The truth is, you need to accelerate here to take off: Ajay Ramasubramaniam

Our director, Zone Startups India recently gave an interview to Economic Times. Below is the excerpt of the interview.

Startup accelerators come in a variety of forms — one set up within a university is very different from a corporate accelerator, which is very different from a standalone startup accelerator. Startup founders must consider their personal and business contexts to determine which accelerator best serves their needs. A founder must vet an accelerator based on needs, rather than compare two different accelerators. It just doesn’t work.

Also one must consider an accelerator only when there is a minimum viable product. You must have something to accelerate. It can’t be a business plan or an idea. Maybe a boot camp or an incubator is a better fit for an idea or a business plan.

There are many naysayers who think that accelerators are not relevant, but that could be because they haven’t understood the operating models of accelerators. An accelerator is just like a startup that manages several more startups. There is no fixed operating model. In fact, if an accelerator is not innovative and iterative in its programming, it is bound to meet a dead end sooner rather than later. Also, an accelerator needs to manage multiple stakeholder relationships beyond just the world of startups. Accelerators need to create value for each of the stakeholders; it is not an easy task, and it can’t be superficial either.

The single biggest advantage an accelerator brings to startups is relationships. A robust accelerator programme provides a startup with relationships relevant to its business and situational need. Most entrepreneurs do not always have the network of contacts needed to succeed. It could be the need for an advisor, as mentor, first set of customers, hiring interns. An accelerator doing its job well would be handy.

Since the resources with a startup are limited, the second biggest value-add that an accelerator can bring is to help startups boot- strap for longer. It is not just about a fancy co-working space, at no rent or limited rent. Accelerators are a community of startups where startups access a quality peer network of like-minded entrepreneurs and access to professional services at a fraction of regular cost, all of which allow the founders to stretch their capital further. The camaraderie between fellow entrepreneurs and sharing of wins, contacts, and hacks is something that a startup cannot access elsewhere.

Most importantly, an accelerator lends legitimacy and visibility to a startup. It is a place where there is working due diligence beyond just a PowerPoint presentation, or financial forecasts. Accelerators create a lot of comfort for corporates while dealing with startups for a proof-of-concept, and investors see a value in building relationships with accelerators for deal flow. Overall, accelerators are net job creators that can transform the job market and economic prosperity of communities, cities and nations.

(The writer is director of Zone Startups India, a tech accelerator which is a collaboration betweenBSE Institute and Ryerson University of Canada)