Are Accelerators Worth the Time for AI Start-ups?

Growth and funding can be exciting for any business, but the truth is that any serious investor will want to see you have your house in order. Many great companies miss out on opportunities because they aren’t prepared to tell their company’s story and vision. They don’t have the data organized and they don’t have a clear plan of how they will leverage the funds they are asking for. Having a great product with a brilliant set of machine learning models is fabulous, but you need to ensure your brand’s business side is ready for the other players involved when you go for funding. 

Many businesses jump straight looking for a Venture Capital (VC) firm, Angel Investor, or jump to other investment sources without being prepared. In these cases, an accelerator might be a great place to start. 

Where do Accelerators for Startups Fit In? 

In most cases, start-up accelerators have a goal of moving a start-up business to a point where it can be funded. Some accelerators require a financial fee to participate, while others offer invite-only access for free (use extra caution if you’re considering a fee-based accelerator). It’s important to note that each accelerator is different and will offer a company various benefits. 

Why Use an Accelerator? 

Often, the company’s leadership team needs guidance to prepare the company to present well to potential investors and have the foundations in place to leverage any funds invested. Accelerators often move a start-up into a more organized state, provide insight into investment options and how to put their best foot forward, and how they could scale with the right investment. 

Accelerators will also facilitate relationships and do introductions with investors. Those who run accelerators typically are well-connected in the investment space and will know who to connect a start-up with for initial introductions. 

Make the Most of your Accelerator Experience: 

  1. Know your objective. Before investing time and funds into an accelerator, make sure you know what your goals are with the process. Look for an accelerator that will support your goals specifically.
  2. Research. Look for accelerators that have a track record and history of success. Do your research to see how they’ve actually helped others who have gone through their accelerator program. 
  3. Connections. Look at who is running the accelerator and who they’re connected to. Ask questions about their network and how applicable their connections are for your industry. 
  4. Expect to put in the work. Working with an accelerator will take several months of your time, and generally, what you get out of the experience will be proportional to the effort you put in.

Accelerators are not a silver bullet for your business. A company’s success is still largely up to the internal team’s initiative to implement. However, accelerators offer a unique opportunity for a start-up to get funding and get to market faster. At Sentiero, we’re excited to work with a few companies that went through the accelerator process prior to our funding. Mia, Auquan, and oPro all went through accelerators that prepared them to put their best foot forward when they sought out funding. We’ve seen a good track record of solid business practices in our time working with them as well. 

Just like the Boy Scout motto “always be prepared” says, any company looking for serious investment should be prepared, even if you have an impressive AI product. Do the legwork with an accelerator. Often, the connections alone are worth the time. However, you’ll also gain unique business insights from industry leaders who can shine lights on new ideas, creative strategies, and perspectives you would never have on your own. 

If you’re considering an accelerator, here are a few to look into that the Sentiero team and portfolio have worked with in the past: