Don’t Use an Accelerator as a Co-Founder

CPG accelerators exist now in most major markets; many operate attached to commercial kitchen operations. The best have credibility with distributors and local retail chains, credibility that can rub off on you if you secure a spot.

What I continue to see that concerns me is this: most CPG founders are creators, not operators. They have to learn to operate. This is rarely their passion or interest. So, they often get attracted to accelerators as institutions that will provide operational support, wisdom, and connections to get on shelves. And then they lean too hard on this support. Way too hard.

In this sense, the accelerator team easily slides in as the operational co-founder these creative solopreneurs do not have on board. It can quickly feel symbiotic, even though the accelerator functions like an investor.

Specifically, they are functioning like an investor with a massive conflict of interest when advising you on how to produce, scale and go to market. Having operational stakeholders as investors is super tricky.

And, if the underlying reason is that you simply don’t have a co-founder who complements your creative/marketing bent, isn’t it far better to find that person or join their analogous brand? Usually, it is much better to a) have a co-founder who keeps you accountable and b) have a functionally complementary one, especially early on.

When CPG startups get into trouble, they court money AND advice from the same source when they are not well-versed in how to manage opinionated money. The latter is a skill that the 1% grow up learning. The average CPG founder today just isn’t that wealthy anymore. 

Dr. James Richardson

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