Picking Up Speed: Accelerators and Rejection

One of the biggest changes since hiring a CMO is the amount of things that were once on our “if we had someone, this would be great to do” list that we are actually now able to do.

We ran our Kickstarter campaign that raised over $21,000 in 21 days. We’ve expanded to 200-plus beta users. We’ll be expanding to 20-plus classrooms in the fall. We’re demoing at the MIT Enterprise Forum’s Tech Showcase this week. And we’ve been able to start applying for a number of accelerators.

If you’re not familiar with the startup world, there are a handful of programs that exist to help startups with great idea — like ours — take their business to the next level. There are incubators — which are largely for people with ideas that aren’t yet products (we’re clearly past that level) — and accelerators — which are generally for companies with prototypes or early stage commercial projects (just like ours). (If you’re interested, this article contrasts the two further.)

We’ve applied for three accelerators to-date with a fourth application in the works.

From our perspective, the biggest asset of being selected is the ability to make inroads within the academic world, particularly the crowded (and let’s be honest, largely bureaucratic) major and mid-sized metro markets as well as connect with major education companies. We’re excited about the possibility of getting a chance to meet people who are working in this same general educational and technology space, but who will be able to give us insights into areas of the industry where we’re relatively new. We don’t claim to know everything or everyone, and we’re always on the lookout for people who we know things we don’t. Not to mention, there’s a credibility and visibility that comes from these programs.

One of our co-founders was at a recent event where an entrepreneur who had received several million dollars in funding talked about how he between applying from similar programs and working to meet with funders, he’d been rejected 50 times.

Fittingly, we got our first rejection from one of the programs we’d applied for that same day. (Their loss, we say. We’ve yet to hear either way from the other programs.)

The web is filled with tons quotes about perseverance and getting back on the horse and whatever else, so we won’t overwhelm you with platitudes. But the reality is rejection is a part of the process — maybe even a part of the progress.

Our CEO has written grants for now three decades. Most of them get funded. Some of them don’t.

Our CMO has a journalism background. For over a decade, her job was to suggest ideas to her editors. Most of them they liked, and she got the go ahead. Plenty of them got rejected. 

A lot is made about young entrepreneurs – the fresh face of the startup generation – and our CEO has written extensively about why she thinks that is BS. We’d like to think that our experience makes us more resilient now than we were in our youth. (And our CMO would like to point out that’s she’s only 30.)

But we’re at a point where we’ve got the professional experience and expertise to recognize rejection isn’t personal – and that it certainly isn’t an kind of indication on whether our idea is amazing or not. We know our idea rocks. We know our game is outstanding. If other people don’t seem to get how amazing our company, it’s too bad because they’re missing out.

Of course, one thing all of our experience has yet to bestow upon us is patience. Meaning as soon as we hit submit, we’re already talking about how we wished we’d just hear back already.

Good thing we have more than enough work to do to make time speed by.