DSM 2015It’s my third year of managing the RevTech Ventures accelerator program. During this time, I’ve developed a special appreciation for the massive amount of work that’s required to pull off a world-class program.  Fresh back from attending the Techstars-Target and Brandery demo days last week in Minneapolis and Cincinnati, respectively, I have the following insights into what constitutes the most (and least) important ingredients of a great accelerator program:

  • While it’s great to assemble a large crowd in a local concert hall, I’ve found that all the accelerator participants really care about is getting in front of potential investors and customers, which typically make up less than 30% of the audience.
  • The importance of the introduction to a pitch is to lend the presenter some instant credibility. Therefore, it’s best to have the introducer be an early customer, investor, or lead mentor. It’s stunning how many introductions I’ve seen recently that were longer than the pitch itself!
  • Almost inevitably, when there is the standard number of accelerator participants (usually 10 or 11 per cohort), I find that 2 or 3 probably shouldn’t have made the cut. I strongly believe in quality over quantity.
  • Most of the well-known accelerators spend at least 2/3 of their budget on the operational cost of the program, with the remaining 1/3 going to the actual investments (i.e. the participants) in the program. I believe the best programs flip that ratio, with 2/3 of the budget going to the investments.
  • Almost all great accelerator programs have discovered the importance of timing the demo day event to end at around 5pm, and to then have an ample amount of food and adult beverages available so that investors and customers can visit with those teams in which they have the most interest.
  • Many accelerators, including RevTech Ventures, have developed a lead mentorship role. The lead mentor makes the commitment to shepherd the participant through the program and to serve as quarterback in connecting them with all the available resources.
  • Is it a “Pitch Day” or a “Demo Day?” I think it’s both! At RevTech Ventures, we have each participant provide a 5-minute pitch for their team, product, and market strategy, and then conclude with a 90-second product demo.