Law of averages applied to everything else; Lessons from 3rd month of running an accelerator

There’s no science behind the quote from Jim Rohn

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

It does seem somewhat right though.

This was the thought that’s going through my mind as our third month came to a close at the Microsoft Accelerator. – Shameless plug, apply now for our Summer 2013 batch.

The biggest learning for me was that any accelerator is as good or bad as its filtering criteria alone.

That’s it.

Select good founders, you are a rockstar. Select not so good ones, you are a dud.

Surprising is it not? Or maybe obvious to many.

I think many of us (investors, accelerators, mentors etc.) assume too much credit for a startup’s success.

Truth is, its largely up to the entrepreneurial team, the founders and the early employees and maybe a little/lot of luck.

In my first batch I was largely trying to avoid messing up our founders too much. The last thing I wanted was a bunch of entrepreneurs at the psychiatrist’s couch talking about coulda, shoulda, woulda, had it not been for me.

What prompted me to think this was my visit to the valley. At the Angelpad demo day, the companies seemed flawless, crisp and very high quality. They all seemed ready and “investable” from the minute they presented their case.

Then I went to meet many more founders in the valley from various parts of the world at a co-working space called Rocket space in SF. The best and the brightest do come to the valley from the world over. Just as the best and the brightest come to any place where there are other best and brightest people.

Some simple and easy to understand observations at our accelerator:

1. Startup teams worked as hard (or not) as the average of the other startups. One or two teams were working extra hard, whereas others largely followed the middle path.

2. Most startups had traction that was largely the average of all startups, with no exceptions.

3. Most startup presentations was also the average of all startups.

And so on.

So what’s the learning for entrepreneurs?

Seek and hangout with the best and the brightest.

Even if you feel inferior to other founders, who are better, (in fact way better) than you.

Its human tendency to settle in the average, but push yourself to only be with other founders who have lots more traction than you do, lots more smarts than you do and more funding that you do.

Largely because you will be the average of all others. If you seek out the best, your own level will rise.

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3 thoughts on “Law of averages applied to everything else; Lessons from 3rd month of running an accelerator

  1. Sumanth Raghavendra

    Mukund,
    Unfortunately your prescription is self-defeating – if you, a startup founder, should aspire to “hangout” with other startups who are “way better than you”, doesn’t this dictum apply to these “better” startups as well…in which case, what is their incentive to hangout with you? They should by the same token aim to hangout with yet other startups who are even better than them and so on – who in turn would aspire even higher…until you end up with an upward slope that is essentially Sisyphean in nature.
    Surround yourself with the best and brightest is a nice homily but like most aphorisms hides more than it reveals!
    Cheers,
    Sumanth

    Reply
  2. Anindya Chatterjee

    I am not sure how much time you get to “hang out” with other founders, when you are a start-up founder. Speaking for myself it is only employees and customers and there does not appear to be enough number of hours in a day to accommodate the time required for both.

    Reply

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