Why Accel Partners launched Founder Stack – an India-specific programme for early-stage entrepreneurs
While there are global early-stage accelerators like YCombinator and 500Startups that help startups scale up, there had always been a need for an India-specific programme. To bridge that gap, Accel had started Founder Stack programme for SaaS entrepreneurs. Recently, they received 400 applications out of which 15 startups, having 32 founders, were selected. The entire programme is handled by Abhinav Chaturvedi and Barath Subramaniam, Partners at Accele Venture Partners
Abhinav Chaturvedi, Partner at Accel
"This is a founder-first programme. We are building Founder Stack to help early-stage founders gain knowledge and clarity to build their startups. They can do this with the help of Accel India and its network of over 140 portfolio companies — without diluting any equity," says Siddarth Ram, Entrepreneur-in-residence at Accel Partners.
The reason for starting Founder Stack
Accel met over 50 founders to understand their early-stage challenges and current fundraising hurdles in order to understand how to help them.
They found that the most common challenges the founders faced were lack of contextual clarity to build a SaaS company, lack of good venture development support, lack of outcome-based events, startup programmes making founders take shortcuts, and high costs or dilution to get high-quality support.
Barath Subramaniam, Partner at Accel
"Therefore, we thought it fit to build an environment for SaaS founders so that they could spend their time focusing on gaining knowledge and clarity on the market, revenue opportunity, and long-term plans without worrying about funding, infrastructure, resources, and knowledge," says Siddarth.
The selected founders met once every week for 10 weeks at Accel Launchpad in Bengaluru for master sessions, round tables, and one-on-ones with mentors and senior founders. The remaining days of the week were spent on building their startups.
Accountability is key in the programme and constant progress is necessary.
The programme covers various outcomes including developing a market map, building product teams, designing cross-border strategy, structuring marketing engine before Product-Market Fit, choosing GTM strategy, sales pitch tuning, and much more across all five layers — infrastructure, market research, product, customer growth, and presentation.
In the programme, the founders get:
● How to perceive the market
● Plan steps to get to a $10 million ARR
● Tactical knowledge, insights, and clarity
● Access to Accel's ten-year learning
The programme also provides infrastructure access to working space at Accel Launchpad in Bengaluru, a financial grant of Rs 1.5 lakh as an allowance, compliance support, exclusive deals, special cloud support, and more to build the SaaS startup.
The founders are provided with infrastructure layers like stay, work, banking, and cloud services. They have access to market research, product layer, customer insights, and presentation.
The programme invites over 30 experts from the SaaS industry from companies like Freshworks, Chargebee, and Clevertap to name a few.
"When we started investing in startups with less than $1 million ARR, we were as concerned as the founders on how to take it to $1 million ARR. We worked together with founders to figure it out.Once we solved the challenge of early traction, we next tackled how to take it to $10 million and then to $100 million,” says Siddarth.
“We learned a lot on the way and have accumulated several learnings along with our partners over the last 10 years — which is what is on offer under FS-Saas. Most of what we learnt took time because it was the first time in India for SaaS. We learnt what it takes to understand the problem, market needs, and build products that will be absorbed by the market much faster," he adds.
While the first programme has just concluded, Accel will open up the entries for the next cycle soon.
"These will be high-intensity sessions related to SaaS with truths, facts, accountability, and actual learnings from people who have seen the SaaS growth journey," says Siddarth.