By Jason boud Startup CEO . This post first appeared on Jason’s website here. I have recently been reviewing a lot of startups, some out of personal interest and others that have submitted applications to startup accelerator programs. I thought I would write about my experiences to help others.

Solve a real problem, get to know the people with that problem really well. Startup tips with Jason Boud

The three main observations I wanted to discuss are:

Talent is not enough – All “startups” are not created equal.
Accelerators/incubators are not created equal
Misunderstanding creates confusion

Having spent time researching each company using sites such as F6S, crunchbase, Angellist I was armed with about 100 companies and various data points about those companies. I originally intended to post some statistics about the maturity of the startups and what category/sector or business they were trying to address. The results will be available in another blog post in the coming days – but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Here is what I’ve found so far.

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Talent is not enough

Many startups believe that talent for technology and a strong passion is enough for success – it’s NOT!

In my experience, many early stage startups (less than $2M funding) have not matured enough to understanding the real problem they are solving. This is OK, if the accelerator you apply to is there to solve this problem.

More surprisingly what I came across in these reviews were a small number of companies at growth stage (typically having raised > $5M) trying to join an early stage accelerator. Surely this is just a lazy sales approach? Initially this irritated me, but then made me think why are they doing this ?

The answer appears to be many companies (startup, growth) apply to multiple accelerators in the hope that they get accepted into one. The accelerators often cover different categories of finance, with different access to experts, buyers and mentors.

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Accelerators/incubators are not created equal

Many accelerator’s I deal with are broadly covering the FinTech category. They often started life accepting technology companies that have solutions in the banking and capital markets space and have since shifted to cover other categories. (e.g. insurance, retail, general tech). A perfectly normal development. But it leaves some confusion.

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Misunderstanding creates confusion –

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When reviewing the companies and their usefulness, I tried to understand the problem they solved. A problem has to be real, it has to resonate with a real person, doing a real job. That real job is usually very mature and comes with complexity and process.

By definition the problem exists in a specific area e.g. in finance is could apply to FX trading, equity research, risk calculation engines, retail mobile banking.

Accelerators and startups have a role to play in being clearer and helping clear up misunderstanding.

Startups need be clear about what problems they solve, to which business areas and why they want to be in an accelerator. Be honest “we think this but we are applying because we need expertise to validate or develop our thinking” . Oh Yes and tailor your applications to each program! – I saw more than 1 introduction video that named the wrong accelerator.

Accelerators be clear about the themes or categories you are most interested in, be clear what you value in the application. Perhaps it’s OK for a Startup to have no clear idea of the business problem? Is it OK for a growth stage startup to apply because they are launching their product from a different sector or region?

The whole ecosystem of startups and accelerators would benefit from a greater transparency. Labelling companies (e.g. Lending, Payments, RegTech) was helpful initially, but without a clear system of labelling and categorisation it’s getting a bit confused. (that will be the subject of a future post)

Thanks for reading.


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