Day 1 Kick-Off

The first day of an accelerator program is a lot like the first day of school. A bunch of young (and sometimes not so young) founders flowing into your office space, Doe-eyed and ready to learn while meeting their batchmates and awkwardly figuring out where to sit. It’s a good day in the program and everyone is feeling excited about what’s to come. The staff has typically been running around frantically to set things up and are finally starting to see the fruits of their hard work. Make the first day a great day for everyone and allow plenty of time for them to settle, get to know each other and get acclimatized  to the surroundings. There’s no need to rush everyone into the program curriculum and start grinding away on this first day. Better to ensure everyone is happy and knows where to find things.

The first-day agenda may look something like this:

08:00 – 11:30Arrivals and get settled at your desks
11:30 – 12:00Program Introduction
12:00 – 1:00Batch Group Lunch
1:00 – 4:00Meet your POC (Point of Contact)

As you can see it’s a very light day, program wise. If you have any founders who have flown in internationally, they’ll greatly appreciate this as well! Make sure to have someone greet everyone who arrives, and help them get settled. Get everyone seated, on the WIFI and with some coffee or snacks as they settle in and meet the rest of the group.

At some point before lunch you should consider doing a quick program introduction. This is where the Program Director should gather everyone and officially kick-off the program! Emotions and some tensions are likely high at this point so use that to make it exciting. Everyone should feel like they’re part of something great and have worked hard to get to this point. Don’t worry about going into every detail of what the program is just yet. There will be time for that later. Instead, set some ground rules and introduce some of your processes. It’s also good to do a round of introductions with each founder or company so that everyone starts to connect names and faces. That’ll also help as you lead into a group lunch and batchmates have a little more to talk about. This can further be facilitated by doing some icebreaker sessions. Here are two ideas for that:

Drawing each other: Line up two rows of chairs facing each other. Ask the companies to sit next to their teammates as they’ll be interacting with the person seated directly across from them. Give everyone a piece of paper, a pen, and something to lean on such as a clipboard. Once they are sitting there and ready, tell them, “Now draw the face of the person  sitting across from you”. This will typically result in some gasps and giggles. It’s a fun exercise and a challenging one. For non-artists, this is actually very difficult! Although the point of the exercise is not to show off your artistic skills. Give them 5 minutes to complete the drawing and then ask them to take turns presenting their masterpieces to each other. This will generate some great discussions about each person and their background.

What’s in the bag? Split your founders up into several groups, have them sit in a circle and ask them to bring their backpacks and/or purses. Go to each group and select one bag and then dump the contents of the bag into the center of the group. Then ask the group to go through the items and try to figure out whose bag it is and what type of person the owner is. The owner themselves must sit there quietly without revealing anything about themselves or the contents of the bag. Give them 5 minutes for this, then ask each group to present their findings.

For the remainder of the day, founders are still getting settled, although things might be a bit more hectic for the program team. Use the time to set up meetings where each company sits down for 45-60 minutes with their POC (point of contact). This is a chance for them to introduce themselves and field any immediate questions the founders have. It’s also a great time for sharing with the founder how to best work with their POC.

Finally, you might be eager to set up a social night on the first day, but I don’t recommend it. Save the first team social night for the first Friday of week one. On day one, everyone is likely to be a bit overwhelmed and those who have traveled in that day will be both tired and jet-lagged. Let everyone get out early and get to their housing and settle in.

  ** SURVIVAL PRO TIP **   I recommend having a small swag box waiting at everyone’s desk. This can include things such as stickers from your program, t-shirts and hoodies, an information sheet, swag from partners and other things. It’s a very small gesture but has a big impact on founders. As a program marketing bonus, and due to their excitement, they’ll be eager to add your program’s sticker to their laptop right away.