Launching a Startup Accelerator

Source: Instigator Blog, Jun 2011

  • Hypothesis #1: We’ll attract very young, inexperienced entrepreneurs (think: just out of university). We assumed this would be the case because our model ($50,000 for 12 months inside Year One Labs) would lend itself to people with minimal expenses, just starting out in their careers.
  • Result #1: We didn’t limit our recruiting efforts to this target audience, but we did make efforts to reach them as much as possible. In the end we found that this demographic was not the most attracted to Year One Labs. I think this has a lot to do with the lack of entrepreneurship being fostered in Canadian universities.
  • Hypothesis #2: It will take startups ~12 months to “graduate” out of Year One Labs. “Graduation” in this case means they’re self-sufficient (with revenue) or they’re raising additional capital and scaling their businesses.
  • Result #2: None of our startups have graduated yet, but some of them are very close. And as we work with them and track progress, it becomes clear that they don’t need 12 months to get to the level of traction we’re looking for. It’s closer to 6 months. This is a significant data point for us because it impacts how we proceed with some of the newer companies in Year One Labs.
  • Hypothesis #3: Startups will come into Year One Labs with a fully baked team and fully baked idea.
  • Result #3: We invested in most of the startups at the “pre-concrete” idea stage. In some cases we put teams together, finding individuals that we liked and matching them up. The realization is that Year One Labs is ideal for investing at the earliest possible stage, and focused almost entirely on the people (the idea and market are very, very distant points of evaluation.) Our model allows for a team to come into Year One Labs with a vague idea, start the customer development process and either validate something in that space, or move into completely new areas of interest

7 Lessons Learned Running a Lean Startup Accelerator

We’ve learned a lot launching and running Year One Labs. And we’ll continue to learn. Here are 7 lessons learned that I hope you’ll find useful:

  1. People talk Lean but don’t really do it.
  2. It’s a lot harder than people realize.
  3. The DNA has to be set early.
  4. Writing things down is critical.
  5. Business model hackathons work.
  6. There are very few absolutes.
  7. Focus, focus, focus.

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