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:
Startmate officially runs for 12 weeks (technically 14 weeks, with a ‘week 0’ to get set up and another week to wrap up).
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!)
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.
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.
We got a good group of mentors! What can I say?
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!
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!
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.
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 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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.