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Feedback on GAN MD Conference

GAN MD Conference
GAN MD Conference

This post was originally published on StartUp42′s blog on January 14th 2014.

Back in November of last year, I attended the annual GAN Managing Director conference in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The GAN (Global Accelerator Network) is the global accelerator club founded by TechStars, that we joined in September of last year. Created over two years ago, the GAN already has some very impressive numbers: more than 50 accelerators, in 63 cities, from 6 continents, with over 3125 jobs generated and $548M raised in financing.

The annual MD conference is supposed to bring together management teams from accelerators around the globe to connect, share best practices and learn from experts in our industry. This year, 46 people from 27 different accelerators – most of them located in the U.S., the rest in eight other countries including South Korea – attended the 3-day conference. As a fresh new member of the GAN and, to be honest, still a rookie in the accelerator space, this sounded like the perfect event to improve my knowledge and get to learn from very experienced accelerators’ MDs, including the folks at Techstars. And, of course, I got to spend a few days under California sun in November ;)

As I predicted, I learned a lot. Here are my key takeaways:

1/ Apart from local specificities, most accelerators face the same problems. To name a few: early access to deal flow, manage and educate local investor base, get quality mentors.

2/ Being a non-profit like us is not the norm at the GAN. All accelerators present follow the “standard” YC/Techstars model: raise funds, invest in startups, take equity and live of (relatively small) management fees. As most seed accelerators raise less than $5M, almost no accelerator can live on management fees, or at least not until they realize a substantial exit. Most of them try to diversify as much as possible their revenue stream through consulting or event organization.

3/ Successful accelerators maintain close relationship with their local investor base. As John Greathouse , one of our guest speakers, pointed out: “VCs like to feel like they’re important. Find something operational a VC can help you with and reward investors for being active in a tangible way”.

4/ Corporations are more and more interested in creating their own accelerators (we have seen it in France as well, with the recent launch of Canal+ accelerator). There is a clearer and clearer will from corporations to learn from startups on how to engage with consumers and move products.

5/ Engaging alumni (previously accelerated startups’ CEOs) with newly recruited startups is a great way to share knowledge and build your own community.

Since we don’t currently invest in startups at StartUp42, many of the problems faced by my fellow accelerators do not currently apply to us. Nevertheless, I came back from this conference better armed than ever to help our startups and work on the future of StartUp42.