The Startup Accelerator FAQs

All your questions should be answered here.

 

More questions? Call us on +44 (0) 203 514 5530 or e-mail school@escapethecity.org

Headline Information

Who is The Accelerator for?

Are you tired of thinking about business ideas and ready to start building?

So many people talk about starting businesses, but so few act on their ambitions. It’s understandable: starting a business can seem scary, expensive, risky and extremely hard. There’s too much advice out there and so much of it is unhelpful.

Even if you think you’re ready to start something — Which books should you read? Who should you talk to? Which methodologies should you apply? It can be overwhelming and confusing.

We have built the Idea Accelerator as an intensive introduction to early-stage startups. This is a programme for committed, passionate people who are excited to learn about entrepreneurship by rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty.

The Startup Accelerator is for people who…

– Are at the early stages of exploring their entrepreneurial ambitions.

– Have an idea but haven’t built or launched anything yet.

– Have a track record of getting things done and generally achieving.

– Might be frustrated by their career and be feeling keen to explore alternatives.

– Are determined not to look back on these years and regret not trying.

– Are prepared to move from thinking mode to doing mode in order to learn.

– Are attracted by the idea of moving forwards with a group of likeminded people.

How does it work?

The Accelerator has been designed with the following principles in mind:

  1. ACTION WORKS: We learn best by doing, not by sitting in the classroom. Concepts are important but it’s only when we implement new ideas that we truly understand them.
  2. COMMUNITY IS CRUCIAL: Communities give us confidence, hold us accountable, teach us about ourselves, and help us cement new ways of doing and seeing things.
  3. WE HAVE THE TOOLS: It has never been cheaper or easier to start a business. With the right tools and guidance we can all build exciting & impactful businesses.

The Accelerator in summary: Over the course of the Accelerator you will work through the 12 modules and undertake challenges with the support of your Escape Leaders.

You will have an Accountability Group of 4-5 people who will support you through all of the doing and learning. You will use your Accelerator Guidebook to track your progress.

You will be connected together online in a private Slack group to work on your ideas and support each other. 

At the end of the experience you will join The Escape Club (our private alumni network of brave career changers and aspiring entrepreneurs) for ongoing support as you progress on your journey of building a career on your own terms.

How can it help me?

The Startup Accelerator is designed to:

  1. Demystify the startup process for you. You will step through all the key areas you need to know about to build an early-stage business. You’ll progress through a combination of discussion and action.
  2. Help you move from thinking to building. You will launch your prototype or first version of your idea. 
  3. Empower you to start your own business. It takes more than 12 weeks to build a business. The programme accelerate you in this process, equipping you with the tools & community to take forwards as you build.
What outcomes can I expect?
By the end of The Startup Accelerator you will have…
  • A first version of your product or service. You’ll know how to take an idea and break it down to create a sensible version 1
  • A personal transition plan. You’ll know how to create a transition plan to de-risk your personal finances
  • Your first sale. You’ll know all the ways in which you can build early revenue
  • A future business plan. You’ll know what numbers are important to your idea / business
  • A website. That you have done yourself, with no code and no need to hire a developer
  • Your target customer profile. You’ll know who your users are and have spoken to your customers to validate your idea
  • A honed pitch. With feedback from mentors and experienced startups facilitators for either investment, support or for future co-founders
  • Tested 3 marketing channels. You’ll have experimented with 3 social media channels and know which is your cheapest channel for acquiring users
  • A 3 month prioritised action plan. You’ll know what to focus on and how to keep on track
  • A community of 50 like minded people. Friends, future co-founders and a network of connections to help you on your entrepreneurial journey.

You’ll also know be able to apply all this learning to any future idea.

 

What do the Escape Leaders do?

Each Startup Accelerator has Escape Leaders

The best people to learn with are entrepreneurs. Escape Leaders are people with credible track records in early-stage startups who can act as role models for the group.

The Escape Leader isn’t a teacher (or guru!).

