Will an accelerator make my startup successful? No.
I have now been a part of 5 accelerator cycles (as staff or leadership) and I can unequivocally state that this is not an expectation you should have of going through an accelerator program.[Most] seed accelerators provide three things for your startup. Capital, guidance and connections. These three resources are opportunities that the accelerator makes more accessible because we know those are the 3 things every startup needs most. It’s on YOU to make the most of those opportunities.
I’d equate accelerator programs to most post-secondary education programs. You elect to invest your time (and sometimes money) because you know you need the help to grow. Growth, and by extension success, does not happen without your hard work and commitment. Simply participating in or paying for a course does not instantly make you smarter or more capable, despite how much I wish it would (you should see my backlog of Udemy courses). It takes commitment and hard work. Additionally, relying solely on what is provided to you is not enough. You must take complete ownership of your startup and strive to use the accelerator provided resources as a springboard to create your own opportunities.
Do I believe you have a higher likelihood of success as a result of participating in an accelerator? 100% Yes.
Don’t forget that accelerators are, at the core, investors. We do our very best to do as much as we can to de-risk our investments by educating, mentoring and making introductions. We want all investments to be home runs. I commit to all of our program participants that I will personally do everything I can to make them successful, as long as they commit the same to me.
If you are considering applying to an accelerator I’d recommend two conversations. First, talk to the program manager (or whoever you will be spending the most time with during the program) to see if you like working with them and the views they have. Second, talk to past program participants to get their perspective on how supported they felt. Doing these two things will enable you to make an informed decision on whether or not the program is the right one for your startup.