Accelerators need to stop dictating direction in the startup world. Accelerators are great – don’t get me wrong; my company just finished NXTP Labs in Argentina. But after, my team and I decided to make an unusual choice – we moved to the United States and opened a new office without the help of an accelerator program.
For our team, our market is in the U.S., so it made sense to move there from Argentina. We’ve seen this as a big trend: startups from abroad moving to the U.S., but usually under the protective blanket of an accelerator program. While the choice was scary (and, of course, difficult, given financial restraints and barriers), we took the plunge.
Arriving in the US – What Should Startups do Without an Accelerator?
First of all, don’t panic. As long as you’ve thought about this decision, considered finances and your new lifestyle, you’ll be OK. Here are some things you should do:
1. Get in a creative space. Don’t lock yourself away in your shared apartment – get out and get close to other creative people. We are going to Hattery, an amazing co-working space that will get us out of our PJs and near other creative minds.
2. Network, network, network. That guy’s coffee you grabbed at Starbucks on accident? Could be an investor. Never shy away from an opportunity to meet someone. Even if you feel silly or awkward at networking events, force yourself to go. You could miss out on a big opportunity.
3. Get legal issues taken care of. Coming from Latin America isn’t illegal, but it can be challenging. Without an accelerator, you’re on your own for visa issues, bank accounts, etc. Find a lawyer and get that all settled so it can be the last thing on your mind and not something keeping you awake at night (that will be your product). If you need help finding a visa, try this Forbes article, which lays out the five best options for entrepreneurs.
What are the Benefits of Being on Your Own?
There are some benefits to be on your own. Accelerators give you access to finances, networking, and help with legal work, but there are some things you just can’t get.
1. Keep what’s yours. While some accelerators don’t take equity, many do, so you’ll be keeping more of your company.
2. Location. Surprisingly, not all startups are in Silicon Valley. Even more surprising, not all startups want to be there. Being on your own allows you to find your target market and move there (if possible). You aren’t held back by location issues.
3. You may not be ready to accelerate. It’s really exciting to be accepted into an accelerator program, but your company may not be ready. And that’s OK. Taking time to discuss where you are, where you want to be, and how you’ll get there with your team is very important, and sometimes this step is better taken on your own.
Accelerators are great. And as a technology startup from a country where funding is difficult to encounter, I’m very thankful they exist. But I do think many accelerator founders would agree that it’s important to take the time to evaluate the best option for your company.