Founded in 2012, Healthbox was one of the earliest healthcare-focused startup accelerators, so we know a thing or two about how to get the most out of that experience.
In 2015, we pivoted from the traditional accelerator model and introduced the Studio Program, which decouples the initial equity investment from the traditional accelerator curriculum. Now, Healthbox delivers its sales growth oriented and mentor-driven curriculum at no cost to founders and makes targeted investments through separate funds, including a fund managed for Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah-based healthcare system.
As entrepreneurs consider participating in an accelerator, they may consider adopting these steps to optimize that experience.
Involve more team members
At Healthbox, we always recommend having at least two individuals from each company participate in the program for two reasons. First, more diversity of both thought and experience will improve conversations throughout the program. Second, having multiple team members share their notes and ideas from each daily session will increase the amount your team is able to take away from the program.
Beyond having multiple team members participate, it’s important to also take a look at the schedule to see if there are specific sessions that might be most beneficial for specific employees. For example, if the vice president of sales at a venture-backed public company is giving a fireside on how to scale the sales organization from 10 reps to 200, it’s probably a good idea to bring your own sales executive along.
Come prepared with a list of goals/hypotheses to test
A key attraction of most startup accelerators is the mentoring component. While these sessions are valuable opportunities, the advice may not always be homogeneous given that there is always more than one path to build a business. Consequently, on occasion, mentors may provide differing, and sometimes conflicting, advice. This whiplash leaves founders with the unenviable position of having to decide which advice to pursue and which to ignore.
To reduce such potential for confusion, share with your mentor a specific goal at the onset of each session. This helps to focus the conversation on topics that are relevant to your business.
Leverage the alumni network early
One of the biggest benefits of participating in an accelerator program is access to the program’s network. The benefits are even larger if the program is not held in your home market. Armed with LinkedIn and the program’s portfolio webpage, entrepreneurs can easily find other founder alumni (and if you ask nicely, the program might directly connect you with them).
An outreach email can be as simple as:
“Hey, I’m currently participating in Accelerator X. I’d love to learn more about how I can maximize the ROI on my time. Are you open to a quick conversation?”
Many program launches include pitch events and press releases, which also offer a great avenue to connect with new people. Further, you can work with the program director to identify other subject-matter experts in the network and arrange meetings.
One word of caution: don’t abuse your newfound alumni status. Standard networking etiquette still applies, so avoid impersonal mail merge blasts to the entire network.
Debrief with your team daily/weekly
Be it a 1-week crash course, or a 12-week extended program, you’ll receive a tremendous amount of advice and information in a compressed time period. It’s all too easy to forget much of what you learned. Before you head out to happy hour with the entire cohort, spend 15-to-30 minutes with your own executive team and walk through what you learned that day and how it applies to your company.
It’s likely that there will be more good ideas than you can implement in the near term, so a disciplined debriefing process will help to prioritize them. This process can help founders decide which ideas to immediately test, and which to put on the back burner.
It’s important to make sure your team has a process in place to track these ideas and effectively build them into the ongoing business plan.
Stay engaged with a “Friends of My Company” email update
Once you’ve completed the program, be sure to maintain and develop the relationships just formed. Matt Loper, co-Founder and CEO Wellth, sends out periodic email updates to friends of his company.
“Through our participation in a couple of accelerator programs, including the Healthbox Studio, we’ve developed a large network of healthcare professionals and keeping them all up to date on Wellth’s progress via our monthly updates is an efficient way to stay connected,” said Loper.
While this is not an appropriate forum to share private financial and strategic details, it’s a great place to share updates on launch dates for new features or markets, as well as to highlight some of the current problems you’re facing. This will not only keep you better connected, but it’s also a chance to solicit advice on some of the new challenges that arise as you scale your business.
Whether you’re a founder with only an idea or a venture-backed company with a product in the market, an accelerator program is a fantastic way to quickly take your business to the next level, get expert mentorship, and connect with a new group of entrepreneurs facing the same challenges as you. These five tips will help make that journey more meaningful should you decide to take the plunge.
Photo: Bigstock Photo
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Matty is a Director in Healthbox’s Chicago office and leads strategy for the Healthbox Studio program. Matty’s professional experience has concentrated on strategy, finance and healthcare. He has held leadership roles at North Fork Ventures, Groupon, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, focusing on corporate finance, strategic planning, asset-based lending, and securitization. Additionally, he supported consulting engagements for a variety of healthcare providers while at Sg2. Matty holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Biomechanics from the Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He also holds a CFA Charter and has been published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.
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