How can you build an effective and authentic accelerator?
Interview with Diane Perlman, Global Chief of Marketing at Mass Challenge
How did you end up launching the Microsoft Accelerator Program?
I found out about the opportunity, while I had another role at Microsoft, to create Microsoft Ventures in the UK. Luckily they offered me the job. Essentially, I was given 4 weeks to launch a pilot accelerator. In the end, I managed to get one more week out of them and 5 weeks to launch.
I went around meeting as many people from the startup community as possible and talked to them about what worked, what didn’t, what was good about accelerators, what wasn’t, what was missing and what was needed. Also, we had an accelerator in Israel, which inspired me and acted as a blueprint. But, I wanted to make sure it was fit for purpose in the UK, so we basically put together the curriculum and used our personal networks, critic mentors, workshops etc.
We launched the pilot 5 weeks later and since then we’ve been constantly growing and changing, while keeping a lean startup spirit.
How important is trust within your accelerator?
Firstly, when you run an Accelerator Program, there is a huge trust issue with startups. I felt a huge sense of responsibility as they’re giving me four month of their time. Trust is hugely important because they have to believe you can add value. Obviously, they also benefitted from lots of advantages in terms of connections, mentors, workshops and exposure.
What is your view on authentic relationships?
Well, I think it’s becoming more and more important everywhere, in the corporate and startup world. For example, the interesting thing about Mass Challenge is that it’s a purpose driven company. The mission is to help entrepreneurs create value and drive growth, all around the world. There’s an honesty and authenticity that come with that, which you can’t manufacture. And, this is one of the reasons I joined. Mass Challenge said, ok we’re going to take a different approach to every other accelerator. We’re not for profit, everything is about promoting startups. Everything we do and all the money we raise goes to running the programme or directly to the startups. We give 500k equity free to accelerate the programme.