The Best Reason to Join an Accelerator

There are many sound reasons to join a startup accelerator, but one stands out from all the rest.

By Robert Carroll

Startup accelerators are awesome. The first one we know of was started in 2005 by Paul Graham in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Known as Y Combinator, the fledging organisation moved to Silicon Valley in 2008 and has grown into the most recognisable tech accelerator in the world. Other notable accelerators have surfaced since then, including Tech Stars and 500 Startups.

I work at Jordan’s Oasis500 startup accelerator. We’ve been around for about four years, and have invested in around 100 companies over this time. Every few months, we bring in a new cohort of brilliant entrepreneurs. We give each team between $30,000 and $50,000 in exchange for a 5 to 15 percent stake in their company. After we hand over the money, we don’t expect it to be paid back. But if any of our startups performs well, our ownership in the company will increase in value and make us a profit.

Startup founders want to join Oasis500 for many reasons. Some of them need cash to continue operating their company, while others seek to obtain prestige by showing they were accepted into a competitive program. Some founders need to tap into the Oasis500 network so they can get introductions to key people, while others want in-depth training from our knowledgeable staff. Some are drawn to the Oasis500’s unique working environment (we have a giant indoor slide), while others simply don’t know what they want, and they hope Oasis500 will help them figure it out.

These reasons for joining are perfectly fine, but none of them touch on the true value of a startup accelerator. The number one reason you should join an accelerator is to learn from the people around you.

I’m not so much talking about the people helping to run the accelerator (e.g. me), but rather the other startups in your cohort. The beauty of an accelerator is that it gathers dozens of hungry, bright, motivated people in the same building. Each team is working on different problems and building different ideas, but the principles and methods are the same. Scaling a company not only takes expertise, but hard work, and it’s an invaluable opportunity to work with a team. As it is for Oasis500 and many other accelerators, you don’t just join a network of the other entrepreneurs in your cohort, you join an ever-expanding network of past and present cohorts.

All the other reasons to join a startup accelerator are not quite as important. Need cash? There are lots of places to get it. Want a fun environment? Join a club. Need training? Take an online course. But if you want to work side by side with intelligent, driven people who are working just as hard as you to start a company, then join an accelerator.