Accelerators, incubators, exchanges — the list of programs that aim to support and develop startups at different stages is long. As a founder, it can be difficult to decide whether any given program may be a good next step for you and your business model.
“An accelerator program isn’t the end game; it’s a way to get to the next step of where you’re trying to go,” says Qoins co-founder and CEO Christian Zimmerman. Micro-payment startup Qoins has participated or been accepted into the Queen City Fintech accelerator, City of Atlanta Startup Exchange, and UBS Village Capital program, among others.
Since their inception the startup has helped its users pay off $1.2 million in total debt and received accolades from the media, most recently appearing on The Today Show and CNN Money. Are you on the fence? Zimmerman shares more about the benefits — beyond money — he garnered upon joining several of these startup programs.
Take advantage of new locations
During the Queen City program, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, Zimmerman shares that one of their goals was to make important connections within Charlotte’s strong banking sector. The accelerator’s free housing perk helped the team stay in town to nurture those connections. “Our goal there was to build relationships with all of the large banks so that we could grow our credibility and have them on our board. Plus, learning the ins and outs of how it all works from their perspective,” says Zimmerman. “For us, it was about the network we were getting.”
Seek out knowledge from experts
“We got access to advisors and mentors from companies the program partnered up with,” says Zimmerman. The Qoins team tapped into those companies for feedback on their business model.
Brand awareness from a B2B standpoint as well as growing their prospective user base were also benefits they saw as they participated in these programs. “We learned about regulations and compliance that fell within the fintech industry and how to tread those waters,” says Zimmerman.
Learn investment lessons
“The biggest thing that we learned that money doesn’t solve all of your problems. A lot of companies that are tight on cash and receive new capital, you get comfortable,” says Zimmerman. “You still need to make sure that you stay lean in your business model and find the right solutions to continue to scale your model. That’s how we started.”
Plan ahead on your road map
Thinking ahead on how a program may benefit you later in your expansion plans may be key to determining program fit. Zimmerman shares that while they are not at this particular point right now, they wanted to explore international viability along with building relationships and access to local regulations for later.
“We’ve been getting a lot of inbound interest from different countries — from Canada to Australia — about our product expanding. The UK is one of the biggest financial hubs in the world and we applied for Startup Exchange to build international relationships now. This way, once we reach expansion on our product road map, we already have a few relationships to make it a little bit easier,” says Zimmerman.