How 757 Accelerate Builds its Founder Pipeline
How 757 Accelerate Builds its Founder Pipeline
by: Steve Hayton |
February 6, 2023|
“Most founders like to wait until the deadline to submit their application. You never know how many founders you’ll get or what the quality will be like until the deadline.” Ian Frazier, Progam Manager, 757 Accelerate
For many accelerators, attracting founders is a continuous process that takes a lot of effort and generates a lot of stress. Ian Frazier, Program Manager at 757 Accelerate employs a few techniques to aid in the founder-finding process:
“We set a deadline, everybody applies, and then we say, surprise, the deadline has been extended for a week. We then let more people come in because there are, for example, always errors at midnight that they couldn’t submit or they got their dates wrong.”
“We try to cast a very wide net with email marketing before focussing on some very targeted outreach. The first thing I do is create the largest email list I possibly can. Starting with the GAN Common App.”
“Many of our partners will provide us with founder data so we can target companies in Virginia that have raised less than a million dollars. With those emails in particular, you’re going to get a lot of responses saying, ‘how did you find this email?’ but that’s what you have to do to cast that wide net; in fact, some of our best founders have come from using that approach.”
“On top of that, we reach out to investors and ask them; are there any compelling companies in your pipeline that you think would benefit from acceleration? I would say a small percentage of our companies that apply come from that outlet, but they’re typically higher quality on average.”
“Now that we’ve done this for a few years, our founders can actually refer us to other founders, and that’s the best intro you can have because as all of us know, there’s that bond between founders that they just can’t find from anybody else.”
“We try to do everything we possibly can to make people aware of us, including some social media marketing, but it’s still a roll of the dice every single year and I’m not confident until the application has closed.”
Evans McMillion is the Executive Director at 757 Accelerate and has a keen focus on being inclusive with a lot of outreach for underrepresented founders as part of their messaging.
“As a non-profit accelerator, we don’t take equity, we don’t do term sheet agreements. We like to focus on humans and people who need something other than the transactional experience and all of our materials. We lead with love and trust.”
“Every time founders engage with us in some way, we employ a ‘giving first’ mentality. We’ve recently been getting a lot of people who have been through Techstars or YC, and it’s amazing how much they haven’t learned about how to raise money and how to actually speak to the world about their company outside of the people who are already in it.”
According to Evans, subjects like; ‘What kind of financial information you need to master the pitch deck’ is knowledge that can be found anywhere but the ability to coherently speak to this for your own business and hold up on a Q and A is what’s missing.
“As a result, founders don’t take the first step of making phone calls. Even after they’ve gone through TechStars and done all the big stage pitching and the one-to-one communication, they either fail miserably or they fall apart or they won’t do it. When we don’t feel comfortable in something, we’re going to find a million reasons not to do it.”
“Founders need to be able to approach investors and, for example, communicate the milestones they can expect, or the unit economics. These are the things that are not in the transactional experience, and if someone doesn’t have the answer, they’re not going to let you know that they don’t know it. They’re going to do what my mom calls, ‘Aha! learning’. They’re just going to turn the pages and hope that memorization is what’s on the test without having owned the story, the math, and the conversation.”
757 Collab, a vertically integrated continuum that together provides capital, acceleration, and incubation to early-stage, industry-agnostic founders. 757 Startup Studios is a selective non-profit incubator for growth-oriented startups in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. 757 Startup Studios curates programming, mentorship, and community to reduce obstacles and barriers so founders can focus on validating and scaling their idea. 757 Accelerate is a selective startup accelerator program providing founders with capital, connections, and customers. Its mission is to provide startups with access to a customized network of mentors, investors, and support services, along with co-working space, and a lean startup education to do more, faster.
400 Granby Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23510