Why All Startup Accelerators Should Build Communities
As a startup accelerator, your aim is to support businesses in their early stage, helping them unlock meaningful growth, secure financing, and to connect them to industry leaders and peers. Achieving this, however, can be challenging without a dedicated and focused digital space to connect these services to the people you are servicing. And without spaces like this, accelerators often rely on social media (which is neither built for their needs, nor ensure meaningful connections that contribute to the goals of accelerating the company) or searching for events, or mentorship programs (that are not only potentially expensive but aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be focused, and as such valuable).
An online community – a space where people with shared interests and goals can engage and share knowledge through means of a community platform – will assist you in your efforts of assisting and growing startups. Within a community, startups can make the most of your network, saving them valuable time and money.
Unpacking what is needed
Startups (and in some cases, startup founders who might specifically need to secure funding, acquire resources, or market the product) might be leveraging different channels and platforms in order to address their most important needs, including being able to:
1. Connect with potential investors (in the case of startup founders, for instance, this would be to secure funding, resources, and partnerships).
2. Engage with industry peers (for advice, knowledge-sharing, workshops, and other events). Collaborate with established industry peers.
3. Unlock mentorship opportunities. Learn how their product or service could exist or be used in the real world (especially for startups trying to learn how to speak to, or find, clients).
4. Discover effective ways of marketing themselves, or to find pilot customers.
5. Access important information, data, and other resources (in order to incorporate it into their business models or solve existing challenges).
Establishing a community
Before starting a community, it’s important to determine the exact goals you have for your community, and to consider, what it is that startups might want to get out of the community experience itself.s. Finding the right type of community platform is crucial. When choosing a platform it is important to consider what types of features your members may need. For example:
1. An easy way to search, find and connect with the right people.
2. To be able to share and access sensitive information.
3. Integrated event management and calendars.
4. Profile customization and personalization capabilities.
5. A fully operational mobile app version.
Keeping this top of mind will ensure that you choose the very best platform to meet your community’s needs.
There is an added value for you
It’s clear that a community can help startups overcome several challenges in their early stages of business. But also holds added value for you as the accelerator, by providing crucial tools to save you time and better understand the startups you are working with. In a community, you as the startup accelerator can:
1. Build brand awareness.
2. Focus your efforts by speaking to the right people in the right spaces.
3. Connect with mentees, while exploring new markets and business opportunities.
4. Expand your network.
5. Research the industry through your access to established and upcoming businesses and entrepreneurs.
But can’t social media do all this, and more?
The short answer is no. Especially when considering what it is startups and startup founders are really trying to accomplish: they’re trying to reach the right people to make genuine and meaningful connections; they’re trying to engage on shared interests and products (and not necessarily with content, that is, they’re necessarily not looking to follow links, articles or watch videos); and they’re trying to understand and leverage important industry insights. In the case of startups, they’re looking to learn new skills from startup accelerators, while startup founders are looking for investment opportunities. Social media platforms aren’t suitable for this.
A good community platform should put people first. It should also allow for advanced searching, personalization profiles and intuitive match-making, event management, access to user data, the ability to customize the interface, to name but a few.
Social media, however, is driven by content (and unfortunately often it’s of the sponsored kind). These platforms are also filled with unverified or irrelevant users, with little to no customization capabilities in terms of functionality, user experience, or interface. Moreover, social media platforms allow limited to no access to member data.
Building a community as part of your accelerator program can provide numerous opportunities and benefits to your startups. Putting the benefits of your network at your startups’ fingertips allows them to engage, learn and grow in ways few other channels allow. Moreover, their successes add value to your existing network by creating a larger pool of knowledge and resources that everyone can benefit from.
Are you looking to build a community for your accelerator? Request a demo with Panion today.