As a startup, many questions arise as to when it is time to seek help and join an accelerator program or to enroll in different forms of programs to get the ball rolling, such as a competition, pre-accelerator or bootcamp. Typically, entrepreneurs with great ideas, often find themselves either in need of advice, strategic guidance or funding.

Accelerators work with startups that are in the early stages of development and that require the most support, in the form of mentorship and trainings provided by experts, access to networks and access to funding. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to join accelerators, to help spur their business’ growth trajectory.  

Lebanon has seen many accelerators emerge in recent years, supporting startups develop from a mere idea, into a tangible business model. Accelerators typically offer cohort-based fixed-term programs, where entrepreneurs can gain access to seed investment opportunities, networks and connections, mentorship, educational opportunities, and can get the chance to pitch their ideas to the right audience. 

Comparing an accelerator to an incubator, there are a few key differences to note. Incubators, depending on the sponsoring entity, can be focused one type of industry. They offer startups physical office spaces to rent, yet, without a defined period of time. 

In the case of accelerators, they allow startups to apply online, and accept more than one idea from the same entrepreneur. If you are wondering how to pitch to an accelerator or what you will benefit from the experience, read on.

Tips before & during the application process:

- Tip 1: Explain your business idea, in very simple terms. 

Work on your elevator pitch and try to be as concise as possible, with what you are trying to achieve. 

- Tip 2: When filling out forms to apply to an accelerator, keep your answers short, but passionate.

- Tip 3: Do your research to verify that no other company or organization is doing exactly what you are doing.

- Tip 4: Know your audience and your potential audience size. 

Showcasing traction is a plus, when trying to sell your idea. 

- Tip 5: When valuating your startup, be realistic and have your best- and worst-case scenarios at hand. 

- Tip 6: When pitching live, practice, practice and practice. 

Generally, only one person (the most engaging) should present in front of the panel. 

After you are selected, here are some tips:

- Tip 1: Welcome the extensive support in the form of mentorship opportunities from experts 

- Tip 2: Capitalize on the meetings, feedback sessions and networking events

- Tip 3: Focus on access to investors and funding that accelerator can provide. 

These encounters can either be one-on-one, or part of “demo days”, where investors are invited to watch a series of pitches. 

- Tip 4: Keep the big picture in mind.

Often, entrepreneurs can get lost in the small details. Accelerators, due to their missions and network of mentors and experts, help you envision the bigger picture, to think strategically. 

Before approaching an accelerator, make sure it’s the right fit. BDD is home to four of Lebanon’s leading accelerators that have kick started the growth trajectory of various startups. Learn more about them here and which ones could be suitable for you (in no particular order):

Speed

Interested in: Startups with a minimum viable products in technology

Flat6Labs Arab

Interested in: Entrepreneurs with cutting edge ideas mainly in technology and design

  UK Lebanon Tech Hub

Interested in: Innovative businesses with potential to grow

Hult Prize

Interested in: “for-good, for-profit startups” that can change the world through business.

A special thanks to Sami Abou Saab, CEO of Speed for his contributions to this post.