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Should accelerators nurture or challenge?

StartUp42 v0.4 is now over and until we start a new season, I wanted to use this quieter time (at least on the acceleration side) to share some thoughts about acceleration and the birth of (very) early-stage startups.

During this last season, I had a very interesting discussion with one of the teams. Just a month into the program, the founders had a disagreement with their CTO who decided to leave the company. The founders immediately came to seek my advice on how to peacefully solve the disagreement. When they told me, my reaction was as follow: “I will of course help you on solving the disagreement but I’d like to warn you that if you don’t find a new CTO in the next 2 weeks, I will have to kick you out of the program”.

Indeed, since we only accept teams with a CTO at StartUp42, I couldn’t keep a team who’s not building their product. It’s bad for them as they don’t benefit fully from the program but it’s also not fair to teams with CTOs that were not selected. The founders were very surprised by my ultimatum. They came looking for comfort and they left with pressure. They said they were not expecting me to act like this.

In my opinion, accelerators are here to push you to your best. We’re not protective parents that help you cope with the difficulties of the entrepreneurship world. We’re here to make you feel these difficulties as early as possible in the process. Entrepreneurship is hard, very hard, and not everyone is fit for it. This is also why I made StartUp42 as a toolbox for entrepreneurs instead of a set program. I have no catalogue of available services and mentors but if you ask for it (or use us to fetch it), you will have it.

I think not everyone can feel comfortable in such environment but again, I don’t want entrepreneurs to ever feel comfortable anymore.

And by the way, that team took just 1 week to find a new CTO ;)