For startups, defining business growth requires ambition, tenacity — and resources. Participating in business accelerator programs provides opportunities to further develop your go-to-market strategy, business model and network.
Jody Mitchell, founder of Directed Analytics, knows a few things about reaching your goals. Mitchell and his cofounder Brenton Moss developed proprietary software to help organizations understand the factors that contribute to their goals and optimize performance toward achieving their goals. “That is basically the core of Directed Analytics,” Mitchell says, “helping organizations get from where they are to where they want to be.”
Mitchell was recently selected to participate in some prestigious business accelerator programs. Here’s how he’s taking advantage of opportunities to set the stage for long-term business growth.
What Is a Business Accelerator?
Business accelerators help companies in different stages accelerate their growth and increase their chances of success in the market. Accelerators typically last a set period of time and pull together a cohort of founders who are like-minded and driven toward success.
Accelerators can include benefits such as access to capital, opportunities for networking, office space and a demo day, where participants pitch their products or services to potential investors. Depending on the accelerator program, there may be an equity requirement in exchange for the benefits provided.
Tap into Local Programming to Discover Opportunities
Joining an accelerator may be just what your company needs, to begin picking up momentum. But how do you find out about these opportunities? Being active in the business growth community empowered Mitchell to hear about and engage with several opportunities that are now driving his business plan and growth strategy.
He belongs to Microsoft’s Black Partner Growth Initiative (BPGI), so he was aware of its new programs, including the BPGI accelerator program. Mitchell learned about EY’s Entrepreneurs Access Network (EAN) from being tapped into other business growth organizations.
To find these types of programs, Mitchell recommends participating in programs designed for entrepreneurs based on your industry. Additionally, there are corporations and organizations out there that have business accelerators or growth programs.
“It’s really relationship building,” Mitchell says. “Just continuing to meet people, build relationships, find what’s out there, attend events and ask good questions.”
Build Your Network for Long-Term Growth
The accelerator offered through the BPGI was a 12-week program covering critical business topics such as defining an ideal client profile, pricing and scaling your business — but it also provided resources to help Black entrepreneurs navigate the Microsoft ecosystem.
Mitchell took advantage of the BPGI accelerator to develop business partnerships that will support his long-term growth. “One of the most valuable pieces that I received out of the Black Partner Growth Initiative accelerator program was access to other like-minded individuals,” Mitchell says. Mitchell and three other companies in his cohort have banded together to pursue government contracting opportunities to provide tech to educational, state, local and federal government agencies.
When identifying the right accelerator program for you, look at the previous cohorts to see the types of companies that typically go through the program. Is it the right network to help move your company forward? Identify the industries served most frequently and where you’d gain the most connections.
Assess the size of the cohort, too. Typically, smaller cohorts (under 10 companies) mean that you’ll forge stronger relationships with participants and get better feedback from program managers.
Develop Flexible Goals for Your Accelerator Experience
A nationwide business accelerator, EAN is a comprehensive, executive program designed to support Black- and Latino-owned companies as they transcend barriers and scale their organizations.
Mitchell and his cohort started the 12-month program in February. One challenge that Mitchell was faced with was achieving the go-to-market timeline for bringing his software for developing employability skills for individuals with developmental disabilities to market. Mitchell’s original plan was to achieve non-dilutive research and development (R&D) government funding to further advance his existing software. However, his mentor helped him step back and reassess, resulting in his team developing and executing a strategy to gain traction with his existing software while waiting for the award of non-dilutive R&D government funding.
Mitchell is focusing on understanding the best approach for bringing his digital marketing, workforce productivity optimization and R&D offerings to market and building the team needed to execute and accomplish his company’s vision. “I have a product development roadmap with the timelines associated with when I want to go to market with these particular capabilities,” Mitchell says.
By the end of the program, he wants to have a plan in place for scaling his company. “What resources do I need to have in place and how do I go about getting them?” he says. “Who are the folks that are needed to execute and make this successful?”
Taking advantage of business accelerator programs has helped Mitchell move his business forward. Stay aware of opportunities to participate in accelerator programs so you can leverage the benefits of business accelerators.