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10 Questions Music Tech Startup Founders Should Ask Before Choosing An Accelerator or Incubator

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Paul_graham_talking_about_prototype_day_at_y_combinator_summer_2009
Choosing a
program requires more research
and assessment than
knowing your startup is likely to get a feature on
TechCrunch as a benefit of being a Y-Combinator startup
.
What’s more, founders of music tech
startups face hurdles and limitations unique to our
space
.”

Guest Post by Dae Bogan on
Music Industry Insider For The Indie
Artist

It is no new news that the world of business accelerators
and incubators is booming. The Top 15 incubators
attract thousands of applicants for each cohort submission
period. With over 50% of startups raising over $1 million
each
 in additional financing after graduating a top
program, many eager young entrepreneurs flock to these
opportunities hoping to breakthrough.

Unfortunately, with only a 1% admission rate,
getting accepted to Harvard Business
School
 may be easier than a top accelerator
or incubator program. 

Choosing a program requires more research and assessment
than knowing your startup is likely to get a feature on TechCrunch as a benefit of
being a Y-Combinator startup
. What’s more, founders of music tech startups face
hurdles and limitations unique to our space
.

As a music tech entrepreneur, consultant, and startup advisor,
here are the questions I recommend to ask when I help
music tech founders evaluate options (typically, after they’ve
received an offer):


  1. Comment-bubbles-on-blackboard
    Does the
    accelerator/incubator make a seed investment? If so, how much
    and in what format (priced, convertible note, etc.)?
  2. Do they offer physical space to work out of? If so, how
    often, for how big of a team, and what’s included (supplies,
    equipment, accommodations, parking, utilities)?
  3. Do they host guest speakers? If so, on what topics,
    how frequently, and from what industries?
  4. Do they offer mentorship? If so, by whom (backgrounds and
    expertise), how frequently, and in what arrangement (one-on-one
    or group sessions with other startup teams)?
  5. Do they make introductions? If so, do they have a relevant
    network specific to your industry (i.e. music industry)? If so,
    how large is the network and at what levels (Director, V-suite,
    C-suite?) are those contacts?
  6. Do they help seek funding upon completion of the
    accelerator program? If so, in what format (demo day, VC
    outreach, angel networks, all of the above)
  7. Does the managing directors have expertise (and pass
    success) in your industry/vertical? If so, in what capacity
    (founder, advisor, investor)? Did those companies have a
    successful exit?
  8. What is their investment thesis? In what industries do
    they tend to accept and support startups?
  9. Has past cohorts turned out successful startups in your
    space? How is that success defined?
  10. Does all of the above substantiate the equity that
    you will give up?

It should be noted that universities are becoming
bigger players in the startup space as well.
Through
entrepreneurship courses, corporate partnerships, and
university-funded programs, more and more college students have
access to resources and mentorship to build products and
develop companies. As a provisional advisor to Sonabos, a startup
out of the Martin Trust Center for MIT
Entrepreneurship
, I’ve had the pleasure of offering
guidance and advice to three talented MIT students who’ve also
received mentorship from amazing faculty.

My final word of advice to music tech startup founders is
if you do decide to join an accelerator that does not
specialize in digital media and have little to no history
supporting music tech startups, leverage industry
experts as potential advisors.
Where your program may
lack in industry knowledge and relationships, they may be
strong in other areas, such as growth, financing, marketing,
product development, and management mentorship.

Advisors, such as myself, who are music industry
insiders may be able to help you understand the music
industry components of your business, such as intellectual
property implications (i.e. DMCA compliance, licensing, license
administration, royalty processing, etc.) and
technological development or integrations (i.e. automated
copyright recognition technology, usage reporting, etc.).

Be mindful. Don’t let the idea of the glitz, glam, and
indulgence of the startup world overshadow smart
decision-making. This isn’t HBO’s
“Silicon Valley”.

Photo Source: Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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