What to expect during the Startmate Accelerator

By
June 28, 2022
Steppen co-founders Jake Carp and Cara Davies
Steppen co-founders Jake Carp and Cara Davies

In mid-January 2022, the Steppen team started the Startmate Accelerator. We were excited and eager to be in the Summer22 cohort. (Ceck out my previous post about our journey to getting accepted.) But while we’d heard great things about Startmate — the team does a great job with company branding and community evangelism — we had no idea what the Accelerator actually involved!

So, this post will outline:

  • The structure of the Startmate Accelerator and how it works;
  • Our key learnings; and
  • Tips for getting the most out of the program.

How the Startmate Accelerator works

Startmate officially runs for 12 weeks (technically 14 weeks, with a ‘week 0’ to get set up and another week to wrap up).

Week 0

The purpose of this week is to get you set up, aware of the program, hyped and thinking ambitiously. This is the most hands-on and time-intensive week. You can see an excerpt of my calendar below. (DW this is just the first week!)

Week 0 calendar

Squad leader

Every founding team gets paired with a squad leader. You can think of them as your lead mentor, who will guide you through the program.

We were lucky enough to have Startmate Principal Lauren Capelin as our squad leader. We got some input in the decision; it was a nice mutual fit. 😉

We wanted a mentor who would be able to connect us and leverage the Startmate community, along with someone who could just hear out our current issues and chat through them with us. Lauren served this role perfectly. We would meet with Lauren weekly to walk through whatever was on our mind and troubleshoot together.

Honestly, Lauren made the program for us. She was our biggest advocate and became the first person I’d call when things went pear-shaped. She saw us through the ups and downs of the program and startup life more generally.

Your squad

Each company is paired with an additional 2-3 mentors, who make up your squad group. Your squad is formed off the back of a mentor roulette, where you interview the mentors and vote on who you want your mentors to be, and the mentors in turn vote on which companies they want to be paired with. 

We entered the program with a clear understanding of the expertise we needed: product, investment and strategy.

  • In product, we got paired with Ollie Berger, who was voted #1 mentor for our cohort!
  • In investment, we got paired with Christie Jenkins, an elite athlete herself, an associate at Blackbird and an advisor at Athletic Ventures.
  • General strategy and accountability, we got paired with Dean McEvoy, the bullshit detector king and accountability coach.

We got a good group of mentors! What can I say?

Selecting your mentors

I would recommend going into the program very clear on what you  need help with. Do your research. You get the list of mentors before, read through them and see if anyone stands out. If you don’t get to talk to someone of interest during the mentor roulette, DM them on Slack and try to catch up with them.

You can also use your partner to advocate the best mentors for you. Lauren somehow convinced Dean to join our team despite him (historically) not liking fitness apps…

Startmate’s mentors really are the heart of the program, so take care and think about who you want to be yours!

Festivities

Week 0 is the most hands-on week, with sessions each day. Some are content-driven, designed to drum up your ambition. I enjoyed Masan Yates’ session on ambition, for example! Others are more expectation setting, explaining what the next 12 weeks will be like.

After week 0, the time expectation of the program is really in your hands!

Week 1-12

These are the 12 weeks where you have goals set and you track towards them. You set your goals at the start of the program.

Each week has two main components. 

  • A weekly ‘all hands’ where you hear how the other companies are tracking, along with providing your own company update. This is the main way you get to meet the other companies in the cohort. (When we did Startmate, the cohort was entirely virtual.)
  • Content sessions. These are not compulsory; you can pop in and out as you like. You can (and should) also communicate what you want these sessions to be about. For example, setting up ESOP, hiring, et cetera.

You will determine your cadence of catching up with your mentors. There is no right way to do this. Use your mentors as you need them. Come prepared for your sessions though (this is something we could have done better).

Demo Day

Demo Day is the culmination of the Startmate program. Here, you present what you achieved in the 12 weeks of the program to the entire Startmate community.

It’s a nice celebration of each company’s achievements. It was lovely to have some of Steppen’s team, investors and family members attend the event. (Hi Mum and Dad!)

A lot of companies use Demo Day as an opportunity to make a big announcement such as key milestones or the opening of a funding round. It’s a great opportunity to direct attention to your company.

You can watch our virtual pitch here (watch from 9:16 to see the Steppen pitch). 💪🏼 Startmate opened the Demo Day pitches with us… so we must have done something right. 😉

What we got out of the program

The program was quite different from what we expected. In my head (before starting) Startmate was an amazing program that was going to change our lives (high expectations, mwahahah). The program was indeed awesome, but not in the way I thought it would be.

Startmate did not magically solve all our company problems, and the individual sessions didn’t make me a better founder. Rather, the program’s structure provided us with community, accountability and story refinement.

Community

  • Startmate is an awesome community of people who are (genuinely) invested in the success of your company. We could call on the Startmate community as we needed (I would recommend doing this) to problem solve and learn. The mentors are super generous with their time and have a breath of knowledge they can share.

Accountability and focus

  • Each week you have to write a summary of the previous week, and you also update your cohort about your week prior at all hands. You want to have things to say. This spurred us to get focused on the things that matter (and ignore those that don’t). Accountability is a good thing. Focus is needed in startups. Both are things we at Steppen can continue to do better. We are taking the 12-week block into our work cadence to help with planning. We did a good job tracking towards 2/3 of our Startmate goals.

Story refinement

  • During the program, you’ll need to tell a lot of people what it is you actually do. Your ability to tell your story will improve. For us, Startmate helped us better articulate our fitness creator angel and centre creators in our narrative.

Tips for getting the most out of the program

If you are reading this and just got into Startmate, AMAZINGGGG.💙 You are about to embark on an exciting and challenging 12 weeks. (Feel free to DM me on the Startmate Slack if you have questions.)

Here are some tips the Steppen team found helpful.

Everyone has opinions

  • You do not need to listen to everyone. You will get a lotttttt of comments, feedback and thoughts about your business during the program (and outside it). You will get overwhelmed and confused by the feedback at times. Develop the skill to filter through what you need to action, and what is just someone’s opinion which is not relevant for you right now.

Be focused on your goals and be ambitious

The 12-week block is a great opportunity to build something great and see real progress. For Steppen, we went from 3 co-founders to a team of 9, added an additional 100,000+ users to our platform and saw our workout completions move from ~250 a day to peak at over 600. If I was to do the program again, I would be even more ambitious with our goals.

Use the community and your mentors as you need

You can meet with your mentors every week, you can meet with them biweekly, you can meet with them individually or together. Do what you need and what will benefit your company the most. If there is a content session not relevant to you, don’t go to it. If there’s a content session you need that isn’t on the schedule, ask for it or send a message in the Startmate Slack and arrange a 1:on:1 with someone. We did this a lot and it was super useful.

Reflect and adapt

We changed our Startmate goals, we re-centered creators in our platform and evolved our pitch. I’d recommend doing the weekly reflections (takes 5 minutes) and use your mentors to think not just about the details of your business but also the big picture.

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