How to Survive a Startup Accelerator Program

In 2010 I was transitioning from New York City to San Francisco to help my buddy Jim with his startup and launch a sales tool called Feedgen. Jim and his co-founders were participating in the first ever class of a new startup accelerator called Angelpad. Jim said some very solid things about the program and it's mentors so I decided to apply, was accepted, and completed the program.

My team and I were not able to raise money and it's safe to say that we failed, however it was a learning experience nonetheless.

Here are a few tips around how to survive your startup accelerator:

Don't do a startup, just to do a startup - It's not cool; in fact it sucks a lot of the time. It even sucks after you sell the company and make millions of dollars. I have seen this happen many times. So if you are going to commit to doing a startup, do it for the right reasons. It's going to be really, really hard and you must have absolute, borderline-delusional, passion for the opportunity you are pursuing.

Trust your vision, gut and follow your dream - Often times your accelerator's mentorship team consists of very smart people, who have worked at cool companies, or have even had success at their own entrepreneurial experience. However, this doesn't make them an expert at making your vision a success. Remember that they are meeting with many companies and it's impossible to give personalized, high quality feedback to everyone; especially the bigger programs like Y Combinator, Tech Stars, and 500 Startups.

Listen to your mentors, but don't make rash decisions or you'll find yourself pivoting every two days based on mentor feedback/ideas.

Get fu{553246f06ec80658d58877c30169c8b03a4bdeb18f3754ce1a5f305ceb753b48}king real - This is not playtime and you have a limited time frame to impress and innovate as quickly as possible. Get focused and work harder than you have ever worked before. Leave it all on the field, irrespective of the outcome, you'll be able to be at peace with the result.

Build for product market fit not smoke and mirrors - I know how it is to be pressured to work on your presentation decks and pitch, however it's not as important as finding product market fit as fast as possible. So many founders are so fixated with preparing for demo day and just end up building something that is either an irrelevant product or no one finds it interesting.