What Happens When A Startup & An Accelerator Have A Frank Conversation? Honesty Prevails.

On 8th June 2021, a very frank discussion between a fashion tech startup and an accelerator took place, and here are the 10 key takeaways we took from the conversation.

Devised to offer mentorship, networking opportunities, professional development, and sometimes studio space, fashion tech incubators and accelerators have managed to build a reputation for bringing tremendous growth potential to various tech startups focusing on retail and fashion. Working with disruptive entrepreneurs with innovative and game-changing solutions, accelerators help aspiring entrepreneurs hone their idea, and incubators help startups scale their idea while also giving them access to investors.

Supporting startups reimagine fashion, incubators and accelerators have built a reputation for supporting and encouraging new ideas. At the centre of innovation, fashion tech incubators and accelerators might be helping startups customise their ideas into a scalable business, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few lessons that they can learn.

10 Key Takeaways

A frank discussion between a fashion tech startup and an accelerator has been a long time coming. So on the 8th June 2021, a conversation between a startup and an accelerator took place in Clubhouse.

On the stage was Giusy Cannone- the accelerator, and Sara Dsouki- the startup. I moderated the discussion. The conversation centred around how incubators and accelerators can support innovative ideas and what founders should expect from the fashion tech-focused programmes. Whether you are a fashion tech startup or just someone interested in the fashion tech startup scene, here are 10 key takeaways we took from the talk.

(1) To be the brightest star in a sky full of stars, you first need to be able to recognise that ideas are cheap if they are not executed properly, so, therefore, make sure your brilliant idea has the power to transform into something that could make an everyday person’s life better and more accessible. 

(2) As your startup brand matures and grows, you will come to experience the speed that opportunities arise and disappear quickly, but always remember to remain flexible and adaptable. “We review how we do business every 4-6 months”, revealed Sara.

(3) Make time to take inspiration from those who have been paving the way for a while now. Learn from their mistakes and recognise their successes because the most complex challenge you will most likely face initially as a startup is learning how the successful brands were able to stand out from the rest.

(4) Be the master of your idea. Your role as an entrepreneur is to assess your company’s idea to know the right amount of energy you need to apply to keep your business on the road to success. “You need to be the one that makes decisions for your business, we [accelerator] are only here to support you”, explained Giusy.

(5) Incubators and accelerators, need to evolve and be a better-improved version of themselves this way they can continue to support fashion tech-focused startups in the best way possible. “We take feedback from our participants seriously and try and make changes when they need to be made”, said Giusy when asked if they take on board feedback from startups who have gone through their programme.

(6) Startups, accelerators/incubators are about supporting you, not hand-holding you through the process.

(7) Before you apply to be part of a programme, be aware that although the application procedure is open to anyone, the process can be highly competitive. Do not go into it blindly because most seed investments in startups are usually exchanged for equity. Also, it worth noting that “some accelerators are supported by big companies, which means that the companies are their customer, not the startups in the programme,” explained Giusy.

(8) Open communication between a startup and an accelerator/incubator is imperative. This is a point that both Sara and Giusy agreed on.  To get the best out of the collaboration between a startup and the programme they are participating in, both side need to be able to speak the same language and be heading in the same direction or else the startup is unlike going to get what they want out of the accelerator/incubator.

(9) Most startups sign up for a programme because they hope to be introduced to a network that will help them “transform” and “innovate.”  “The thing is, it is the responsibility of the startup to also build their own network and not fully rely on the programme”, advised Sara.

This is mainly because the fashion tech market is still new, incubators, labs, and accelerators are still building their network to include important contacts like brand investors.

(10) Lastly, startup life can be brutal. It is not something to enter lightly. Just because your idea sounds good on paper does not mean that it will translate. It is no secret that trying to sell someone your idea is not easy, but that does not mean you shouldn’t stop trying. 

Who Were the Speakers

Giusy Cannone is the Chief Executive Officer of Fashion Technology Accelerator. With ten years of experience in the investment and startups area, she is also involved in consultancy projects designed to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem in different countries. She is a lecturer at influential Italian Fashion Schools such as Istituto Marangoni and Domus Academy.

Sara Dsouki is an architect and designer based in Paris. Her work is focused on pushing the boundaries of a cross-disciplinary approach to research to redefine product creation. As a startup founder, her goal is to develop an environment that encourages cooperation, trust and risk-taking.

Whether startups end up failing, flailing or flying, fashion tech accelerators and incubator’s need to evolve so they can meet the needs of today’s startups, who are looking for experienced mentors, programmes with credibility and a collaborative partnership. 

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