10X Accelerator

I’d been lucky enough to take part in the 10X accelerator during my internship with Fisher college.

10x accelerator program was started by the TEC Institute few years back and presently accelerating it’s fourth batch. Its presently being operated by Founders Factory. Ten startups are given 10 weeks of high profile mentorship, office space and 20k$ each. 10x focuses on early stage startups & even accept ones in their ideation phase.
First of all, an accelerator is any platform which helps startups get their product to market faster and thus make money faster. Various startups require various types of assistance to get to this objective.  So from a startup perspective, it’s not just important to get into any accelerator but getting into the one that’s right for them could make all the difference.
I got the opportunity to attend one of their initial key operational meetings where they selected the top 10 startups to accelerate from the top 25. This was very valuable for me as I got to know the key criteria for getting into an accelerator. Some of these include:

  • The entrepreneurs themselves. A successful startup requires a wholesome team including a hustler, a pro developer, a marketing guy etc. There are also cases of founders managing multiple of these roles by themselves.
  • The match between mentors available and the startup requirements is really important.
  • Whether the startup can be considerably accelerated during the acceleration period. (Some startups with really great ideas didn’t get through because 10 weeks were too short for meaningful acceleration).

Each week of 10x has a theme to it. All activities, talks, meetings etc are based on a that theme. Some of the themes include:

  • Lean Product Week
  • Story Telling Week
  • Branding UX Week
  • Technical Development Week
  • Sales Strategy Week
  • Leadership and Team Building Week
  • Capital Access Planning Week

I got the opportunity to attend talks and interact with very interesting people during my time there. Various successful entrepreneurs who had been through the pains of setting up their own business shared their insights – a wide range of perspectives were shared on a daily basis.

One of the best sessions I attended was that Mike Blackwell, an experienced entrepreneur and lean advocate. His opinions were rooted in reality. The first thing he said was that he doesn’t care about our idea. Nor are his opinions/feedback about our ideas going to be of any use for us. The point here being that only the actual target audience will be able to validate a new startup idea. No use running it through a thousand others for feedback. Another key insight was regarding the lean methodology which has gained immense popularity lately. Mike said that blindly adopting that too is a bad idea. The main idea of the lean methodology is to iterate through a Build-Measure-Learn(BML) cycle where you build often, release often, make or break, learn from the same and improve. Eric Ries, who wrote ‘The Lean Startup‘ book had setup his startup in the valley where money was abundant. His startup had a burn rate of more that 50k per month. Such a startup can afford to throw hours and hours of developer time into new features which may or may not appeal to customers. According to Mike, we can filter out may of the conceived features even before passing through the BML cycle. This advice is especially valuable to companies which are not as lucky as the ones in the valley. In fact I personally feel that such an approach is extremely lacking most Indian startups. First thing people do on getting an idea is to spend the next few months developing their dream product which in the end most often turn out to be something nobody wants. All this burns away the initial investment and delays the time to market. Validation of the idea is the key!

One of the most valuable takeaway from 10x was the opportunity to closely interact with the founders of the 10 startups in this year’s program. There are teams from various parts of the world including Australia and Israel, from different backgrounds and age groups. Each of them still continues to motivate me – extremely passionate about their idea, highly self motivated & focused. Day in and day out, they are working very hard to bring their dreams to reality. The fact that they are also normal people like us but with the exception of extra ordinary will power struck me. My only regret is that I couldn’t take part in the entire program. It’s nearing it’s completion with the Demo day fast approaching on Nov 15th. A large number of VCs and angel investors will be attending that day. Paul Singh, of 500 Startups fame is the Keynote speaker. I’m pretty excited about the event and wish the very best for all 10 startups.

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