#Asia What startup accelerators really give you: Our top 5 takeaways from Zeroth


Positive experience depends on setting realistic expectations and understanding what these programmes can and can’t do

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A bit of background: Zeroth is Asia’s first accelerator for early stage AI startups. It was founded by Tak Lo, who was a director at Techstars London, providing financing and access to a global network of AI/ML entrepreneurs, experts, and renowned investors. DT42 has been officially selected as one of the ten teams in the Zeroth programme’s first cohort.

As a startup founder with so little, in terms of resources, you must have a lot to deal with everyday. You want some help, and that’s why people now often ask:

  • “Do accelerators really help startups?”
  • “How does one determine if they’re a good fit or if it’s the right time to join an accelerator?”

The number of startup accelerators/incubators has increased rapidly over the past years. You will need to spend some effort in doing research, in order to find the right programme for your team. In our very humble opinion, you need to clarify your purpose by asking yourself first:

  • Ÿ   What is the stage of your company?
  • Ÿ   What do you want to achieve by joining an accelerator?
  • Ÿ   What is the accelerator’s expertise? What do you need from the program?

After five weeks working very closely with the #Zeroth01 programme, we believe it’s time to share the values we perceive with joining an accelerator programme.

Here are the five reasons why we think Zeroth is so unique:

1. Strong network

The most obvious benefit of an accelerator is the network of people that you connect with. As a startup company based in Taiwan, all our members are Taiwanese with limited connections with people from western countries.

Our goal is to build the super robust deep learning product for the whole world. Like many other entrepreneurs, one of the biggest challenges we faced was to try to build a solid network with the right people. Zeroth is highly specialised in our relevant field — artificial intelligence (AI) / machine learning (ML) — which means it is able to provide our team access to world-class connections.

The first two weeks in Zeroth were ‘Mentor Madness’, and it is called madness for a reason. We met about 20 mentors over 10 days. It’s like speed dating: You have 20 minutes to talk about your company, ask the right questions, and make an impression. The mentors include successful entrepreneurs, consultants and investors, such as Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, and Rui Ma, partner at 500 Startups China.

2. Energetic Focus

The top three important instructions we received from Zeroth are focus, focus and focus. Nothing is important than to focus on improving your core value.

We believe many startup founders must already be familiar with the following situation: You have too much on your plate and too little time to focus on your product. You thought they are all necessary for building your own business, but maybe they are not.

Let’s do some math. Assuming you spend 10 hours talking with potential customers and investors but only one hour on the product per day, that’s only about 10 days a year.

Time is precious. We realise the fact that we cannot take all advice and cannot do all. Staying focused and being exceptional are the keys to success. Now, whenever there’s a decision to make, we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Is this really necessary or it is just another distraction?
  • Will we still be in line with our mission after taking this task?
  • Does this task bring us closer to the goals or farther?

3. Guidance

An accelerator can’t make a decision for you. Actually no one can. Instead, they will give you guidance, and help you make informed decisions.

Another vital thing we learned from the programme is to be true to your business. Being a startup is like being a little kid. A lot of people try to tell you that you need to study very hard to enter the best university in the world. However, they are not you, and are thus not responsible for your life. What if you don’t like to study science? What if you are actually a musician? In the end, the most important thing is to find who you are and what you are capable of.

At Zeroth, they don’t just want to put you through another sort of ‘MBA course’ or  ‘101 for startup’ founders. They really get under the skin of the actual thing you’ve built, and then offer you guidance and direction. They help you shape your business, and maybe help it grow.

4. Pressure cooker

Accelerator environments are typically really intense. These push you to ‘Do More, Faster’ and make you to achieve as much as you can in three months. This does require commitment, a tremendous dose of passion, and the determination to do everything it takes.

Working in a dynamic and energetic environment is stimulating to everyone. For the first two weeks in the programme, we went back to hotel at late night every single day with our notebooks full of feedback, to-do lists, a stack of business cards, and of course, tiredness.

A good accelerator may be super-intense and fast-paced — that’s how it  shortens your roadmap and accelerates your business. When we left Hong Kong and came back to Taiwan — where our business would be built — Zeroth didn’t relieve us of the pressure when we were away. We kept good communication with the programme to make sure our team grew as fast as we were in Hong Kong.

5. Love

We love Zeroth for its free milk, detox water, and beer on tap all the time. Just kidding. Never give up your equity just for free beer!

People are saying that as a tech startup, you are judged by your technology, traction, and team. We believe it goes the same way when a startup company is choosing an accelerator:

  • Technology (product) – Mentors
  • Traction – Alumn
  • Team – The Program Operator

We LOVE Tak and his team! We believe a lot in them and we want to co-work with them and grow with them.

It’s amazing how Zeroth makes it so stressful yet cheerful working with them, so big thanks to Tak, Mike, Sumner, Maggie, Adam and Kate.

Hopefully this piece of our story is helpful to other entrepreneurs who are considering having their company participate in an accelerator. Positive experience depends on setting realistic expectations and understanding what these programmes can and can’t do. We believe everyone can gain from joining the right accelerator for you.


The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.

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