Accelerators present a complex opportunity for startup founders. It’s easy to pin the equity deal as weak and devalue the intangibles. When a founder overcomes this and decides an accelerator makes sense, they’re presented with a myriad of options, each with dozens of moving pieces: economic deal, location, partners, track record, mentor network, sector focus, culture, etc.
Many times in life, nothing beats hearing it from the horse’s mouth. So, I thought I’d share my StartFast experience from 2013 to help founders facing this decision today.
I met Chuck and Nasir, the managing partners at StartFast, in the spring of 2012, two days before the launch of their first class. Over the next 9 months, Chuck became my first ever ‘mentor,’ a concept that boggled my mind with its selflessness. The following winter, he asked that we join StartFast.
Like most founders, I was skeptical at first. Having raised an angel convertible note round with an aggressive valuation cap, I was insulted when told the accelerator terms were nonnegotiable. We sat on the decision for quite some time, but throughout that period, Chuck continued his pattern of selfless mentoring without pressing our decision. I finally came to trust him to the point that we decided to move forward.
Commitment & Accountability: Chuck is a successful serial entrepreneur and as he’ll tell you, he put it all on the line 3-4 times before he took chips off the table. The same level of commitment is expected from all StartFast founders. There is no such thing as an excuse in StartFast. Founders are expected to take redeyes to avoid travel during the day, meet deadlines regardless of unusual situations, and take accountability for any mishap. StartFast instilled this ethic in me (I’m writing this on a redeye from Seattle) and I think this has made its way into SpinCar’s culture and elevates our reputation with customers, partners & investors. I still to this day find myself typing an email placing blame on someone else then deleting the sentence and rewriting to hold myself and the company accountable.
Traction: As a great book Traction puts it, “traction trumps everything.” This is the mindset at StartFast; this isn’t a West coast accelerator focused on product or team building. This is an East coast crew that values customers, revenue, growth, sales model, distribution and BD partnerships. A nice beta-test is great, but a steep revenue curve goes a long way in negotiating a term sheet.
Close network: You won’t meet Mark Zuckerberg through StartFast. You’ll meet rock stars that are mentoring not to stroke their egos, but because they genuinely want to help. These people will make a material impact on your business and will get their hands dirty like you wouldn’t expect. Shortly after StartFast, I began working closely with a mentor, John Miller. John has been a vital part of our scaling in the automotive sector, having exited 4 companies in the automotive software space. He is not just advising us, but out there hustling with us to move the ball down the field. This is the kind of mentor relationship StartFast will foster.
It’s about Results: I am pleased with our decision to join StartFast. We had our round oversubscribed shortly after demo day, are experiencing explosive growth, and continue to leverage the StartFast network on a continual basis. I encourage founders considering accelerators to give StartFast a hard look. If you can get past the sexy branding of YC and 500S, you’ll find StartFast may provide a richer, more personal experience that for us, at least, has proved extremely valuable by any standards.
Feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat further – Devin@SpinCar.com