The Escape Leader is your guide for this experience. They will steer you through The Accelerator – helping you troubleshoot, problem-solve and brainstorm your way through the challenges.

The Escape Leader is your startup coach.

Wherever possible they will help you with useful information but they will also encourage you to figure things out for yourself. We learn best by doing, not by being told.

What is The Escape Club?

At the end of The Startup Accelerator you will be invited to join The Escape Club (for free).

What is The Escape Club?

We are a community of people who:

  • Reject the suffocating conformity of the mainstream career path.
  • Are determined to build careers and businesses on our own terms.
  • Accept that the escapee’s journey is really hard and can take a long time.
  • Are prepared to take responsibility for our thoughts, words and deeds.
  • Commit to giving as much help and support as we receive.

What does The Escape Club consist of?

As an Esc Club member you’ll have access to:

  • A strong community of +1000 Escape School alumni.
  • The Escape & Startup curriculum & knowledge forum.
  • Skill-sharing and peer-to-peer mentoring.
  • Regular events, meetups and socials.

Accelerator Logistics

Where is it held?

The Accelerator sessions take place at Work.Life Clerkenwell.

An easy walk from the Farringdon, Chancery Lane, and Old Street stations.

Address: Work.Life Clerkenwell, 20 Jerusalem Passage, London, EC1V 4JP

What is the likely demographic?

A snapshot of previous Startup Accelerator demographics…

How many years have you been working for?

20% with 0-5 years’ experience

25% with 6-9 years’ experience

9% with 10-14 years’ experience

6% with +15 years’ experience

 

What is your working status?

54% Working full-time.

24% Doing independent / freelance work.

22% Fully escaped and on the entrepreneurial path.

 

What sector do you work in?

Tribes typically cover a diverse range of backgrounds (this is part of their strength). A snapshot of sectors previous Tribers have worked in:

Media, Financial Services, Publishing, Advertising, Education, Transportation, Banking, Software Development, Law, Consulting, Technology, Accounting, Events, Law, Media, Communications, Medicine, Charity, Oil & Gas, Teaching, Architecture, Civil Service, Creative Arts, Fashion, Hospitality, Marketing, Property, Retail, Sustainability, Wine, Ecommerce, Customer Service, Automotive, Consumer Goods, Military, Travel.

Wellbeing

What are the guiding principles for the Accelerator?

What are the guiding principles for The Accelerator?

If you aren’t enjoying your job or you’re struggling to figure out your right direction, it can be easy to feel that you’ve got a problem or that you’ve failed in some way. There is nothing wrong with you – but there is a lot wrong with the world of work.

By joining this group you are becoming an early adopter of a new way of working. Building a career on your own terms is hard – don’t make it any harder by feeling like you’ve failed because you want to do something different. You haven’t – you’re a pioneer.

This is a revolution and it’s exciting to be alive (and building a career) at a time of so much change. There are a lot of us who feel this way and these are some of the principles we use to keep us strong on our respective journeys…

