Why building community is essential to startup accelerators

Liz Tracy is the Director of HQ Raleigh, a growing entrepreneurial workspace in downtown Raleigh. She is also the Lead Facilitator for the Raleigh Innovators Program, meeting with and coaching the ten teams each week. In her recent guest blog, Liz weighs in on why community is essential to the success of a startup accelerator program.

I have had the privilege to play a role in cultivating the startup community for the past four years in the Triangle. Building a trusted network of people that can support one another through the triumphs and difficulties of startup life has always been an important element of a vibrant startup eco-system, but now more than ever I see the importance this community plays.

Our local startup community is comprised of a diversity of backgrounds, thoughts and opinions and it is this diversity that makes our community a dynamic one. With the flurry of emotions left over from the election, there is now an even greater importance for leadership from businesses, specifically when it comes to building an inclusive community that respects everyone.

For an accelerator program, the support of mentors, peers and coaches is the backbone and the real recipe for success.

Entrepreneurs know better than anyone how to overcome difficulties, look to the future and push through, but having a support system along the way makes it easier to get up and keep trying.

We’re now in our third year at the Raleigh Innovator’s Program, which means we have more alumni and deeper networks for our cohort to access. We tap into these alumni to speak on panels, help coach the kick-off bootcamp and to be sounding boards to the companies throughout the intense 12 week process. This year, in an effort to give the teams more time to connect outside of the classroom, we held a series of themed dinners that focused on team building and founder stories. They featured alumni who were able to share their experiences and since they had been through the program, they were able to talk from the perspective of how far they had come.

Another cool thing about growing the Innovators Program as an on-going community is that graduates can be beta testers for the current companies in the program.

Getting initial customers and receiving valuable feedback is essential to our customer focused model of teaching, and having a group of willing participants is incredibly helpful.

Finally, having the Executive Council, a group of leaders from Red Hat, Citrix, the investment community, and HQ Raleigh, gives the companies access to a new network of executives who can open doors and make introductions that might normally be much more difficult to access.

Every successful person knows that his or her achievements depend on a community of people working together.

The sense of community and support we have put into place at the Innovator’s Program is one of those critical foundational pieces that will help our young companies move more quickly along the path to success.