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The problem with accelerators is that they cannot care too much about any single startup. They play the portfolio game.


Stashed in: 106 Miles, YCombinator, @paulg, VC

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These days I sometimes see good startups take accelerator money, and it makes me scratch my head. Why are startups interested in accelerators?

Then it became clear to me when I read Micah Baldwin's post on Svbtle:

Somewhere in all of this, the basic value of the accelerator for the company got switched from company acceleration to guaranteed financing. For mentors it shifted from giving back to the ecosystem to getting free equity in a hot startup and we saw an advisor explosion. And, for the top accelerators it became so much more about competition around numbers, and those numbers are one of three things: exits, job creation and money raised.

Paul Graham gives a variation of this theme in Black Swan Farming:

The thought of a 30% success rate at fundraising makes my stomach clench. A Demo Day where only 30% of the startups were fundable would be a shambles. Everyone would agree that YC had jumped the shark. We ourselves would feel that YC had jumped the shark. And yet we'd all be wrong.

Market forces are pushing accelerators to focus on quantity.

The more startups, the better.

But when you have a lot of companies, you're playing the portfolio game.

Portfolio optimizers cannot afford to care about any single company all that much, because they don't have the time or energy for that. Let 'em sink or swim on their own. That's pretty much all they have time and energy to do.

Isn't that counter to what startup acceleration is supposed to be about?

"I missed more than 9000 shots in my career." ~Michael Jordan

"I played 7 years without ever hitting the ball." ~Mickey Mantle

When you're playing a numbers game, any individual play does not matter.

@Adam, why does it make your head scratch? Is it that the good startups don't need the money? Don't need the rep an accelerator brings in raising outside funding (they could do it on their own)? They could bootstrap just fine? Curious about your thoughts on this...

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