Summer 2016 — What about working for an Accelerator?
Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Derek Tu (eTower President), Ryan Lupberger (eTower Community Manager), and many others at eTower’s housewarming in VanWinkle. In addition to enjoying very loud music :), new products and concepts, relaxing in their new chairs and sofas, and simply enjoying the buzz of the event — it was great to learn what Babson’s entrepreneurial talent is thinking and planning for Summer 2016. Among the many plans were thoughts about Accelerators including those with upcoming deadlines:
- MassChallenge Venture Accelerator – Application Deadline: March 31st. Programs in Boston, Israel, UK, Mexico & Switzerland. Competition open to any early-stage high-impact startup, in any industry, from anywhere in the world. Includes 4 month accelerator program with mentorship, office space, education, network & community and other resources. Winners eligible for several million dollars in cash awards and $10 million in-kind awards.
- Babson’s Summer Venture Program Wellesley and San Francisco – Application Deadline: April 1. Program supports the most promising student entrepreneurs from Babson, Olin and Wellesley. Ten week program provides companies with an entrepreneurial community and support, work space, mentors, peer reviews, speakers, and other resources.
Why consider an Accelerator? I’m so pleased to be able to share this guest blog by Ryan Lupberger to give you an insider’s perspective. Thank you Ryan!
I don’t know what to do with my summer. How many times have you thought this? Or heard other students say this? It is an extremely common question, especially among business students. I had this thought myself and was fortunate enough to get an internship in my freshman year that I later realized was THE perfect answer to this question. It’s called a business accelerator.
Business accelerators, simply said, help new companies (startups) establish and grow themselves. Business accelerators can be not-for-profits or for-profit companies that run programs that offer mentorship, coaching, industry experience, funding opportunities, and daily workshops. The accelerator experience can last from a couple of days to a couple of years. Sometimes the accelerator takes equity, other times they don’t. Famous accelerators include; Mass Challenge, TechStars, Start, 500, Starting Bloc, and the Unreasonable Institute.
Here are the five reasons why working in a business accelerator is the best first (or at least early) internship to have:
1) You will be exposed to every aspect of running a business.
Business accelerators support startups. They support new companies that often need help in different aspects of their business. One startup will need to focus on developing a marketing plan, another will need help developing financial projections, and another will need to create a more efficient supply chain. As an intern supporting the accelerator, you will be exposed to almost every component of a business. Why is this important? Because most of us don’t know what we want to do yet. An internship with an accelerator will help you learn what you really enjoy doing and what you have a knack and talent for.
2) There will be beginners, just like you.
Startups are often made up of first time founders. They understand that they are inexperienced and are comfortable with the idea of making mistakes. As a first time intern, you are inexperienced and you will definitely make mistakes. That’s okay. You will need to bring your A game, but there’s room in the accelerator experience for mistakes and inexperience.
3) They are a ton of fun.
A large part of accelerator culture is connecting people together. When I worked at The Unreasonable Institute, we gave the startups a long survey at the end of the program to understand what they felt was most successful about the Institute. Most of the fellows who were part of the startups said that the most valuable part of the Institute was the personal connections they developed. Accelerators are a ton of fun because you will connect with startups at dinners, go-kart racing days, beach trips, bonfires, and weekend retreats. Most accelerators develop cultures of connection through activities that would never happen at most internships. You will develop lifelong friends through the shared experience and long hours both working and playing around excellent people.
4) You will have access to an incredible network.
Most internships are focused in one field. If you know you want to work in accounting, that’s great. Get an internship in accounting. If you know you want to work in marketing, get an internship in marketing. But if you aren’t sure, then it is extremely important to learn about different kinds of companies and to grow your network. In a ‘normal’ internship, you would grow your network to people in your department in the chosen company. Accelerators are different. You will first meet and connect with those who are running startups. These startups will often be from all around the world, not just the country so you will instantly develop an international network of friends and friends of friends who are part of the startup world. Secondly, you will connect with the staff of the accelerator who run the operations of the accelerator and choose the startups that will be part of the program. Thirdly you will meet mentors. This is a particularly important part. Mentors will often be high level founders or employees of well-known companies with dozens of years, if not decades of industry experience and connections. At the Unreasonable Institute I connected with a Times Hero of the Planet, a manager of Google X, and a luxury fashion executive to name just a few. Fourthly, you will connect with companies that support or sponsor the accelerator. Most accelerators have corporate sponsors that help them with financial and product donations. In an accelerator you will have the opportunity to meet people in all of these different roles and capacities and you will grow your network and develop more authentic relationships than most people do in the first ten years of their career.
5) There is a high possibility of a hire or follow up internship offer.
The end goal for most students after an internship is to get hired or get a follow up offer. Do your job well at an accelerator and there are even more possibilities to choose from. Since my work at the Unreasonable Institute I have been offered three internships, in the US and abroad (Italy and Cambodia) and have worked part time with the Unreasonable Institute. Due to the large network and authentic relationships that you will develop, you will have access to more jobs and internships.
For me the best part of working with an accelerator has been the incredible connections and friendships I’ve made. Perhaps the best advice I have for you that was shared with me, is to remember to enjoy yourself through all of it and always be continuing to develop authentic relationships with people around you. Moreover, If you are reading this article and made it this far then you are already farther along than most young people in your same position.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help searching for your perfect accelerator fit.