Startup life is pictured as immensely demanding. Weekly hours push closer and closer to three digits; emails, papers and tasks amass. The hustle reigns supreme, despite recent pushback against it.
So what happens when you introduce acceleration to a startup? If things are already moving fast, how do they move faster?
Such is the task of the accelerator, marked as a milestone for a startup’s journey. Across North America, numerous incubators and accelerators promise to take fledgling companies into the big leagues.
These initiatives vary in their function, but often provide some degree of investment (whether financial or otherwise), a space for the company to inhabit, and access to mentors, coaches and major players in their local ecosystem.
Some accelerators manage to distinguish themselves as the early homes of unicorns and major successes. FounderFuel, an initiative led by Real Ventures, is one of these – and happens to have housed NameShouts over the last few months.
Building up to high speeds.
Accelerator programs are often months-long, and require a large chunk of the team’s time.
Some accelerators also come with investments, raising the stakes for participation. Adding financial ties to a learning environment can result in stressful encounters for both parties.
And, of course, accelerators are fast-paced. The activities, classes, discussions and networking events required for founders can get overwhelming, and that level of work and stress can affect the relationships inside the company as well.
“If you’re expecting a program to be the only thing standing between you and unicorn status, you’ll likely be disappointed.”
But for NameShouts, it was perfect timing. After months of building under the radar, FounderFuel offered the opportunity to transition from a bootstrapped company in the background of the Montreal tech scene to a player in the game.
Plus, we’re based in Montreal. Where else but FounderFuel, a local program, and one of the most prestigious in Canada? After speaking with alumni from the program, the choice was clear-cut.
The access to knowledge, tools and people offered by FounderFuel were invaluable to us, the fit was right, and we were more than ready to ramp things up.
The realities of Startup Life
Once you’re in the accelerator, you’re moving fast. You hit the ground running, and you keep going from there.
Within the first month of FounderFuel, our founders had met with hundreds of figures in the Montreal startup ecosystem. There were meetings every day, mentors to learn from, and the looming spectre of the Demo Day pitch: the event where Naureen would pitch NameShouts to over 1000 people.
“Accelerators can be distracting sometimes, or feel like it’s distracting. Our workload tripled during the program.”
Between all of that, the NameShouts team had to continue working on NameShouts itself. There were still names to upload, marketing campaigns to continue, and hamsters keeping the servers up and running to feed.
The usual frantic nature of startup life, combined with the intensity of doing everything at once.
Our founders had to move towards delegating tasks, allowing their focus to shift from the day-to-day of the company to the big picture. Managing time became a critical component of their roles – with so much to do, there weren’t any moments for distractions.
Being part of an awesome cohort helps, though. As noted by FounderFuel themselves, this was the most diverse set of entrepreneurs and companies yet. And you could feel it in the energy: every team brought their unique expertise, network and experience.
Of course, there were also the mentors. The opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished people in their respective fields was impressive enough. The fact that they were so willing to dive in to the companies realities, and meet them where they were at, took things to a new level.
Keep that energy.
The final goal, Demo Day, was an amazing experience.
Our founders cite it as one of the best experiences of the whole program. It offered the exhilarating thrill of speaking in front of a huge audience, the powerful opportunity of meeting key figures, and the emotional closure of the end-of-program celebration.
Beyond the outstanding perks and discounts, and the amazing people we’ve met, FounderFuel offered us the chance to level up as a team. It was hard work, and not every company is ready to go through the experience. We’re glad we made it through.
It felt good to wrap things up: people in the community now know the NameShouts team and mission. Now it’s time to focus on the company and execute on what we learned. FounderFuel surpassed our expectations and took us to the next level; completing the program was a major milestone.
And off we go.
With all this reminiscing, we have to share our appreciation for the people who helped us through the program. The Real Ventures team was consistently helpful, doing their best to make sure every team in the program was receiving the full experience.
Our mentors, of course, were instrumental in bringing us to this point today: we appreciate all the time you took for us. And to those others in the community who offered advice, expertise and hours – that’s something we won’t soon forget.
Joining an accelerator is not a catch-all solution to your company’s troubles. It could even create more problems – intense, stressful problems – that weren’t even on your radar.
But it’s potentially one of the most rewarding experiences of startup life. It all really depends on your company. Accelerate, or maintain speed: if you’re putting the work in, you’ll find your path to lift off.
A message from our founders: confirm your affairs are in order before joining a program. With so much going on, it’s imperative to lighten the load on your team.