Life in an accelerator: part 1

A good friend of mine named Joe Shiraz is taking his company, ServiceBot, through an accelerator based in Memphis called Launch Delta. Launch Delta was created by Start Co in partnership with ServiceMaster, one of the largest home services companies in the nation. Launch Delta is focused on home services startup, Joe’s company ServiceBot is a home services startup, so he decided to be part of their first cohort. Joe joined the 100 day accelerator in return for a $50,000 investment structured as part of a $1,000,000 SAFE.

I asked Joe if I could chronicle his life in an accelerator in the hope that it would give us all an inside look of what it’s like and whether it’s worth it. Below is a discussion of Joe’s experience during the first two weeks (part 1). Look for similar blog posts every 2 weeks that follow Joe and ServiceBot as he goes through this process.

Joe Shiraz — founder of ServiceBot

What does ServiceBot do and why did you decide to join this accelerator now? According to Joe, “ServiceBot is a SaaS platform that uses bots and machine learning to automate most of the tasks required to run a home services business. ServiceBot includes CRM, field service management, dispatch, back office management, and automated customer communication. We can reduce the overhead of our customers by 20% to 40%.” Even though ServiceBot has a beta and customers (typically too far along for most accelerators), Joe joined because the opportunity to work with ServiceMaster was too good to pass up. According to Joe, “I don’t know of any other home services accelerators in the country, especially not one that provides the validation and stamp of approval that comes from working with a Fortune1000 company like ServiceMaster.”

What have you achieved or experienced in the first 2 weeks that you wouldn’t have gotten done or experienced otherwise? Joe is in the accelerator with 6 other home service companies so the collaboration he’s enjoyed is unparalleled. Joe explained “an entire city might have a couple home services startups I can problem solve with whereas now I share an office with 6 peers, 15 founders and co-founders, and ServiceMaster.” Working alongside founders like him in the same industry is not something he could do in Austin (his company’s HQ).

Another benefit of being in Memphis away from home is that Joe has no distractions. He’s away from his friends, his house, and his normal life which means he’s laser focuses on building his company. For instance, “this past Sunday I stayed at the office working with other founders until midnight, because what else am I going to do? If I was back in Austin, I would have been asleep, working on the house, watching tv, or doing something that wasn’t related to building the business.”

His new friends are people working in the accelerator so when he does go do something social with friends, he’s not talking about his personal life or common interests, he’s talking about the challenges of building a business. “Your entire social circle is focused on building a home service company. Your bullshit conversations are about your startup and their startup, not social circle gossip.”

How has being in an ecosystem like Memphis been better and worse than being in an ecosystem like Austin? While Memphis isn’t a big startup ecosystem relative to Austin, Memphis has a very opening and welcome startup community that treats their startups like they’re special. According to Joe “I’ve met with a number of executives in Memphis that are very excited to help out whereas in Austin, there are plenty of startups so executives aren’t as open to meeting. In Austin, because the ecosystem is so developed, if I reach out to someone for help I might get blown off if that person is busy because he figures ‘this is Austin, someone else can help Joe’. Here though it feels like people go way out of their way to meet and make connections. They want you to succeed for the sake of advancing Memphis. The city is hungry for big startup wins so everyone is engaged.”

After just 2 weeks, Joe has met state officials of Tennessee already. “I also got to pitch Steve Case when Rise of The Rest was here, thanks to the accelerator. In Austin, there are so many startups it’s unlikely I would have ended up on his bus like that.” Joe loves Austin and the ecosystem there, but there are opportunities Joe is able to take advantage of that he wouldnt have if he was one of thousands of startups in a more developed ecosystem like Austin or San Francisco.

Joe did highlight that Memphis has all the disadvantages of any small market, the most obvious being lack of capital: “I know I’m going to have to go to the West Coast to raise.” That said, there is a chance Joe relocates to Memphis after the accelerator is done even though he owns a home and has a great social life in Austin. “The partnership with ServiceMaster is that valuable to me, especially if it continues to be beneficial. There is also a gritiness and scrappiness here that I want to be a part of.”

How has your day to day changed being in an accelerator versus being on your own? Joe is far less lonely. In Austin, he’s a single founder looking for a technical co-founder. “In Memphis, I’m still a single founder looking for a technical founder, but Ive got the support system of the accelerator.”

Accelerators are supposed to be intense and all encompassing. How disruptive has this been to your life? According to Joe, “it’s disruptive, no doubt about it, but it’s disruptive in a good way. I was yanked out of my life and moved to a new city to build my startup for 100 days, so it’s put all the focus on my company. The work I get done in the next 100 days of this accelerator would take at least a year or more in Austin just thanks to the focus being in a new city forces on me.”

Overall, I got the sense that an industry focused accelerator far away from home is making a world of difference for Joe. It’s early and the 100 days is far from complete, but so far so good. We’ll continue this Life in an accelerator blog series in 2 weeks when Joe and I chat again. Stay tuned.