After a successful Demo Day last Friday, we've officially wrapped up our Class of 2015! I say "officially" because the accelerator program is over in name only. Just as with previous classes, SparkLabKC continues to counsel and work alongside our graduate companies long after Demo Day. Our graduates have access to our office space through the end of the year, and we're always available to offer advice (whether they ask us for it or not) or unwind with a game of ping-pong.
We've already congratulated our 10 startup teams on a fantastic Demo Day, so now we'd like to share some thoughts with them about what comes next:
Make the Most of Momentum
I know you're exhausted. They don't call it a "90-Day Sprint" for nothing — and we've put you through the wringer over the last three months to ensure that you come out strong. However, this is not the time to sit back and relax. You've got a lot of forward momentum, keep it going!
Your major task as a recent accelerator program graduate is to position yourself for investment and customer growth. The reality is, getting an investor is a lot like having a baby. It often takes nine months to cultivate a relationship that results in an investment. It doesn't happen overnight, and requires true relationship building. Think about it — you don't give your money away easily. They don't either.
Capitalize On Connections
One of our proudest achievements with SparkLabKC is the community that has rallied around us. We've developed a complex ecosystem of startup founders, accomplished mentors, resource providers, and investors who all want to see our companies succeed. The relationships that are forged during the three month accelerator process can continue to be a source of support, strength, and inspiration well after it has ended.
As Dror Pearl, head of the Global Technology Unit at IBM, writes in Geektime:
"Never stop nurturing the relationships you established during the program. The ecosystem in which we work is ever changing, and nurturing relationships with potential investors and clients is obviously a top priority – the end of the program should not interfere with these relationships."
So, keep in touch with your mentors (be sure to thank them for their help!), your classmates, and the SparkLabKC founders. Keep engaged with our community, and it will keep giving back.
Don't Get Caught in Comparisons
The pitfall of graduating from an accelerator program alongside other companies is the temptation to compare your growth and progress to theirs. Remember, each and every company has it's own ideal trajectory, influenced by several complex and unique external factors. Therefore, it's less than useless to compare your success to someone else's — it's a distraction from the work that needs to be done.
"...Avoid competition that may lead to unnecessary stress... The advancement rate of one company does not imply anything about the performance of another. ...Evaluate your progress compared to the goals you set for yourself and don’t compare yourself to other companies. Stick to the schedule you have set for yourself."
Do learn what you can from the companies around you, however. What works for one company may not work for another, but it never hurts to analyze and learn from the strengths (and weaknesses) of others.
Keep In Touch!
Just because the accelerator program is complete doesn't mean we don't want to hear from you. We may be nudging you out of the nest, but we still want to hear about your triumphs and your trials. In fact, our hope is that you continue to be present as a member of the SparkLabKC community, whether as a supporter or even a mentor for the next group of innovative companies. See you soon!
What's your advice for recently launched startups? Tweet it @SparkLabKC!