2012 Managing Directors’ Conference in Review

Managing Directors from over 30 member accelerators gathered in Chicago for our yearly Managing Directors’ conference last week. This is the event for Managing Directors from the top accelerators from around the world. Over a jam packed 24 hours, attendees networked, shared ideas and best practices and worked in small groups to answer questions from 4 selected speakers on topics affecting accelerators.

We’re still digesting all we discussed but wanted to share a few of the initial best practices we learned.

Nicole Glaros started the first discussion on the topic of company selection and program promotion.

When it comes to promoting programs, Nicole Glaros started with a quote from Brad Feld,“The best way to go about program promotion is to have the most amazing program on the planet”. Other suggested tactics included creating a standard ask for all alumni and mentors to share stories and help in social media promotion. In fact, Nicole asks all mentors to share about TechStars 3 times with a blog, Tweet or other social post.

The next discussion featured Brad Feld on building a startup community. To cultivate a strong startup community, start with some generosity. Feld suggests that every entrepreneur looking to strengthen their local community start by practicing the principle “give before you get”. Feld encouraged managing directors to suggest to founders to invest money into other entrepreneurs. Building on this in the discussion, it was suggested that attendees check out 1% of nothing, a cause asking founders to pledge to support other entrepreneurs, pre revenue.

Patrick de Zeeuw of Startup Bootcamp started the next discussion on developing and managing mentors with the quote, “Not ever pro player is a great coach. Not every entrepreneur, founder, or CEO is a great mentor.”

When it comes to finding mentors to participate, our groups had a number of suggestions. First, identifying great mentors and asking them for introductions to peers they thought would make great mentors was a great way to broaden an accelerator’s mentor network. After a successful program, mentor management can take a shift from trying to track mentors down, to the need to screen potential mentors for the program. Screening mentors to ensure their qualification (and shared values) is common. Some programs have written standards they ask mentors to accept prior to their service. (Great example from TechStars with their mentor manifesto).

We wrapped up the day with a discussion on collaboration and partnership led by Troy Henikoff of Excelerate Labs. Within the accelerator program, some of the best partnership and collaboration can come between teams enrolled in the program. Teams pitching to each other, sharing their funding experiences and using each other for product validation and testing were all great ways to capitalize on the power of the group.

We’re looking forward to bringing the group together again in 6 weeks when the MDs and their founders descend on Boston for the Global Accelerator Network founders’ conference!