I wish accelerators had existed when I started out in business. I now work with an accelerator in Telluride, Colorado, where I have a home. It's great for the people who go through it. In most cases, however, the real benefits aren't what they're expecting.
Entrepreneurs who apply for the five-month program are mainly interested in raising money, which isn't surprising: There's a lot of money in Telluride. Up to six applicants-out of about 75-are chosen each year. The price of admission is 4 percent of a company's equity, for which the accelerator pays $25,000. Once in the program, the entrepreneurs do, in fact, have a shot at getting funded. They are coached on pitching and get a chance to practice on potential investors.
That alone, however, wouldn't make the program worthwhile for startups. I generally think it's a bad idea to start up a company with money from professional investors who will demand a substantial portion of your equity.
Still, the Telluride program is worth the 4 percent you give up to be part of it-because of the other benefits: 70 mentors and seven entrepreneurs-in-residence with impeccable credentials and experience in fields such as entrepreneurship, law, private equity, accounting, human resources, marketing technology, and more. For five months, accelerator participants get unparalleled advice and instruction.
So before you apply to an accelerator, ask program alumni how much time they really got to spend with the mentors. In the long run, the education from them will prove more valuable than funding opportunities.