How To Secure Your Place On An Accelerator Programme

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Raising funding is an all-consuming task that can be stressful, demoralising, distracts you from growth and, often, bears no fruit. What is more, investors want to see traction while you are in the process, but if you are a small company where the founder is the sales team, this can be challenging. Accelerator programmes ease many of these pain points and offer unrivalled benefits. 

At Lantum, we joined 3 accelerators. The NHS Innovation Accelerator, the Cedars-Sinai accelerator in LA and the TMCX accelerator at Texas Medical Centre in Houston. These programmes have provided unrivalled access to potential clients, healthcare mentors, and a peer-set you can learn from, many of whom we still rely upon. Accelerators often also offer essential funding, helping you to grow at the early stages. If you find the right accelerator, it can pay dividends for the lifetime of your business.

The good ones are highly competitive and once you are in, you have a window of time to make the most of the opportunity. So here are my tips on how to get in and get a good return on your time there. 

Do your research

Spend time researching the programme, what are they looking for? What are the priorities of the health system and how can your company fit within this? Learn which key stakeholders are involved, what are they interested in and how would this map to what you do? What is going to spike their interest? If it’s an NHS accelerator, for example, you should know in-depth what the national priorities are for the NHS and how your company will fit. 

 Make it easy for the people on the judging panel to choose you by using language that they use (the NHS in particular has specific language when it comes to policy).

Decide what you can give back

It’s not all about what you can take from the accelerator programmes. What can you give back to them? When I joined the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), I made sure I mentioned the NIA in press articles to help expose the good work they were doing. 

Accelerators will be looking out for those entrepreneurs who contribute to the culture of the cohort and support a constructive and positive working environment for everyone. Those who seem out for themselves, are likely deemed not to make for a good culture fit. For the Cedars-Sinai and TMCX programmes, for example, I knew I was likely going to be one of only Brits and I offered to share my NHS connections with those who were interested in expanding to the UK. 

Selecting the right opportunities

One of the main benefits of accelerators is that they connect you with clients/opportunities to pilot your product. My strong advice to founders is not to rush to the first opportunity that presents itself.

With a short time window within which to prove that you can solve a problem for the health system, you must pick an opportunity that fits your company’s capabilities. One way to do this is to meet as many potential pilot partners as you possibly can during the first phase of the programme. Accelerators usually have teams to help you set these up, so make sure you work closely with them to outline what problems you can solve confidently so they can match-make you accurately.  For every person you meet during the first phase of the programme, ask if they know anyone else who you could learn from – people are usually generous with their contact book if you simply ask them. 

While conducting the meetings, score the opportunities based on four things: how well a product will fit into the use case, the speed it will take to get up and running, the level of excitement of the sponsor (willingness to pay is a good gauge of this), and finally, the size of the opportunity (how many other people have this problem). Throughout the process, I would weigh product fit the highest because you only have three months to prove yourself and you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Even if the first thing you work on relates to a small market, if you can get it up and running fast, you will have a wedge into the system and a case study to use as a springboard to expand elsewhere. If you choose the big opportunity but you bite off more than you can chew in 3 months, you run the risk of not having delivered anything by the time the programme is over. 

The team 

Considering who from your team you should send to participate in the accelerator programme is important. Overall, you want to send a cross-section of skill sets. These can include project managers to manage the pilot, designers who can mock-up prototypes in early stages, operations managers to perform early customer success tasks, and engineers to configure the product or build integrations. I would guard against sending salespeople to the programme, as the founder should be primarily selling the business at this stage.   

Running the ship back home

Make sure you have someone accountable back home (if an abroad accelerator) so you can focus on the programme. Some companies consciously decide to deprioritise or pivot away from their home market – this is a risk but earlier stage companies may consider doing this. 

As a founder, you need to make the most of this fantastic opportunity and if you don’t have the support you need back home, you will struggle to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Good luck! 

About the author: Melissa Morris is the CEO and Founder of Lantum. Lantum is a transformative workforce scheduling, engagement and payments platform used by over 3,000 healthcare organisations in the UK. 

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