AJ co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s sales operations.
The Case for the Business Accelerator
As we close out 2013, I’m looking forward to flying home to Pennsylvania and spending some R&R time with family. It also will give me a chance to reflect on the tremendous year that we had - 2013 was a good one.
One year ago we were packing our bags for Austin to be in the inaugural class of DreamIt Ventures, an accelerator program that has its roots on the east coast. When my co-founder, Matt Allison, had suggested going through DreamIt to get our company off the ground, I was a little hesitant. I didn’t know much about accelerators and didn’t think the program was going to change our trajectory for any meaningful metric. The only reason I thought we should apply was to validate our product and market and make sure we completed the application (the only business plan we’ve ever written for TrendKite). As they say ignorance is bliss…
In 3 short months we went from napkin idea to a beta product, to sales, and by virtue of those two, a term sheet for a round of financing. The milestones that we hit were almost a daily occurrence. We incorporated on March 5th and signed the paperwork for our Series A on April 5th. For a first time entrepreneur everything moved quickly, and it was exciting to see it come together. As an aside, my daughter was born February 5th, so the 5th has proved to be a lucky day!
The credibility the program brought to our organization was huge. We were introduced to investors, mentors, and potential customers, and saying we were a DreamIt backed company was greatly beneficial. We were also able to bring on an amazing engineer because of DreamIt. Lindsey joined our team from IBM because a friend familiar with accelerators recommended looking at companies in the program.
All along the way DreamIt was there to provide guidance and give strong feedback as well. What connected well with us is that Kerry Rupp (CEO) and Steve Welch (founder) both had such strong insight into our business during our partner meetings. After meeting with them and being challenged to raise the bar, we felt we had no other choice but to go out and achieve our goals. It was always a good feeling to come back and say “Ha! We obliterated those milestones”.
It also gave us a chance to work in person. The three cofounders were all in different parts of Pennsylvania and working side-by-side with Patrick and Matt gave us the ability to elevate our game and push each other. We had such a fun time in the office.
While it worked out well for us, if you are thinking about joining an accelerator make sure you know the following before joining:
- Does the city support your business model? We are a B2B SaaS company, Austin is a no brainer – we didn’t know the community before coming down here, so it was dumb luck for us.
- What is the track record of your accelerator? Talk to other entrepreneurs that went through the program. I think we spoke to 4 teams that had gone through DreamIt before applying all giving valuable feedback on what to expect.
- Will the partners introduce you to the right people? Investors, mentors, potential customers. Who do they know to help further your business? We met over 125 people by virtue of being a part of DreamIt and still keep in contact with a lot of those people today.
- Do the partners understand your business? We are a PR analytics tool that is a fresh spin on media-monitoring. Very few people know what “media-monitoring” is – Kerry did because she and David Bookspan (another DreamIt founder) had sold a company to LexisNexis-a fringe competitor of ours.
- Do the benefits of the program justify the equity that the accelerator now owns? Desk space, legal help, credits for cloud services, and a small cash investment were the tangible benefits for us. What will the accelerator give you in return for ownership of your start-up?
In conclusion, DreamIt was instrumental in our success this year, but it wouldn’t be a fit for every team. For any entrepreneurs that are interested in learning more about the process and the program, feel free to contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org