We’re living in an uncertain world, which means many facets of life and work have changed. But when you stop and think, how many things in life have ever been certain?
The only things we can control are our actions and how we respond to the changing world. Covid-19 has made this more obvious than we may have seen before and brought with it challenges for startups. One issue is removing the in-person face time needed to build relationships and find new opportunities. For many of us running accelerator programmes, it’s led to a quick pivot…
Seize the Day!
All events, incubators and accelerators have had to move online to keep everyone safe. For some people going fully digital might deter them from taking part in these new programme formats. But if there’s one thing the best startups are, it’s agile. While the opportunity to travel and physically meet people may not come back for a while, opportunities have not disappeared – it’s all about adapting your mindset and attitude to seize the day.
We had to pivot online halfway through our first cohort and wanted to share our learnings to help founders make the most of virtual programmes.
Always be prepared
On the topic of having control over your actions, the best thing you can do is to be prepared. Virtual sessions work best if the audience is truly engaged and actively participating. This makes preparation more important than ever. If you’re joining a programme, you’ll see ahead of time what’s on the agenda, so plan ahead. How can you get the most from the knowledge being shared? What questions should you ask that will directly support your business?
Get to know those around you
Just because everything is virtual doesn’t mean you can’t build meaningful relationships. Make a concerted effort to engage with the programme team and cohort members – make the most of having the camaraderie and support structure around you. You’re all in the same boat. While your businesses may differ, your situations will be very alike. Set up calls to meet other founders one-on-one, set time aside to engage through different channels, and you’ll tap into an incredible support network by doing so.
In-person events and serendipitous office encounters usually achieve things like the cohort effect. This needs to be recreated virtually. Participation in events that might not be super crucial to your business progress can still make a difference in knowing your fellow cohort members. Relationships among startups often lead to collaborations and even lifelong friendships.
Show your face
We’re all getting a bit fatigued by endless Zoom calls, but if people only ever see an icon when you’re on a call, and never your face, you’re missing out on creating a sense of community. It will help a lot when building relationships, and that’s all good practice for getting to know other stakeholders in the accelerator programme, be them corporate sponsors, investors or mentors.
You are not alone
Startup programmes really do provide you with a community of support, so you’re not alone. However, they aren’t just for you. One of the best ways to get the most out of any programme – and more so virtually – is to ensure members of your own team also take part.
Now the team member who really would benefit from a digital marketing seminar and Q&A can join from home. Virtual programmes provide a more accessible way for your team to upskill without the issue of travelling across a city or even to another country to join the programme.
Location is no longer an issue – so tech shouldn’t be
Speaking of travel. You have a rare opportunity to apply for programmes, that if successful, would have previously been a logistical nightmare. Location is no longer a barrier to entry. Don’t make technology or Zoom a new barrier, make sure your tech is working, and your audio is clear.
Communication is key
Whatever programme you join, ensure that you lean on the programme leads as much as you can and keep them informed. You need to ask what they can do to help maximise the ROI to you, your team and business.
Unless you tell them what’s going on and share both your successes and failures, they won’t be able to spot opportunities or potential potholes ahead of time and give you the support you might not know you need. We introduced the concept of the ‘overshare’ where, historically, sharing too much usually leads to the best results.
Joining a virtual programme is more than just attending the scheduled sessions, to get the most value, you need to take control of how you get involved.
Image credits: GaudiLab / Shutterstock
Guest post by Gabriela Matic, Programme Director, ATI Boeing Accelerator