.
The Accelerator Stack approach also allows accelerators to specialize on specific developmental stages, markets and challenges while also creating a common language, support network and expectations for long term growth.
By sharing valuable insights and resources with one another, accelerators can take their top performers and graduate them up to the next level of a partner program.
With an Accelerator Stack, each program is able to optimize their help toward the best founders based on merit and experience, not just hype and potential.
The Accelerator Stack model will help accelerator programs provide continued help to their founders. It will also be used to help the accelerator find, attract and seat cohorts.
The cumulative effect of an Accelerator Stack is not only the ability to attract better founders but also to attract more venture investors.
Accelerators can be an incredible source of investment insights. With an Accelerator Stack, accelerators share and trade the insights that early stage investors seek but are often unable obtain through the normal due diligence process.
So here’s what we propose: at your next demo day, as you’re saying goodbye to the founder that you’ve enjoyed working with the most, ask yourself, what’s next for them and ask them what help they now need the most.
What would it look like for that founder if, instead of simply walking away from your program, you were able to continue to help them on their journey?
You may discover that the real value of your program lies in providing a strong foundation for ongoing growth and connection.
After all, a successful startup is not built overnight. With an Accelerator Stack, it can be built sustainably over time.