Startups in a NYC leading tech accelerator
This summer I’m interning at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, a leading tech accelerator in NYC where less than 2% of startups applying are accepted. I’m specifically working in depth with a startup called Woveon, where we help companies derive customer analytics across all their different communication channels with the help of AI and Machine Learning. While I do work in depth with one company, I also have the chance to work with all 13 companies in the cohort.
Many of us have this preconceived notion of startups, from the late hours one works every day to the scrappy jeans and shirts to the fun office filled with ping pong tables and video games. While some of it it’s true the majority I have experienced to be quite different. Below are some notions many people I have talked to have about startups which from my personal experience are quite opposite from reality.
• You will need to learn how to Code to be part of the early stage
This is far from the truth, I admit I fell for this at first after seen many of my peers had a strong technical background. As a self-taught programmer, I began to sharpen my coding skills weeks prior to coming into the internship. Prior to being accepted to the accelerator most startups had a lean product/MVP up and running but they needed help in the “tougher” part of scaling. Majority of this startups actually need help in positioning their product, acquiring users, optimizing that “Aha” moment every time users use the product, and retaining them.
• You’ll spend almost no time in meetings
This is far from the truth especially if you are CEO. Most startups CEOs at the accelerator are constantly meeting with potential customers, practicing their pitches to investors, meeting with potential investors, meeting with mentors to constantly help redefine the product and strategy, meeting to discuss KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), and the list goes on and on.
• If you build it they will come
Your first idea probably won’t work out as one often has incorrect assumptions about potential customers and the market. This is why it is essential to reiterate as fast as possible within the scope of your vision as you will learn what buyers will actually buy to solve that problem and enhance their lives. Perhaps you did build a proper solution to the proper audience but the positioning and messaging was off or maybe you were targeting the wrong customers while another group of customers is 10x more likely to buy your product.
• It’s all about having that unicorn idea
Many of us are waiting for that “special” idea that could be worth billions to come out of the blue but how is that really going?
It’s more like having that unicorn team. This closely ties with the point above, the right team is essential in order to learn as quickly as possible what works and does not. Execution is the most important thing. A good team will turn a terrible idea into a great idea by constantly testing ideas and killing it fast if it does not work or doubling down if it does work. In fact most investors I have spoken to admit the team probably carries the heaviest weight in their determination to invest. It’s easy to find ideas but hard to find sharp, agile, tenacious teams with a special synergy between them.
Coming in I expected to work about 12 hours at least every day in the office as it is typically reported one typically works close to 80 hours a week. Far from the truth again. From my experience, most founders and workers spend about 10 hours in the office while taking some work home. Taking time for yourself is emphasized as it will allow you to be more productive. It’s not about being busy but actually getting quality work done.
Oh and yes from my experience we do get into the office past 9 to avoid NYC’s rush hour and come out of work after rush hour for the same reason.
• Teams Age
Startups are not just filled with 20-year-olds. While there is a descent amount who have just graduated from college and have been working on their startups for quite some time or are in their 20s, on the other hand, there is also a large portion that have decade of industry experience.
• oh and T-Shirts
Yes, we love t-shirts and jeans. We are not fans of suits in NYC’s hot summers.
I found many of us have preconceived notion of the startup life that from my personal experiences are not correct. While many of this notions are correct, many are also not. Hope I was able to provide some meaningful insights, having the opportunity to work with a dozen promising startups this summer.