Compared to a decade ago, there has never been more support for emerging founders in the Australian startup ecosystem.
But where scarcity was once a problem, a new problem has now arisen: too much choice. There are hundreds of startup support programs and accelerators all aimed at growing businesses and helping create Australia’s next unicorn.
To help founders, I’ve come up with four categories for accelerator programs, and provided a brief insight into each based on my experiences with similar programs with Carbar and other startups.
General Accelerators — Startmate, Y-Combinator, Techstars
These programs are generally administered by individual companies or venture capital firms.
Aside from access to veterans in the startup community, many of their applicants benefit from prestige and history associated with these programs. They are some of the best known in the industry and are well known by financiers and the wider ecosystem. These can be a good choice if you are looking for a profile for your company.
University Accelerators – MAP, 10X, INCUBATE
These programs are run and funded by universities. Some have a focus on commercializing research, others have a broader remit. For example, the Melbourne Accelerator Program has shifted its focus to impact-based businesses in recent years.
In general, these accelerators are well equipped, but they may depend on funding decisions made by the university that administers them. They are an excellent choice for companies that can benefit from broader university resources, such as access to researchers or testing labs.
Industry Based Accelerators — MedTech Actuator, Sprout X
These accelerators only accept startups that address issues within a specific industry. They can be incredibly helpful in helping their founders make important contacts in their specific industry and helping your company manage business growth issues that are unique to your industry. You also get the added bonus of meeting other founders in your industry, which can be rare with other accelerators.
The only downside I’ve come across is that they can have biases about how your industry works. This can be a challenge to navigate if you’re building a business that aims to racially disrupt your particular industry — or an advantage, depending on how you look at it.
Many of these programs stopped working prior to the pandemic and have not resurfaced since. However, they are worth mentioning in case a few come into effect again.
These accelerator programs are run by larger companies, often with the goal of investing or collaborating with the startup at the end of them.
Closing deals with larger companies can be a significant challenge for startups, and these programs can provide a clear path to achieving this goal. They also provide founders with great contacts in larger companies.
A piece of advice: The biggest advantage of these accelerators is the results they deliver. It’s worth checking that the goal of the company running the accelerator matches yours. Are they looking for investment opportunities? partners? You should know this when you enter the program.
One last piece of advice
While there are plenty of programs out there, it’s worth noting that some of the more well-known ones are still flooded with applications every year. So understanding that program before you sign up and getting to know the experts who run it can serve you well to take a look.
Also, take it from a founder who’s gone through four: Accelerator programs are only as useful as the thought and strategy you put into exploiting them.
While many programs have moved away from in-person events and mandatory office time since the COVID-19 pandemic, they can still distract founders from focusing on their business. Choosing the right accelerator is the first step in making sure it contributes to growing your business instead of wasting your time.