This is post #4 of the Inside the Accelerator series. To catch up with all of them, make sure to bookmark this link.
In the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at the operations of Memphis-based accelerator Seed Hatchery. The seed-level program brings in early-stage startups, puts them through a bootcamp of business and mentorship for 9 weeks, then releases them in front of a room full of investors.
But I was curious about the timeline of Seed Hatchery. From the 9-week program, to starting in January and all the points in between, I knew that there were likely reasons behind the choosing of the times, so I went to the source, co-founder Eric Mathews.
The main reason for everything moving fast? “Action removes doubt.”
According to Mathews, that’s something that you’ll hear around Seed Hatchery quite often. It started with the investment from Solidus and the question of whether the program could work. If startups are learning organizations, then Seed Hatchery was one in and of itself. Mathews tells me that Seed Hatchery set an aggressive timeline for itself and it stuck to it.
So why wait until 2012 for the next cohort? Mathews tells me that there had to be consideration for the holiday season of 2011. Time had to pass between cohorts in order for Seed Hatchery to reset itself, and starting another would have landed the graduation smack into the middle of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the like. Fortunately, the choice to start in January does keep Seed Hatchery out of the “Summer Accelerator” market, which tends to be heavily trafficked.
Mathews tells me that Seed Hatchery’s 90 days are split into what the accelerator likes to call “The 3 D’s” – Discovery, Delivery and Dollars.
During this opening phase, the intensity level for the founders is to have them discover the market that they’re trying to tap. With that in mind, the teams are also discouraged from building the products during this time. It’s a point for mentorship, investigation and sorting of advice, not a point for building something that may have to be scrapped on day 31 after changing the focus of their product.
The second set of 30 days is when it’s time to execute the product. This is the building phase, where the teams focus on what they found out during discovery and build the product to match the data. It’s also further to the idea that action removes doubt. If the second month was spent questioning the findings, the product would never be built. Until the building happens, the companies will never know if they’ve interpreted the findings correctly.
Seed Hatchery, Mathews tells me, encourages the lean startup model. It will often be heard inside the walls that “iteration trumps perfection”, and that lean method of operation means that iteration can happen more quickly without too much collateral impact.
You know what this part is about, right? Well, it’s somewhat about Investor Day, but it’s also heavily about finding the ways to scale the product and keep the momentum that was gained during the Delivery section. It’s a time to build and test the investment hypothesis, a time to perfect the pitch and get ready for that moment on stage.
The mentor network of Seed Hatchery doesn’t stop after Investor Day. As is common with mentorship-based accelerators, those mentors are available for follow-up sessions on the long tail, helping the businesses overcome obstacles that weren’t found during the accelerator stay itself.
So now that we know about the timing of Seed Hatchery, we’ll take next week to dig into what happens during each of the phases. From office hours to founder’s dinners and training application, every movement is orchestrated and holds a purpose. We’ll visit those and dig in next week on Inside the Accelerator.