How to Pick the Right Accelerator

In the summer of 2012, Efrem Weiss, the CEO of YouGift, a social-media site for gift giving, relocated his startup team from New York City to upstate New York to join a three-month accelerator program. Like most accelerators, this one offered a common workspace, a program of classes and seminars, access to top business mentors, and an opportunity to pitch to investors at a Demo Day. The founders also received $18,000 of funding, in return for a 6 percent equity stake.

Sadly, the experience turned into a decelerator. Mentoring sessions were group chats over Skype in a crowded room. The office’s couches looked as if they were out of Animal House. Weiss pulled his team out two weeks later, negotiated the return of his equity, and slunk back to the city. He shut down the business in March 2013. He says YouGift might have survived if he had chosen his program more wisely.

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