Is Serendipity in Remote Accelerators Dead?

April 1, 2021

(Spoiler: Serendipity is thriving 🎯)

This article shares insights to the most overlooked and undervalued aspect of an accelerator, serendipity. Serendipity starts with the belief you will do something great, is exacerbated when two people start understanding each other, and then the network of your Accelerator or Lab automagically helps you get there.  

In January, Venture Out launched a new, eight-week Moonlighter Lab geared towards professionals seeking to validate their startup ideas. We did not know what to expect with this group of eight startups, which now included consumer-focused companies – a deviation from prior labs. Here are the results in eight short weeks:

  • 8 companies came into the lab 🚀
  • 4 startups lost a co-founder
  • 2 startups gained a co-founder (two companies decided to merge in the lab)
  • 2 founders quit their tech day jobs to pursue their startups full-time
  • 2 startups started fundraising
  • 1 startup received a term sheet

Launching a startup is hard, and while so much is accomplished in eight weeks, it is only a short period of time given it can take years for startups to grow. Some might read the results above and wonder how come so many startups lost a co-founder. The first reason is that startups are hard, and not everyone is cut out for it, let alone ready to embark on a multi-year journey with someone. We’re thrilled that these founders came to these realizations now instead of after fundraising when things can become even more messy to dissolve. As painful as it can be, addressing underlying co-founder issues early on, can be critical to your startups overall success.

Most first-time founders who participate in a lab or accelerator think they are signing up for just great mentorship and ways to accelerate their company. While that’s true, the most overlooked value in a Lab is the relationships founders make with each other. These founders become each other’s sounding board for advice and you can’t buy this trust and authenticity off the shelf somewhere – it takes time to embrace the suck with other founders before you forge relationships to support one another. When you are talking about the hardest of founder issues, like parting ways with a co-founder, founders become vulnerable and this creates an environment to earn trust and enable serendipity to grow. After working with 22 startups, we’ve learned that trust is the secret sauce in serendipity.  

It doesn’t matter if your accelerator is done remotely or in-person, the best Managing Directors (MD’s) for accelerators and labs alike create an environment for founders to be open with one another and foster an environment for shared accountability. Once this environment of trust is established, founders open up and nudge each other to be accountable for their decisions. I saw this first hand from some of the best MD’s at Techstars.

As for the results mentioned above, this was by far one of the most successful labs we’ve run but it won’t be the last. Two startups are in fundraising mode and one has received a term sheet, with more on the way. Not bad for an eight week lab. If you’ve been through an accelerator and agree about the power of serendipity we’d love to hear from you.

Care to join us for the next Moonlighter Lab? Learn more here.

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