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ALUMNI AND FOLLOW UP

Having personally conducted a few thousand accelerator screening interviews I can tell you that startups often ask:

“What do you offer in terms of alumni support after the program?”

It’s a fair question after all, especially in the case where your accelerator program is taking equity from the companies. Founders want to ensure that you won’t ‘ghost’ them after the program ends and that you’ll continue to provide value. Some of the best programs in the world are very well known for the resources and network they provide to founders even years after they exit a program.

Regardless, and from my experience, once a program ends it’s very much like high school. You don’t ever hear from up to 75% of your accelerator ever companies again. That’s because one of two things happen. Either the startup gets well-funded and scales like crazy, or they sputter out and die. In these two cases, they are either too busy to need alumni support or too out of business. In the former case, you’ll have trouble just getting an email reply from them. And in the latter case, well, there’s not much to talk about!

Programs that end up running many batches, however, will still build up a not-insignificant number of companies, founders, investments and other things to manage. Let’s learn a few ways to approach this.

Program wrap up

First, before our little birds leave the nest, let’s talk about how to close an accelerator program.

Measuring your program’s success

Practice what you preach to the startups when it comes to gathering user feedback. As program managers, you should also be surveying each startup at the end of the program. It’s recommended to use a very simple Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a minimum. Gathering your NPS score for each batch will allow you the easiest way to track your own performance. With each new batch, you can see if your program quality is improving or in decline. Spoiler alert – it should be getting slightly better each time.

What’s an NPS Survey?

Even if you didn’t previously know about NPS you have no doubt been presented with a survey yourself. Brands, especially large multinational and service-oriented businesses, often use this framework. It helps to quantify user sentiment and determine who will evangelize something in a format that most can agree upon. As you can imagine, word-of-mouth marketing and evangelism are very important for startup accelerator programs. So this format works well to measure your program in this regard.

NPS focuses primarily on your biggest promoters. Disregard those who show low to medium interest in your brand.

You can also send a longer survey gathering additional information but as a warning, the more questions you put into a survey the lower the response rate. I’ve seen accelerators send surveys that looked more like complicated government applications. So use your own discretion and be mindful of the time-poor founder’s time. An NPS survey and an open feedback field will probably be a sufficient amount of info to collect at the end of the program.

SURVIVAL PRO TIP   Send your founder surveys immediately after the program while the experience is fresh. Additionally, the longer you wait after Demo Day the less likely you are to get responses. Founders get busy again, or out of business before you know it.