Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.
Accelerators are dead. Long live the Accelerator. / Leading Through Uncertainty / Meet radical Ally, Eli Bressert.
Jan 23, 2019
Welcome to the radical Briefing 0005. 2019 has certainly started with a bang! Whether you are still deep in figuring out what work is to be done; Or charging headlong into your exciting new plans – We recommend taking a few moments pause to read the latest briefing. Equipping yourself with knowledge, taking some deliberate moments to think about the future each week, each day is critical to advancing your impact. Even if the strategic direction feels a lot less firm in these quickly change times, the one thing we can all be doing to keep momentum is furthering our skills and knowledge. Enjoy!
Accelerators are dead. Long live the Accelerator.
The last decade has been truly the decade of the startup accelerator – from pioneering programs such as Y Combinator, TechStars and SeedCamp to the myriad of programs (including more and more “corporate accelerators”) all around the world today, there has never been a better support infrastructure for budding entrepreneurs and their fledgling companies.
The party is about to end.
For beginners, accelerators traditionally always had a hard time making money – they have to run and finance often in-person programs with very real operational expenses and tend to provide funding to their participating startups. All in exchange for a typically single-digit percentage of a startups equity – with no protection (and often no capital to avoid) from dilution. Take into account the average survival rate of a startup and the fact that it takes multiple rounds of (diluting) financing and the initial equity stake is not worth much in the end.
Further accelerators, as in most creative industries, have a natural draw to the stars – the handful of top programs can pick from the most promising startups (as they have a strong desire to be part of the “best” program), the others have to scour the hand-me-downs (the same is true for venture capital – the top firms have the highest returns as they have unique access to the best companies).
And lastly we have seen massive democratization of access to knowledge, tools and, to a certain extent, even networks, which is, of course, good news as now you can have access to the same insights a company going through Y Combinator (wildly regarded the best startup accelerator in the world) by signing up for the free Startup School.
We predict that we will see a large dying-off of these programs all around the world in the next 12-24 months. The top programs will be fine, as will very niche and specialized programs. For everyone else, we might not lose all that much – as we truly live in the best times to start a company ever (and it will only get better).
Yes, the pace of change is happening more quickly than ever before, but let’s get one thing straight – uncertainty has always been a constant and always will be. So, how do you get good at leading when you don’t have a clear direction or have all the answers?
‘Ask for help’ is obvious, and as leaders, this is often a non-starter. We are supposed to have all the answers, we worry what kind of message it will send to the team if we don’t. When actually sharing responsibility, and demonstrating it takes a team to meet a challenge is a great sign of strength, a measure of diversity and win for all involved. Start practicing saying “I don’t know” and asking more people for their opinion. You’ll get feedback, and you will build trust inside your Org.
‘Double down on learning’. Whether that’s having conversations in your network, reading more, or listening to a podcast whilst on the way to the office - there’s always more you can do to educate yourself. Staying ahead of trends, understanding market forces, learning a new self-reflection technique - make time for yourself each day to learn and push yourself to the edge. The more you know, the more you will be prepared.
‘Keep moving forward’. The new direction might not be clear, but you will never know what works if you don’t move from neurons to atoms. Ship and test should be your mantra. Everything from product development, to marketing to how you develop strategy must not stop. Rather small intentional future forward steps, along with ways to measure success, and refine is the rhythm in which to tune your organization.
Uncertainty is ever present, how you prepare, react and embrace it will determine your progress.
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