With our Barca Starta competition less than two weeks away, we’ve tracked down some heavyweights in the startup business to find the best, and worst, advice for people starting out in the industry.
The startup environment has no doubt transformed during the past five years. There are more interesting success stories than ever, there’s much more support on offer and your mates will probably think you’re cool rather than crazy for doing one - hey, they’re probably your fellow founders.
In spite of that, more than half a million startups launched in the UK in the last year alone and the success rate is still pretty dismal. Ian Merricks, head of London’s Accelerator Academy, says the first goal of any organisation like his is to increase that survival rate.
Accelerator Academy runs three 12-week programmes every year where they take on 10 first-year tech and digital media startups with fast-growth potential. The Academy aims to build business readiness for these companies in three key areas: the team, the market and finally investment, all via intenstive training and mentoring.
Running for two and a half years so far, it has already supported nearly 70 startups tackling areas including B2B and B2C, eCommerce, marketing technologies, app development and data analytics. 75 per cent of its alumni have gone on to raise seed funding, Merricks says, totalling around £10m to date.
But a word of caution. A tiny 0.1 per cent of today's startups will be able to secure a place in the 17 ‘tier-one’ accelerators across the UK. That’s pretty stiff competition.
So who is the Accelerator Academy for?
People that can go the distance: “It’s competitive getting in,” says Merricks. “We get around 100 applications per semester and only take 10. And once you’re in, it’s still really hard work running your startup as well as taking on and applying the learning.”
Adults: “The average age of people in our programme is 32. They’ve had jobs in the real world, and have a bit of life experience, so not generally 21-year-old grads full of bright ideas. They have to be bright enough but also humble enough to listen to people.”
Women: “I don’t go in for women-only accelerators and we couldn’t care about the founders' gender or where they are from. But we do get fewer applications from women entrepreneurs.”
Disruptors: “We’re looking for technology solutions that change the way markets behave and where spending another year or two getting it right is a bad idea.”
And who should take their ideas elsewhere?
‘Wantrepreneurs’: “We aren’t looking for people who’ve just been sitting in Starbucks playing on their MacBook Pro for years.”
Sole founders: “If they can’t get one other person to agree with them, it’s possibly not a great idea.”
Businesses with more than £250,000 in revenue: “If you're all in a similar place in your first year, whether you have issues with sales, marketing, financials, recruitment or legals, there are pretty consistent challenges we can help you deal with."
Bad novelists: “Anybody can found a startup, but they say there’s a book in everyone and you wouldn’t want to read mine.”