26 PRINCIPLES FOR THE ACCELERATOR:

  1. FIND YOUR PEOPLE: You become the average of the people you spend your time with – choose wisely.
  2. BUILD REAL RELATIONSHIPS: Authentically connect with people who share your values & help each other along.
  3. GIVE, GENEROUSLY: Make yourself useful to other people – giving (authentically) is the best way to get.
  4. PRIORITISE ACTION: You can’t think your way to exciting opportunities, you can only “do” our way forwards.
  5. START (JUST START): Start things and follow your curiosities without knowing how they’re going to turn out.
  6. TAKE SMALL STEPS: Take small steps towards big goals, changing direction as you learn through doing.
  7. EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY: Accept uncertainty as the price for trying to do work that matters on your own terms.
  8. SHINE IN PUBLIC: No one is going to give you a chance if they don’t know you exist.
  9. SHOW, DON’T TELL: Don’t tell the world what you’re capable of (CV, cover letters), show them!
  10. BE PATIENT: This process takes time and can be a struggle. Practice resilience when it gets hard.
  11. ADOPT GROWTH MINDSET: See small failures, setbacks and imperfection as learning experiences on your journey.
  12. AVOID REGRET: Manage risk by all means but don’t avoid it altogether. Try to avoid regret, not risk.
  13. DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF: Bravely cultivate and defend your own definition of what really matters in life.
  14. BACK YOURSELF: You are capable of more than you give yourself credit for. Believe in yourself.
  15. KEEP GROWING: You may not yet know how to do what you want to do, but believe you can get there.
  16. ADOPT BEGINNER MINDSET: When you start you won’t be an expert. Reject imposter syndrome, embrace learning.
  17. AIM AT EXCELLENT: The world will respond favourably if you (eventually) become damn good at something.
  18. OWN YOUR STORY: There are many narrative threads in your past (and future). Don’t be defined by others.
  19. LIVE YOUR VALUES: Focus on behaving in ways that reflect your values and what you’re doing will catch up.
  20. SEEK ACCOUNTABILITY: Share your objectives with a community – you’ll be more likely to achieve them.
  21. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS: Priorities are like arms: you don’t want more than two. Focus on few things at once.
  22. USE YOUR FEAR Make smart decisions – but remember that fear can point at things you want.
  23. TEST YOUR BEST GUESS When in doubt, you don’t have to take a big risk / decision, just test your best guess.
  24. ASK FOR HELP: None of us can do this solo. Be brave, reach out to people – they want to help.
  25. CULTIVATE GRATITUDE: In the scheme of things you are incredibly lucky. Remember this on the tough days.
  26. START WHERE YOU ARE: Do what is doable for you where you are today. Don’t obsess about the destination.
How do I take care of myself on the Accelerator?

The Idea Accelerator is an exhilarating journey. It can also be stressful and overwhelming at times – any process that involves the unknown, personal risk and the prospect of big life changes can be challenging. When the group forms we will explore ways of looking after ourselves and each other as we begin to explore new ideas and new potential career paths.

Here are some of the key principles for self-care on the Idea Accelerator:

  1. ACCEPT CHANGE CAN HURT Your brain evolved to keep you safe. Most of us are instinctively afraid of the unknown. Wobbles, worries and fear are a core part of any process of change. Accepting this can help you deal with challenging thoughts and reactions as they occur.
  2. STICK WITH IT Experiential Avoidance is a psychological term that means running away from difficult experiences even when doing so creates harm in the long-term. Grit your teeth, stick with your objectives and you’ll be amazing at the progress you’ll make.
  3. KNOW YOURSELF Challenge yourself to engage in the work even when you don’t feel like it – but also know when to take a step back. This is a long-term process and it doesn’t all happen in 12 weeks. Slow down and take the pressure off when you need to.
  4. BUILD IN RECOVERY TIME Although the experience will encourage you to carve out time for working on your startup plans, remember to allow some of that time to be dedicated to maintaining your wellbeing, health and energy levels.
  5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF This is one of the most important lessons you can learn on this journey. Treat yourself as you would your best friend – with compassion, patience and acknowledgement that it won’t all come right away, but that you are working on it.
  6. PRACTICE GROWTH MINDSET Fixed Mindset sees difficulties, setbacks and failures as negative judgments on an individual. Growth Mindset sees the same challenges as opportunities for growth, learning and advancement. Practice Growth Mindset (google: Carol Dweck).
  7. RESIST UNHELPFUL PRESSURE It is important to remind yourself that your decisions are yours alone and to resist any pressure that you might feel as a result of comparing yourself to other members of the group or challenges themselves.
  8. PROTECT YOURSELF The more you begin changing things in your life, the more people in your life may act unhelpfully towards you. This is one of the more challenging aspects of any unconventional journey. Surround yourself with positive people as much as possible.
  9. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY It can be tempting to blame anyone but you for your situation or how you’re feeling. This is the quickest way to feeling depressed. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words and deeds. It’s hard but it’s liberating.
  10. CONSIDER COACHING As you progress into new territory, you may feel that you could benefit from individual coaching. One-on-one coaching can be an amazing way to dive into some of the ways in which you hold yourself back. Ask your Escape Leader for more info.

