July 18, 2022

4 Things You Need To Know About Being On A Tech Accelerator Program

Some of you might have heard about Antler, an early-stage VC firm that invests in some of the most “exceptional” (their words, not mine) founders worldwide.

Well, the firm founded by Mark Zuckerburg’s classmate Magnus Grimeland, has a 3-month accelerator program each year.

Did Mark and Magnus work together? Not exactly. Magnus might have worked for Mark at TheFacebook, as it was then known, if he weren’t also juggling classes and athletics and caring for his infant son, according to Forbes.

Antler, launched in 2017 in Singapore, is striving to combine aspects of a startup studio, incubator, accelerator, and venture firm into one global company-building machine.

I – somehow – managed to get onto the intense program earlier this year.

A bit about me? I’m a UK-based award-winning journalist and editor. My work includes an investigation into the hidden child victims of lockdown, a solution-focused documentary looking into the girls exploited into criminal gangs and the effects of period poverty on homeless children living in Zimbabwe. 

I have also taken ‘deep dives’ exploring southeast Asia’s notorious Hydra gang and reported on the issue of the illegal wildlife trade in Africa.

My experience in the tech industry is limited to working for a tech startup for a year.

So why – or how – did I get picked to join Antler? It’s not about extensive startup experience or at least I don’t think it is. It’s about those with a passion for building the next big thing and perhaps those with a proven track record of doing some pretty cool things – even if it was outside of tech.

How did a journalist focused on investigations get into tech? Well, it just kind of happened. I got to a point of frustration. Having worked as an investigative journalist and breaking news reporter, my days consisted of going from the crime scene to protest and back to the crime scene.

I was tired of constantly reporting on the problems people were facing, and I wanted to be on the other end – helping solve them – whether as an employee of a mission-driven company or founder.

That’s not to say I won’t get back into journalism, but I think for now I’m focused on trying to build and make impact in the best way I can.

First lesson

Not having tech experience doesn’t mean you can’t get into an accelerator or incubator program.

Don’t limit yourself. If there’s a problem in society that you have identified and you believe you are the best person to build it, then go and do it.

In my case – I spent years mentoring young boys and organizing workshops and events matching them with older male mentors they could identify with. They spoke about mental health, unemployment, and upbringing during these events.

How did I get into this?

I lost a friend to knife crime when I was 16. Then at 17, I started mentoring young boys that grew up in crime prevalent areas – i didn’t plan on being a mentor because there was still a lot I had to learn in life, but the more I started getting involved in the conversation around youth violence, mental health, and prevention – it just happened.

A few years later, I used my position at the Evening Standard to talk about violent crime from different perspectives through columns trying to highlight things that aren’t always spoken about but also shine a light on the parents and community leaders who were running grassroots (that are usually underfunded) that act as a lifeline to youth.

And then, I started hosting workshops and events bringing GenZ boys together with older men in different industries (sports, film, journalism) to discuss mental health, unemployment, upbringing, and life goals.

But outside of youth violence – one key element that would always come up in these discussions (I was simply the organizer and the moderator but allowed the audience to lead the conversation) was the lack of community and well-being platforms for boys and men.

Platforms also considered the cultural differences between groups of men and ensured that all men were supported. That’s when my idea for the startup came.

Be careful what and who you listen to

Sometimes investors are wrong. Did you know that Canva’s founder was rejected more than a hundred times? Today, we know Canva as the go-to application for creating anything from presentations to resumes and invites to certificates. However, Melanie Perkins the founder of Canva, had a hard time building this company from scratch in Australia.

Melanie came up with the idea for Canva in 2007 at the age of 19, when she was tutoring other students in her university on how to use design programs. That’s when she realized that they were far too complex and expensive – and the future of design was going to be simpler, online and collaborative.

The next several years were spent by Melanie in an effort to raise venture capital. And the process wasn’t easy. She was rejected hundreds of times and trips to Silicon Valley before she found her first investors. It took her and her husband and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht, more than three years to land the first investment.

Now her company is a unicorn.

Reflect on your life, and pinpoint the things that have caused you trouble or stress. Sometimes people try to think of something that’s never been done before when they can focus on what’s close to them.

I’m currently working on BRO. – the all-in-one platform for men. In an age where digital health disrupts traditional visits, we believe in-person mental health and well-being care is still crucial. So we’re doing both and taking the hybrid approach.

Hopefully, it goes well.

Customer feedback is crucial but be careful

Talking to users usually builds a long, complicated list of features.

Your product may not be for everyone. Just because 100 people don’t like it doesn’t mean you give up because you can’t forget about the 101 that do. You’ll never be for everyone.

Sometimes the founder knows what’s best.

Take in advice to get a clearer perspective, but just because the advice has come from an advisor or investor doesn’t mean it’s holy.

Many startup advisors persuade startups to scale way too early. This will require the building of technology and processes to support that scaling, which, if premature, will be a waste of time and effort

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Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.