What startups can learn from an accelerator programme
19 September 2022
In this article, we reflect on one of our most successful programmes of this year: the ImpactCity Accelerator, a programme aimed at accelerating sustainable startups in the ecosystem in The Hague in collaboration with Startupbootcamp. Of the 260 (!) applications, nine startups with promising innovations were selected by an expert jury to continue in the program.
We spoke with the founders of Feelou, the only bra that supports changing breasts, and Brute Bonen, ultimate freshly roasted espresso beans, about their learning points from the programme.
Noor and Jop, it’s nice to speak to you. How did you experience participating in the programme?
Noor Figdor, founder of Feelou:
“The three months have flown by and brought a lot to our team. Even after having worked for a number of years at YES!Delft and for a time at Global School, there is still so much to learn about entrepreneurship and being an entrepreneur. Giving advice is very different from actually doing it yourself!”
Jop Bröcker, founder of Brute Bonen:
“One of the most important things about participating in an accelerator: you get out what you put in. Sounds logical and obvious, but participating in an accelerator takes time. A lot of time. It is hard work to get a clear picture of what you stand for, what drives you and what makes your product or service unique. Add to that the workshops, training, mentor sessions and peer reviews. If you make time for these things, the reward is that you leave the programme with a sharp focus and you are ready to grow into the next phase. That’s how I’ve experienced it.”
Good to hear. Do you have any other advice for other startups considering participation in a similar program?
“Connect with the other startups. They go through the same roller coasters, so often one word is enough for them to know how you feel, what you are looking for or to be able to help you a step further. It helped me a lot with my connections with, for example, Jop from Brute Bonen and Richard from Emergi Solutions, they brought me great insights and valuable connections.”
“I agree with what Noor says. And also: dare to change course. During the process, you will gain insights that you might not want to hear at all, because they might be opposed to your idea. For example, I had the idea of linking Dutch coffee drinkers to local farmers. They could adopt their ‘own’ piece of plantation, so they would build a long-term relationship with the farmer. Soon, signs began to appear that this was not a good idea: farmers want equality, not to be adopted. Not even when it comes to their land. And the Dutch consumer saw bears on the road: what if the harvest fails? In short, kill your darlings and “pivot”. Now we have turned it around: What would happen if the farmers became co-owners of Brute Bonen? That’s when you build a long-term relationship!”
How do you choose the right program and why did you pick the ImpactCity Accelerator?
“Choose the right place and timing for you. There’s a huge range of startup programs and incubators out there at the moment. I think it’s important to choose an incubator that fits well with your company values because then you’ll end up in a network that will benefit you. Personally, I am very enthusiastic about the ImpactCity slogan ‘doing good & doing business’. Also, choose a program that fits well with the life stage of your startup. For us, the timing was just right, allowing us to do the things we needed to do anyway with the help of coaches and experts.”
“And then when you’ve made your choice, here comes my most important tip: have fun! Again, a cliché, but so important. At the get-togethers, that’s where it happens. You share stories, come up with ideas and meet new people. The drinks with mentors, coaches, and fellow startups and not to forget the drinks after Demo Day, the final day of the ImpactCity Accelerator, were always fun and useful. I think this is also one of the reasons I would always check if there are enough physical sessions in the program.”
“That’s exactly how I experienced it. I want to add that it’s important to ask for help yourself. There is a whole team of coaches, mentors, and experts ready to help you, but they can only really help you if you ask for it. And the ultimate question for help, I asked during Demo Day, the final day of the ImpactCity Accelerator. That’s a great moment to let the public know, for example, that you’re looking for a co-founder or an investor.”
Together with the other selected startups, Feelou and Brute Bones pitched at Demo Day in front of an expert jury, with EY, partner of the ImpactCity Accelerator program, and investors DOEN Participations, Rabobank, 4Impact, Shaping Impact Group, and InnovationQuarter.