These principles can be even more important after the Accelerator – as you continue on your journey to build a career on your own terms perhaps without the presence of a weekly support group.

We will equip you with guidance for the period after the Accelerator and you’ll have ongoing support in the form of the Escape Club and any ongoing activity that your group commits to. This is a journey and we’re with you for the long-term.

What if I have a real wobble?

It is important to be aware of the serious stuff.

The Accelerator can involve exploring some big questions: “What do I want to do with my life?”, and “Why aren’t things going the way I want them to in my career/life?”. Grappling with these areas can cause us to wobble. Many of us will experience anxiety, depression and other psychological challenges over the course of our lives. These episodes can often be triggered by challenging / traumatic events or periods of instability, uncertainty or change.

Most people are absolutely fine on an Accelerator and find the experience positive and motivating. However, it is important to be aware that some of the work we do may bring up difficult thoughts or emotions that are hard to cope with. If you find yourself really struggling, please let your Escape Leader know as soon as possible.

If you’re ever feeling really low, come talk to us and we can help you explore your options and refer you to medical professionals if needed. Your emotional and mental stability and wellbeing is our utmost priority – and it should be yours too. Sometimes this might mean taking a step backwards in order to regroup and proceed in due course from more solid foundations.

Suitable Candidates
Who is a suitable applicant for The Startup Accelerator?

Who is a suitable applicant for The Startup Accelerator?

The ideal applicant is someone who is prepared to test their startup ideas through doing, not through more researching, planning or talking. Ultimately, we are looking for people with an idea and a great attitude. Your background, experience, industry, etc don’t matter a jot. What matters is that you are up for this experience. We are looking for…

  • People who have a track record of being doers / proactive / achievers in some form.
  • People who are passionate about making things happen.
  • People who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones.
  • People who are ready to stop thinking and start acting.
  • People who are excited about creating new opportunities in their lives.
  • People who are honest about their excuses and who are prepared to transcend them.
  • People who want to solve problems, create things, work hard, and have an impact.
  • People who are prepared to graft and work hard to turn ideas into exciting realities.
  • People who understand that this process is hard and that it will take time.

Who is this not for?

  • It’s not for dreamers who aren’t prepared to become doers.
  • It’s not for people whose excuses will sabotage any meaningful forward action.
  • It’s not for people who believe that work is something to be endured, not enjoyed.
  • It’s not for people who are hoping for a path that is both quick and easy.
  • It’s not for people with no ideas (come to a workshop) too many ideas (narrow them down)

Building a career on your own terms (be it through employment or entrepreneurship) is hard and takes time. After finishing the Accelerator you will be invited to join The Escape Club (our private community of people seeking to build businesses and careers on their own terms). 

Do I need a startup idea?

 

No! During the first couple of sessions we spend time on idea generation and idea selection, so whether you have no ideas, a few ideas or one you’re pretty set on, the course will help you get going.

What if I have a full-time job?

The Startup Accelerator is designed to fit alongside a full-time job. All the sessions are on Wednesday evenings and Saturday’s and you can complete each week’s challenges / homework in less than 3 hours outside of the session. If you aren’t in a job you are still very welcome on The Accelerator – this simply means you will have more time to concentrate on what you are building and you may be able to make more progress.

What if I don't live in London?

This is absolutely fine as long as you are able to be in London for all (or almost all) of the sessions. In previous programmes we have had people commute from Austria and Italy for Tribes and a few North Americans have moved to London to take part as well! We’re sorry that we aren’t able to video Skype people in from other locations. In order for you to get the most out of the Tribe you’ll really need to be in the room.

