Editor’s Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag#CollegeTreps.
With an acceptance rate of just 5 percent for many accelerator programs, you would think getting in is the hardest part. Not so.
It has been my honor to join the inaugural class of Velocity Indiana’s startup accelerator, a 100-day entrepreneurial bootcamp designed to “accelerate” your business toward launch. But there have been some surprises that I would have preferred to know in advance.
For entrepreneurs similarly interested in joining an accelerator, it’s critical to comprehend exactly what you sign up for when you take the plunge. Here are some of my expected and unexpected perceptions from the first 30 days:
My co-founder and I wear a different hat daily. I’m only 22 yet I’ve already experienced the rigors of hiring, firing and funding. While there is an abundance of prior and proper planning involved with running a successful startup, at an accelerator you will also learn to quickly modify your approach to achieve maximum results.
Resources within reach
We have had the opportunity to work with the best and brightest entrepreneurs, advisors and investors in the entrepreneur communities of Indiana and Kentucky. Tapping this pool of resources can seem daunting, as you may find yourself with copious connections to follow up with, but that’s a good problem to have. A carefully cultivated ecosystem thrives on the infusion of fresh minds, existing talent and dedicated mentors that recall the support they received on their journeys.
Further, these mentors can help you develop relationships with your team. Each company faces its own unique set of challenges, and if you ignore the value you gain in developing a strong foundation, you’ll miss an incredible opportunity to establish a critical entrepreneurial support network.
What started as a flood of encouragement, rapidly diminished through our first course of mentor engagement. By week two, we exhausted our funding, and most viable ideas, which had worn thin with running in circles trying to absorb all of the feedback and entrepreneurial input. Our Hail Mary was cold-calling customers hoping for any sign of traction. By day 14, eight national organizations committed to partnering with our efforts. Our product then rapidly evolved into a diverse revenue model to drive necessary funding.
The emotional rollercoaster can be difficult. Every high brings the promise of a devastating low on the horizon. Some nights you fall asleep atop the world, while the morning may bring news that drops you to your knees. Every day brings new challenges and every entrepreneur should be prepared to take his or her lumps and drive on. Perseverance is essential.
At Velocity, we present our business model to mentors weekly. My first attempt lasted a minute, at best, before the barrage of blunt feedback. It’s akin to an episode of Shark Tank with the biggest ask and the worst idea. While my educational experience fostered an abundance of support, on the ground at Velocity Indiana there is zero fluff. When you join an accelerator, feelings get left at the door and functionality rules the day. If you can’t take the critical heat, you may think twice about stepping foot into the Accelerator kitchen.