Launching a company is hard work. Even experienced founders don’t know what they don’t know, and having some structure and a group of like-minded people can help you refine your idea and get the product off the ground.
One way to build that camaraderie is through incubators and accelerator programs. Speaking at TechCrunch Early Stage Boston last week, Matt Segneri, the executive director at the Harvard Innovation Labs, highlighted the importance of finding peers and mentors to go with you on your startup journey, and incubators and accelerators can help build those crucial relationships.
It’s easy to spin your wheels as a startup founder without help, and connecting with a startup-focused group is a good way to find people who are in a similar position, Segneri said. His organization has been around for about 10 years, serving 3,300 venture founders from 150 different countries, so he knows from whence he speaks.
However you do it, whether an incubator or an accelerator, you are generally very early with your idea, and that’s OK. That’s the purpose of joining one of these programs.
“Essentially, these [programs] are just ways to support you at a really early stage of your startup,” Segneri said. “We’re working with folks who are pre-idea and pre-venture, but I would say for most of these, save the university flavors of incubators, these are really efforts where you [may] already have a venture, but you may not have product-market fit, you may not have any revenue, you may still be figuring out your business model.”
Regardless of whether you participate in an accelerator, an incubator or a competition, Segneri says the greatest value you get from these programs is the ability to build relationships with people you will carry with you throughout your career. And the idea is to build these connections and friendships instead of trying to go it alone.
“So this is fundamentally saying, how do you transform entrepreneurship from the solo sport that it is for many folks in the room to a team one,” he said.