What are the main ‘takeaways’ for entrepreneurs taking part in an accelerator program? How can accelerator managers organize their programs as to maximize the learning of the participants?
These questions have been in focus in an ongoing collaboration between academic researchers and the organizers of the Barcamper journey, an acceleration process launched in 2017 aimed at boosting start-ups and entrepreneurs within cultural and creative sectors in southern Sweden. The researchers followed the acceleration process and conducted multiple interviews with entrepreneurs, coaches and investors, complemented with participatory observations and secondary sources of data.
The study has been conducted by Diamanto Politis and Solomon Akele Abebe at Sten K. Johnson centre for Entrepreneurship, together with Nataliya Galan, University West and Jonas Gabrielsson, Halmstad University.
Overall, the Barcamper study identifies three key learning outcomes that participating entrepreneurs experience during the accelerator program:
- First, they develop communication skills that enhance their ability to attract attention and build legitimacy in interactions with key stakeholders, such as customers and investors.
- Second, they get valuable hands-on training and experience in working with business tools and methods for targeting customers, positioning the product, making financial projections, and clarifying roles among team members.
- Third, and perhaps most importantly, they form their entrepreneurial identity by developing self-confidence and awareness about their values and beliefs, and what they want to achieve in their entrepreneurial career.
In addition, the study identifies three critical factors that are in play during the acceleration process which accelerator managers should pay attention to as to maximize the learning experience of entrepreneurs:
- The development of emotional bonds in a community of fellow entrepreneurs, which sparks the enthusiasm and commitment to work together in entrepreneurial ways.
- Constructive feedback provided by coaches and mentors in the accelerator program, which broadens participants’ perspectives on "how to do things”, thereby developing their business ideas as well as themselves as entrepreneurs.
- A supportive peer atmosphere, where participants co-produce and share values and concerns with each other, and which trigger the development of social aspirations and collaborations.
The Barcamper study “Entrepreneurial Learning in Acceleration Programs” will appear in a special issue on Entrepreneurial Learning in The Learning Organization.
The collaboration has continued in 2018 when the Creative Tour was launched, an acceleration process for start-ups and entrepreneurs in the Scania region that are working towards a smarter society. This research is underway and will result in further studies of acceleration processes in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.