You Got into the Lisbon Challenge accelerator. Now What?

March 30, 2016

Yesterday was the first day of the Lisbon Challenge Spring’16 edition which is testing out a smaller batch number in the quest to concentrate on quality. As all the founders sat in the auditorium listening to Pedro Rocha Vieira welcoming them to the 6th edition of the main accelerator of Beta-I, one would hope that most were internalizing their plan for the 10 weeks they will get to work hard, play hard and relax – the benefits of being in Lisboa.

You Are in Control

Accelerator programs don’t guarantee any kind of success instead provide the platform and tools for your startup to evolve – how much is really up to you. That’s why it’s essential that as a CEO you clearly define your path, create milestones and aggressively pursue them to ensure the final outcome is superior to what you initially envisaged.

It’s all about setting realistic expectations and understanding that the Lisbon Challenge accelerator provides you with mentorship, expert advice, networking and a structured program but it’s in the quality of questions that you’ll find the quality answers and solutions. Ask smart questions, chase people up and use their expertise to help you progress.

Though you will have access to investors at several stages of the accelerator, culminating in the demo days, you need to ensure that your product, team and pitch is first class – obsess over the details but don’t forget your product.

Your Product

Do you have customers that love your product? Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky recalls the advice Paul Graham gave him whilst at Y-Combinator – if you have people that love your product, you don’t have to worry about the viral growth thing – it will take care of itself.

Some startups focus too much on the investment and even though we realize how important that is when your runway is short, overly focusing on this can become a distraction for the founders taking too much time away from further developing your product.

For every main aspect of building your startup, there will be a mentor or expert on hand to help you in finding solutions. Though access to these professionals is extremely valuable, don’t underestimate the relationships that you will be able to develop with your program peers and Beta-I team. The capacity to bounce ideas off other founders that have as many similar as diverse experiences as you, is invaluable – a network that will outlive the time you spend in Lisboa.

Accelerator Advice

You will be exposed to many people who share their views openly, often giving you conflicting advice but despite all the support and great advice you get, you are still expected to think for yourselves. This is your startup and it’s your future. Lisbon Challenge will provide you access to data and informed opinions but you need to process them with caution. Part of the learning process is handling conflicting feedback from the many mentors and experts. They are not wrong, just in context to each and everyone’s experience and vision of business. Be courteous and above all check your egos at the door – be open minded and respectful then take the decision that is right for you.

Increasing Your Odds of Success

Mark Suster wrote this week the post “How to decrease the odds that your startup fails” with some very useful insights that you should take the time to read:

  1. Building for Yourself Instead of a Market
  2. Lack of Any Market Validation
  3. One-Sided Competitive “Analysis”
  4. No Route to Customers
  5. Claiming False Competitive Advantages
  6. Winging the 60-Second Pitch
  7. Ignoring Your Faults

Mark ends with:

“Plan. Think. Study. Test. Validate data. Validate firmly held positions. Know your planned sources of differentiation and adjust as you learn. Read plenty of “what went wrong” eulogies by founders and see what you can learn. But also understand that the lens from which they tell you the answer is both imperfect and has a narrative bias.“

There’s also that old saying “the harder I work the luckier I get.” Those who tend to outperform when they graduate from Lisbon Challenge accelerator program really made the most out of the program and probably had a little luck too. So good luck and stay tuned to our blog as we follow your progress and post useful insights to help you along the way.