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Dicussion Panel @PulsoConf: Accelerators in Latin America

After three days of an intense agenda, PulsoConf will come to a close this afternoon. Before everyone packs their bags and heads home, there are a few great items lined up for the day that will delve into some of the most pressing issues in the tech ecosystem  – like this morning’s discussion panel. Mexican.VC’s David Weekly, 500 Startups’ Bedy Yang and NXTP Labs’ Marta Cruz sat down to talk about accelerators in Latin America in a chat hosted by Maca Lara-Dillon.

During the hour-long discussion, Yang, Weekly and Cruz touched on various topics, such as lessons learned, metrics for success, term sheets, funding and post-acceleration life. Here are a few of the most important notes we took away from the chat:

Entrepreneurs make the best angel investors. The startup scene is relatively new, rendering soliciting investments from traditional sectors a complex task. Cruz pointed out that term sheets can be extremely disadvantageous for startups and essentially punish them if things go wrong. It is important to train these investors but also grow a community of new investors who are entrepreneurs themselves, thus pushing the ecosystem to evolve.

There is no one definition of success. Yang, Weekly and Cruz work with relatively new accelerators, and to date, the startups they’ve accelerated have generally not proven spectacular successes. What metrics, then, are considered in achievement? More funding, exits, community building and deal flow were mentioned.

The tough part is what happens after acceleration. Weekly explained that the Mexican.VC team works with a delicate balance of time, dedicating attention to their new class of startups without leaving behind those who have already gone through the program. The panel agreed that some startups struggle after acceleration, when the “hand-holding” period is over. Without weekly meetings, motivation and mentoring, it’s up to the startup team to continue on.

They’re still figuring it out. There’s no perfect formula for accelerating, and 500 Startups, Mexican.VC and NXTP Labs remain in the process of refining their programs. For Cruz, this has meant shifting sources of funding, and for Weekly, it has entailed bringing startups together. Yang pointed out that the 500 Startups team is still defining the perfect amount to invest in their startups. For some startups, an investment of US$50,000 is too much, and for others, it’s too little. She also noted the importance of getting mentors involved in funding the startups with which they’re working.

As the startup wave builds, accelerators will play an important role in shaping the form the ecosystem will take. They foster a young and growing community with limitless possibilities.

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