Talk to any startup founder or self-acclaimed [aspiring] entrepreneur about problems or hindrances on converting that $1bn idea into a company that actually has that in profit, revenue or even valuation and you’d end up with one of these:
- Startup capital — funds needed to get an MVP off the ground.
- Talent — technical, design, business development skills.
- Mentor — people with experience to guide.
- Investors — when it gets to the time to scale.
- Others — which in truth you can dismiss without thinking about it.
However, after spending some time in incubators and accelerators both in Lagos and Dublin, I have come to a conclusion that there isn’t really an acceptable excuse. Sorry.
Long Version with Lagos, Nigeria
Having spent about 2 years working out of the CcHub especially on my first startup, I see the incubator providing solutions to all of the problems presented above. So how much do you really need for start-up capital — $5,000 to $20,000? Well you can have it from a number of sources including grants from The Tony Elumelu Foundation, and funding from the Lagos Investor Network and the CcHub itself for equity. Not forgetting the SPARK package.
Talent? Well time to subscribe to the Founders Hive or Founders2Be or attend any of the hackathons and tech meetups. All of these supported by accelerators and incubators — where else will you meet people with the skills you are looking for and interested in ideas you want to bring to life? If this does not work, outsourcing your tech to India [or wherever else] is also on the table; but that not finding the right talent to launch your startup as a hindrance is no longer acceptable — after all these founders are flying solo.
Perhaps one thing I saw [and still see] a lot of in the Lagos startup scene is how mentoring is undervalued. Maybe we Nigerians like to do things the hard way but accelerators and incubators have people with experience to help avoid those costly and time wasting mistakes. Business development pros, UI/UX training, Product development gurus, Branding, Marketing and Sales knowledge, and other resources at your disposal from people eager to help but ‘I can do it all by myself’ keeps killing or slowing down the growth rate of any venture.
Incubators/accelerators are [or should be] linked to investors that come in once you have a working MVP, validated business model and all that is needed is cash injection get that valuation and/or achieve that scale. So where else to be than in one to make that happen for your startup when you get to this bridge? You go to meetings with VCs or Angel Investors with the ‘village’ backing up your track record and can-do pitch; definitely an easier than springing up from nowhere to earn their trust.
Now tell me why any startup founder in an ecosystem filled with accelerators and incubators should have any excuse?
Short version with Dublin, Ireland
No need repeating a detailed version for Europe where I got blown away by the amount of avenues to funding — grants and investments from the NDRC, Enterprise Ireland, Wayra, Google, to mention a few. There are also weekly and monthly meetups, hackathons — like Garage48, Dublin Beta, Startup Weekend to meet people and ‘hire’ talent.
You are almost drowned in a pool of mentors in accelerators and incubators and there seem to be an army of startup consultant and advisers you can virtually subscribe to. And when it comes to investors you get connected to many — individuals, firms, and funds interested in what you are doing or make sense of your business model — again being validated by the accelerator. Then there is crowdfunding. Kickstarter is your friend.
We’re up all night to get lucky
Not to get too carried away, I know not all ideas can make it into an incubator to become startups, not all startups can make it into an accelerator to become businesses, and not businesses will get the funding desired to scale, as there is a place for time and chance. However, the presence of incubators and accelerators in any ecosystem eliminates all excuses for any [aspiring] entrepreneur not to try.
You may not even be inside an incubator or accelerator and still enjoy of the effects it brings to the ecosystem. Connect with the folks than run them and once you can prove to them what you have and they see the passion and drive they’d be sure to let you in or guide you while enjoying some perks of actually being in one.
Now go get sh*t done.
This was first published on my Medium as Hey Mr Entrepreneur! What’s your excuse again?