What if I can't make all the dates?

Please tell us in the application form and, if your application is successful, we can discuss dates during the interview call. If you can attend most of the dates, you will still benefit from The Accelerator (but ideally you would be able to attend them all).

Is this just for corporate professionals?

No. Despite being called Escape the City, our programmes aren’t just populated with bankers, lawyers and accountants. Escape the City helps professionals of all backgrounds make brave career transitions. The diversity of these groups is part of their strength. Your industry and experience doesn’t matter, what matters is your attitude and your actions.

Is this just for young people?

There is no age limit on The Startup Accelerator.

You are welcome whether you are a recent graduate who wants to avoid the conventional career path, a 30-something career professional who wants to explore building a business, or a white-haired wizard who isn’t ready to slow down yet. We have welcomed all of the above on the programme. Diversity of experience and perspective is always a good thing.

Depending on your personal situation, you may feel that your age (or personal finances, or family responsibilities, etc) may constrain you more or less than other people on the programme. However, what is exciting about the principles we explore, is that they are universally applicable. No matter your personal blockers, these are the tools, concepts and skills you need to know about to understand startups.

Startup Questions

What type of startups will we be learning about?

The approach we take to entrepreneurship on The Accelerator is applicable to all types of businesses: hardware or software businesses, product or service businesses, information or consulting businesses, online or offline businesses. Certain aspects of your idea might be harder to test or explore but the startup strategies we use are applicable to all businesses (read up on the Lean Startup’s “build, measure, learn” feedback loop if you want to know more).

Is this all about building fast-growth VC-backed startups?
Not necessarily. We want to help you build a sustainable business, a brand that matters, and a product that people love. Your goal should be to make something people want. We’ll look at investor-backed and bootstrapped startups. Regardless of growth path, the primary focus at this stage is to build a product, get customers and generate revenue.
Is this all about building tech startups?

No. While most businesses have some sort of tech element, The Accelerator is not all about tech startups. Some ideas that come through the programme are pure tech products, but many aren’t. Lots of people have tech-enabled ideas (i.e. the product or service isn’t software but the idea involves tech in some form). Tech is pretty exciting for entrepreneurs, so we definitely focus on it, but we’ll also cover case studies from across the startup spectrum — from food & drink to fashion, scrappy restauranteurs to social enterprises, and everything in between. Most of the tech tools and approaches we cover are helpful in any type of business.

Payment Information

What are my payment options?

Our preferred form of payment is via GoCardless (a UK payments business started by some fellow escapees). On request, you can also pay by bank transfer or credit card.

Up-Front Payments:

The full amount of £1,900, £2,100 or £2,300 (depending on your application date) is required within 48 hours of being offered a place.

Instalment Payments:

Early bird applications (total £2,200) – payment over 4 months
A £1,000 deposit payment is required within 48 hours of being offered a place and – at the same time – a 3-instalment payment plan of £400 will be created (payments are taken on 1st Sept, 1st Oct and 1st Nov).

General applications (total £2,400) – payment over 4 months
A £1,000 deposit payment is required within 48 hours of being offered a place and – at the same time – a 3-instalment payment plan of £467 will be created (payments are taken on 1st Sept, 1st Oct and 1st Nov).

Late applications (total £2,600) – payment over 4 months
A £1,000 deposit payment is required within 48 hours of being offered a place and – at the same time – a 3-instalment payment plan of £533 will be created (payments are taken on 1st Sept, 1st Oct and 1st Nov).

What is your refund policy?

We strongly encourage you not to commit to The Startup Accelerator if you are not going to be able to prioritise it. We know that life changes but please make sure that your intention is to engage fully if you do accept a place.

Please do be sure before accepting. If we are over-subscribed for places it will be unfair for the people who missed out if you cancel after a few weeks, as it will be too late for someone to take your place.

