Practicing What You Preach

After wrapping up year one of Launch Pad Ignition last June my co-founders and I took some time to reflect on our first year. The program was successful, but we knew there was room for improvement.

The role of an accelerator is to identify startups with a strong team and winning idea and help them improve their odds of success. It’s our job to design a program that will help them become stronger founders and connect them to the resources they need, be it capital, mentorship, talent, or direction. Everything else is lagniappe.

We value honesty and self-awareness in our founders, so it’s important that we hold ourselves to that standard by assessing Ignition’s performance and making changes to incrementally improve the program.

Today, a killer guest post from Peter Bodenheimer of Launchpad Ignition.

After wrapping up year one of Launch Pad Ignition last June my co-founders and I took some time to reflect on our first year. The program was successful, but we knew there was room for improvement.

The role of an accelerator is to identify startups with a strong team and winning idea and help them improve their odds of success. It’s our job to design a program that will help them become stronger founders and connect them to the resources they need, be it capital, mentorship, talent, or direction. Everything else is lagniappe.

We value honesty and self-awareness in our founders, so it’s important that we hold ourselves to that standard by assessing Ignition’s performance and making changes to incrementally improve the program.

Here’s what we learned and how we are iterating:

A great pitch is comes with traction.

In year one, we focused heavily on preparing a great deck and pitch. This year we are focused on achieving meaningful traction for each company because customer growth and revenue make pitching the business fundamentally real, not a vision.

Step 1: Create community. Step 2: Connect your community.

One value proposition of Ignition is plugging founders from our local community into a national network of entrepreneurs, investors, and partners. We added an advisory board to our team for year two, engaging investors from New York and San Francisco/Silicon Valley along with local investors. We continue to build our community by plugging it into national networks with road trips to SXSW, TechCrunch Disrupt NY, and engagement with accelerators like 500 Startups and TechStars.

Business models change, founders don’t.

This year we really focused on getting to know our applicants. We actively reached out to regional startups to encourage them to apply. We leaned towards applicants we felt were doers – hustler and hackers – were coachable, and had the guts to see things through.

Raising money without a strong local angel community is very difficult.

New Orleans is not New York and it’s not Silicon Valley. It’s up to us to not only engage local angels, but also provide context and guidance where we can since it’s generally outside of their investment experience. Creating connections between the local angels and national investors gives our companies a better shot at finding the right local lead as they raise funding.

As I write this, we’re in week 4 Ignition 2012 and I know the changes we have made have made Ignition better this year. We’re always learning and believe in continually iterating, so if you have thoughts about what has made your accelerator better, hit me up!

Join us on May 3rd for Launch Fest, our demo day that just happens to coincide with the world famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.