It’s become almost a trademark of a hot young company to have offices with foosball tables and policies that include video game tournaments during business hours, but most of them would probably rather avoid playing “startup croquet.”
The term was coined by serial entrepreneur Jeffrey Dale in a recent article in the Ottawa Business Journal. Startup croquet, he said, refers to the difficulties company founders face as they try to navigate the rules and application processes of various government programs or “accelerators” that can provide them financing and other support.
Accelerators are often a necessary part of getting a new venture of the ground. Yet in Canada, there are so many accelerators in operation that the Financial Post recently questioned whether it is becoming too difficult for startups to figure out where to seek the capital and connections they need.
The obvious solution for founders is to spend most of their time ensuring they have a viable business that will be attractive to all the best accelerators in Canada, then apply to the programs that offer the greatest potential value. Here is a checklist of common-sense ideas to help get you started:
1. Position products and services for a wide array of customers.
As a story in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago pointed out, startups in Canada need to become “sector agnostic.” For example, don’t limit the potential application of a wearable device to consumers but think about business scenarios as well, such as major opportunities in health care and science. The same holds true if you’re developing apps or other cloud-based products and services: Accelerators will want to see there is more than one market for the firms they take on.
2. Study your peer group — even if you’re nowhere in their league (yet).
Earlier this year Inc. magazine profiled 8 Canadian Startups to Watch in 2015. Though they’re all innovative in their own way, they share a few key characteristics: They are all mobile-first, have well-defined target personas and most of them are driven by apps. Accelerators won’t want to see the same ideas over and over again, so being able to articulate how your startup is different is all part of the due diligence process.
3. Use the tools that will support the culture you want.
Making a startup successful is often more than a full-time job, which means the teams behind them can’t rely on interacting solely between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As a post on TechVibes noted, providing flexible options to stay connected and productive are essential to a growing number of Canadians. Cloud-based software that gives startups access to data and analytics on the go, and social tools to collaborate with their coworkers, will help nurture a culture that accelerators will believe in.
For advice on how to grow your business, check out these stories and insights from successful entrepreneurs in Salesforce’s free eBook, Secrets to Small Business Growth: Tips from 3 Successful Entrepreneurs.