REFUND SCENARIO #1: You withdraw from The Accelerator before 21st August 2017:

1.1 Up-front payments: £1,000 of your payment will be kept and the rest will be refunded.

1.2. Instalment payments: The £1,000 you have paid so far will be kept, your 1st Sept instalment will be refunded, and the remaining two payments will be cancelled (1st Oct, 1st Nov).

REFUND SCENARIO #2: You withdraw from The Accelerator between 30th August 2017 & 15th September 2017:

2.1 Up-front payments: £1,400 of your payment will be kept and the rest will be refunded.

2.2. Instalment payments: The £1,000 you have paid so far will be kept as well as one instalment payment, the remaining two payments will be cancelled (1st Oct, 1st Nov).

REFUND SCENARIO #3: You withdraw from The Accelerator between 15th September and 21st Oct 2017:

3.1 Up-front payments: £2,000 of your payment will be kept and the rest will be refunded.

3.2 Instalment payments: Your £1,000 and the 1st Sept & 1st Oct 2017 payments will be kept, and the final payment (1st Nov) will be cancelled/refunded.

REFUND SCENARIO #4: You withdraw from The Accelerator on or after 21st Oct 2017:

3.1 Up-front payments: Your payment is non-refundable.

3.2 Instalment payments: Your payment is non-refundable.

Extraordinary circumstances (serious illness or bereavement) will be taken into consideration in extreme cases and will be discussed on an individual basis.

Can I transfer to a later intake?

If you decide before 8th September to transfer to a later Accelerator intake, your deposit will be transferrable to your fee payments for that intake. After this date, payments made for September’s intake cannot be transferred to future intakes. Should you wish to transfer to a future Accelerator, your application would be fast-tracked, but your previous payments would not be applied to your fees for the later Accelerator.

Application Information
Why are we asking for applications?

We are asking for applications for two reasons:

  • To determine whether we can help you – whether this is right for you.
  • To allow you to demonstrate that you are serious about this.

We aren’t judging your quality as a person or how impressive your CV is. We are simply figuring out whether this experience is a good fit for you. We are committed to delivering amazing experiences for the people who join and that starts with finding people who we believe we can really help. We’re not accepting people based on the merit of their ideas. What we are looking is simply an idea and a can-do attitude.

This is a two-way assessment. You are figuring out whether The Startup Accelerator is for you and we are figuring out whether we can help you.

If we feel we can’t help you we would far rather tell you than enrol you on an experience that doesn’t work for you. If this is the case, we will do our best to suggest resources, books, or support that might be more appropriate for you based on your current stage.

How does the application process work?

Step 1 – Online Application

You apply by completing our short application form – immediately after applying you’ll receive a confirmation email. 

Step 2 – Shortlist Decision

You will receive an email from us within a week letting you know whether you have been shortlisted for a phone interview and asking you to book a slot.

Step 3 – Phone Interview

We will give you a call at the agreed time. This is a chance for us to spend 15 minutes together understanding whether your objectives are a good fit for the Tribe.

Step 4 – Place Offer

You will receive an email from us within a week of the call letting you know whether we are able to offer you a place on the Idea Accelerator or not.

Step 5 – Your Acceptance

If you are offered a place you will have a short time window to make your payment, confirm your place, and begin preparing for an exciting Summer!

Why is it worth applying early?

Applications will be reviewed in the order that they are submitted. So the earlier you apply, the better your chance of being offered a place.

Are you definitely taking 40 people?

No. We would rather take 30 people who are right for this experience rather than 40 people just to reach capacity. That said, there will be a minimum threshold we need to reach to make this work. You would receive a full refund in the case that the minimum threshold isn’t reached.

What if I am accepted but The Startup Accelerator is already full?

If you are offered a place but The Accelerator is already full, you can pay a deposit to reserve a place on a later intake.

Can I apply with a friend or business partner?

You can definitely apply with a friend or partner but we aren’t able to treat your applications as one. Although we will bear it in mind, we will assess your applications individually and the deadline applies for both of you.

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