(Albuquerque, New Mexico) – So I’m wrapping up a week-long accelerator program today: our pitch deck has been creatively destroyed over and over, we’ve made our pitch to a room of investors (both Angels and VCs), and in a couple of hours (New Mexico time) we will learn if we placed in the money among 8 other “creative” startups.
Time to unpack a few details. The accelerator is Creative Startups of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this is their second annual cohort, and we’re the only software startup among the nine startups. New Mexico has a strong, proud, and diverse community of “creatives” and artists of many sorts: Creative Startups’g goal is accelerating the success of creative entrepreneurs and economies by having 30-odd mentors (smart successful people) present and meet with these nine startup teams and founders, and introducing them to the tender mercies of VCs and Angels.
Actually yes. Unlike the typical startup accelerator programs you’ve heard of, let alone the dreaded (or at least I dreaded) Demo Days where your puppy-like startups gets tossed into a pool of sharks and the water runs red except for a very lucky few, the investors and mentors at Creative Startups have been wonderful, helpful, supportive, attentive and caring. These are not adjectives I as a (former) self-funded startup founder (SFSF) would have ever associated with VCs and their lesser brethren.
Well, you can learn something every day, You can learn something every day of every work hour if you immerse yourself in a setting with a bunch of really smart people with all sorts of experience – which is kind of the point of any Accelerator Program that lives up to their name.
So did it hurt?
Yes it did. We (TheRightMargin.com) started Monday with our killer pitch deck done, our messages on target and compelling, and perhaps a bit of cockiness coming from the center of the startup universe, San Francisco. We got our clocks cleaned, our deck murdered and our message clobbered within 48 hours as mentor after mentor tore into us in the nicest possible way (I’m thinking of you Lena! :)). But they didn’t just rip in and rain on our parade, they helped us understand the process, relationship and realities from their side of the table, the table where the money is. We sometimes quickly, usually painfully, but always with real support, learned how to turn the story of our utterly awesome software around so it would really matter and be worth the time of potential investors of money and time, aka potential investors and more importantly customers.
So get to the point already!
The point is that even if you publicly distain (and secretly are terrify by) investors, getting the opportunity to work with them and their like to understand your software, and your business, from their point of view is awesomely, totally worth it. The experience, with or without funding, if it’s focus is on the process of learning how to think like a real businessperson, will open your eyes. If you’re wondering would I recommend that next year you apply for Creative Startups, the answer is yes! And if you can’t get in, consider other accelerators only if it’s about the mentorship, constructive criticism, reality checks and yes, emotional validation they provide. The money is may be the end of the journey, but it really is all about the trip getting there.