#Acceleratorfest survey report shows program mentorship, alumni support not what it should be

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Hockeystick and Startupfest have revealed the results of a report that broke down what startups really think about Canadian accelerators.

Conducted in partnership with BetaKit, the study collected over 100 responses, and asked accelerator alumni to share their thoughts on the quality of mentorship, networking, and startup services they received during their time at their accelerator. While 80 percent of the study included alumni, 20 percent included non-participants, who shared their thoughts on what they would look for if applying to an accelerator.

“Just because somebody graduated…doesn’t mean they’re part of your alumni network.”

While the study does not call out any specific accelerators, it presents a helpful big picture perspective on what startups actually value when going through programs. The results were presented and discussed by Raymond Luk, Hockeystick’s founder and CEO, and BetaKit editor-in-chief Douglas Soltys during the AcceleratorFest kickoff.

Seventy-two percent of accelerator alumni rated mentorship and support as “somewhat valuable” or higher, but this number was 23 percent lower than how non-participants saw the value of mentorship. Hockeystick suggested that this means there is a gap in perceived and actual value.

“I think a big part of what’s happening is that in a lot of programs, the mentor cohort is established before the entrepreneurs are accepted,” said Luk. “Some of the entrepreneurs are saying ‘well, I’m an edtech company. There wasn’t a single edtech mentor, so I thought it was a great group of mentors, but I didn’t really get what I wanted to get.'”

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Pitch preparation and networking were also viewed favourably among survey respondents, with 91 percent of grads ranking their accelerator’s pitch preparation positively, and 79 percent of grads viewing the networking aspect of their program favourable.

While office space rarely gets much attention when accelerators are promoting their services, office space was considered integral to entrepreneurs starting their businesses; 53 percent of grads and 68 percent of non-grads felt space was a key value-add for their business.

“Most entrepreneurs don’t really know how to pitch. I think everyone knows that, even entrepreneurs themselves. So I think a lot of people were getting value out of being beaten on the submission of their pitch deck,” said Luk. “For me, [space] was a bit of an outlier because back when I was at Year One Labs, we didn’t really give any thought to space and I thought that we’ve all graduated from space being important — though the data actually says that both people who haven’t participated and those who have actually really value the space.”

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When it came to Demo Day — a popular selling point by accelerators — graduates were divided on the value. Forty percent ranked it positively, while 33 percent ranked it negatively; Hockeystick noted that while the conversation on the value of Demo Days is ongoing, it may not be the most effective way to raise follow-on funding. However, accelerators seem to be doing a good job of helping startups secure funding overall, with 49 percent of grads expressing satisfaction with the funding received from the program or the facilitation of funding.

Luk added that, even in instances where Demo Day does not provide financial value, it could be a motivating goal for entrepreneurs.

“Even the ones who ultimately don’t succeed with their business — maybe it reflects the ambivalence, like what is the real goal of Demo Day? I didn’t really raise money, but if I didn’t have Demo Day then maybe I wouldn’t have been this motivated to work hard.”

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Alumni aren’t generally satisfied with their experience following their program; 40 percent don’t see the value in their alumni program, and one anonymous response even noted that after the program, “It’s like we never existed.”

While Luk acknowledged that engaging people that have already undergone the program is a challenge, he calls overlooking the alumni network a missed opportunity. “Just because somebody graduated from your program, doesn’t mean they’re part of your alumni network. To be really actively engaged, I think, is a really difficult thing. But what the data is saying is that people want that.”

Hockeystick is currently in the midst of obtaining data on Canada’s larger startup ecosystem in the long term, as its joint Scale Up data platform with the Lazaridis Institute has free signups for accelerators and incubators for the next five years.

The full accelerator report is available here.

Photo via Twitter

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.