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This article was published on October 29, 2011

Inside the Accelerator – Important steps before day 1

Inside the Accelerator – Important steps before day 1
Brad McCarty
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Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

This is post #3 of the Inside the Accelerator series. To catch up with all of them, make sure to bookmark this link.

In the past couple of editions of ITA, we’ve started an in-depth journey into the operations of Memphis-based Seed Hatchery, a seed-level accelerator based in one of the poorest metro areas in the US.

Last week co-founder Eric Mathews told us about the selection process, from submission to acceptance. At the end he had made mention of something that I think is probably grossly overlooked – what has to happen in the interim after selection and before a company starts with the cohort.

So it was time to pick Mathews brain. While I’m certain that the requirements are different for every accelerator, the information that Mathews provided is probably a good indicator of what you’d need to have settled before entering any program. For that matter, most of these are good tips to have handled once you’ve decided to move forward with your company, regardless of whether you’re entering an accelerator program or not.

Who Are You?

It’s very common that you’ll start a company with an idea, but not a name. In view of that, Mathews says that often times companies will apply with “placeholder” names. But once things are official and moving forward, it’s time to get serious about branding who you are.

So first thing being first, it’s time to pick a name and make it official. You’ll need to the company registered underneath the legal entity that will protect both you and the company itself, setting up a layer of separation between the two. Not sure which way to go? A few months ago we took a look at the choices at hand and gathered some solid information about which direction to travel.

Why does it have to happen? First and foremost, it’s a psychological matter. Beyond that, though, Seed Hatchery is going to write a check and due to legalities that check can’t be written to a person, it has to be written to a business. No company? No cash.

Prepare For Sacrifice

If you’ve ever been in a startup environment, then you know by now that it’s not all wine and roses. The high points are easily rivaled by the sacrifices that are made toward the end goal. With that in mind, there are big sacrifices that have to be made in order to prepare yourself for an accelerator of any length.

“The founders need to clear their decks for 90 days. They need to attend all the experiences. To be a founder means to sacrifice. They need to talk to their spouses and significant others and be released to pursue startup greatness.  If they don’t open space to leverage the program fully, then they will have a hard time building a fundable business by Investor Day.”

Get In Contact

Make certain that you have information ready that you want out to the public. Things such as your website, contact telephone numbers, email addresses and the like need to be prepared in advance of day 1 so that press, mentors and sponsors can reach your team.

Beyond that, though, make sure that you have at least a presentable one-paragraph description of you company. Though it’s likely to change, this paragraph will be the go-to for media, mentors and the public alike when it comes to learning about who you are and what you do.

Prepare For Launch

Think of this like moving in day in college, or the first day of summer camp…or day 1 at a new job. The first day at Seed Hatchery can be slightly overwhelming, as it is certain to be at any accelerator, but it’s full of the things that you need to know.

“We give the teams the “Launch Codes” — the information they need to get into the Launchpad and make copies, get on wifi, etc. The Launchpad is the co-working space that LaunchMemphis and Seed Hatchery share for very early stage startups.  Our founders [in the first cohort] didn’t do any nesting for some reason — no assigned desks or squatting occurred.  I think it is a culture . . . Memphis is more digital nomad than digital nester.”

Get Organized

In the copy of the email that Mathews sent to me, it very specifically says “You should probably put my contact info into your mobile phones for the future.” That is to say that you need to make certain that you have access to the information that’s been given to you. There’s nothing worse than needing a number or email address at a critical time and not having it, but this step is often overlooked amid the hustle of everything else that surrounds you.

So that’s it. Or at least that’s the part that’s on paper. Everyone has their own ways in which they prepare for a move of this nature and I’m certain that every company has their own as well.

Next week we’ll dive into the scheduling of Seed Hatchery. I’m curious to know how it was decided, how the meetings and events were chosen and what each of them mean to the Seed Hatchery ecosystem as a whole. Ready to take the plunge? Applications for Seed Hatchery are open now.