If you’re a young startup with a gleam in your eye, a working prototype in your back pocket and very little else, then making the right first step will be crucial for success.
For founders with little-to-no previous startup experience,joining an accelerator makes a lot of sense. Even if you’re a seasoned pro with an exit or two under your belt, a helping hand might still be useful.
Traditionally, accelerators provide a combination of things; primarily a small amount of funding, a space to work and access to mentors, industry bodies and individuals they would otherwise struggle to gain the attention of.
However, while many accelerators are open houses in terms of their focus, there’s been a growing trend of certain businesses to host their own in-house programs, or take part in accelerators that are designed to connect brands with tech startups.
So, how does a brand-focused accelerator – that is, one that promises startups an audience with relevant world-leading brands in their area of focus, or one focusing a specific segment of industry, differ from a more general approach? We spoke to Brandery, Collider, The Bakery London and Orange Fab to find out what they had to offer.What do startups get out of brand accelerators?
So, what a startup gets out of a brand accelerator is pretty similar to other accelerators – although the specifics of the funding and other benefits often vary.
For example, Collider – a UK-based organization that works with more than 27 individual brands – gives startups a combination of oversight, cash and mentorship over a program lasting 13 weeks.
Each of the Collider startups this year will get up to £150,000 ($243,000) – increased from up to £70,000 – to help them bring a product to market, its co-founder Rose Lewis explained. However, it’s the focus on a specific vertical and the added exposure Collider gives the startups and brands that really makes the key difference, she argues.
In the first four weeks of our accelerator, they meet with up to 12 brands – all giving their time to the startups, and all [based] around the product marketing questions: are these businesses building stuff that William Hill, Unilever, Haymarket are going to buy?
Brandery‘s four-month long program is similar to Collider’s – it provides support for seed stage companies in the form of $25,000 in funding, mentoring and access to a host of discounted or free services (such as IT, HR, legal etc.). Brandery also provides one year of free office space for a year, general manager Mike Bott explained. Collider does not offer physical work space.
“Each startup is paired with a creative agency who has committed at least $25,000 in free work. Specifically, two intensive workshops are conducted during the program to get the startups off to a fast start, Brand in a Day and Growth Hack Day. During Brand in a Day, the startups and their creative agency partner develop core brand architecture: new names, logos, taglines, brand manifestos, visual identity and other core pieces of their brand.
Similarly, during Growth Hack Day, the startups, their creative agency partners, and brand managers from Procter & Gamble hammer out key parts of the startups’ marketing plans, including user acquisition strategies, go-to-market strategies, and other ‘growth hacks’ they can use to keep the startup growing and retaining users as quickly as possible.
One of the startups to come through Brandery’s program – and now a part of Disney’s accelerator is ChoreMonster. Chris Bergman, founder and CEO of the company told us that the experience was “incredible” for the company.
We were able to learn from top mentors in the branding space, specifically about what we should do to create a strong brand, how our technology could benefit their agencies, and how brands at Fortune 100 companies operate. I couldn’t imagine our company without the understanding that we gleaned from The Brandery.
Slightly differently, while Brandery and Collider tend to focus on seed stage startups looking to develop their business rapidly for the long-term, The Bakery London exists solely to accelerate ad-tech and marketing startups to a test market within eight weeks.
Its focus is increasing revenues, not scoring investment, its co-founder Alex Dunsdon explained to TNW.
We focus on markets (revenue) not investors (equity)..ie the objective is a trial market not investment in the company. We start with the problem, ie. what the market wants now. Many of the best businesses are able to carve out products that people can test now.
We find the right tech globally against problems. Think of it like flipping the way it normally works – telling the world of tech companies what the market is.
Dunsdon added that it takes very little time to accelerate a technology to trial stage, so the only real reason you’d perhaps want to look elsewhere is if you were looking for investment to get off the ground, rather than looking for a perfect market fit.
All [the companies attracted to our program] have a product and share a desire to scale. The big problem we solve is product / market fit and the ability to use a brands audience to scale.
For other startups, there are reasons to think twice about joining a specific brand’s accelerator program.
For example, if its technology isn’t particularly well aligned with the brand, or because the startup fears that association would jeapordize its independence. It might also make more sense for a startup to enter into an accelerator program based on a specific topic, rather than a specific brand, such as FinTech or health-oriented programs.
The funding aspect of brand accelerators like these are in contrast to the way in which Orange Fab operates: there’s no systematic cash support, although it does provide a convertible note option for interested startups – up to €15,000 in France and $20,000 in the US. Instead, at the end of the program, Orange’s VC division can choose whether or not to invest in the startups.
Douplitzky said that VC affiliates like Iris Capital tend to make minority investments in startups, but that the program launched too recently to provide details on the percentage that receive follow-on funding.
Ultimately, whichever accelerator a startup enters, they generally provide similar benefits on the surface, and an underlying promise of more closely connecting each startup to a brand, whether that’s a single one or mutliple. In some cases they also provide the potential to add legitimacy to startups simply through their association, which is a slightly less tangible benefit.
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