How To Get Into An Accelerator? [WSF Guest Post]

Dear founder,

If you are reading this, you’re probably looking for the magic formula that will get you into a startup accelerator program.

This article will prepare you with the insights into what we (accelerators) hope to see from our ideal startup applicants during the selection process. For your convenience, we’ve broken the expectations into three stages: Before applying, First round of selection, Further rounds of selection, and Due diligence & joining us!   

Before applying to a startup accelerator

Tip #1: Check if you qualify

Find out what is the screening criteria (check this example). If you don’t meet minimum requirements then ask yourself, “will I get there in 4-6 weeks?”. Note that teams which tick all the boxes will get priority.

Tip #2: Have clarity on why you are applying to a startup accelerator

Our best applicants apply to the acceleration verticals/programs as part of their strategy to go from A to B. Some of the ways you could benefit are one-on-one sessions with experts, personalised mentorship, extensive network access, peer-to-peer learning, investment and deal-making readiness/support. Identify which aspects of the program are most important for your team and what precise areas are your priorities to take them to the next level(s). Be ready to discuss them during the selection process!

Tip #3: Plan your application procedure

In order to go all the way, you first need to be well informed about the whole process and look for all available information on the accelerator’s website. Different stages will require certain preparation. We also try to provide you with insights at various points during the selection. Being aware that the next steps will not only allow you to be well-prepared but also will give you time to work/implement the feedback.

During the selection process

Tip #1: Wear your heart on your sleeve

As accelerators, our bets are on the jockeys! Who is your team? What is your mission? Why are you going to make a difference? And why should it matter? Answer these questions with passion.

Tip #2:Apply early so we can give feedback

Should we be convinced of the startup-accelerator match, we are able to kick-off the partnership right away. A lot of acceleration programs are on a rolling basis. Why wait when you can get started with the acceleration already, right? Why postpone the important expert or partner introduction session? We’d also like to get to know you and your team really well. We anticipate the same feeling from your side. Let us give ourselves the best chance to do this! Besides, if you don’t make the cut, you’ll have time to work on the feedback and make a stronger case again before the deadline.

Tip #3: Keep your answers precise

A good team knows its story, impact and competition; and is able to express them in simple easy-to-understand terms. These are the things we want to understand here. This allows us a chance to get a sneak peek of who you are. The details are for later rounds.

Tip #4: Avoid exaggeration at all costs

All our best-performing startups have one thing in common: they’re not afraid to be vulnerable when working with us. Your honest answers allow us to have a clear idea of where you stand and how we can provide a personalized program to your advantage. For example, some of your numbers might not be thorough. Being a startup, this is understandable as long as you are explicit about the incompleteness. So say it like it is. Don’t risk your credibility!

Further rounds of selection

In this round, the focus is on detail. It might be hard to tell a great application from a good one but it’s always easy to pinpoint a sloppy application. Try and ensure you have enough time to provide all the relevant information via the form of a presentation we ask: a video, a slide, a pitch, etc. When unsure, clarify your remarks so you have the best chance of invitation to join the program. Especially give yourselves a head start if you have a lot more homework to do.

Tip #1: Prove it’s possible, through a great product or service introduction video

Show us you’ve done the groundwork when you submit a video/ a slide to showcase the tangible side of your proposition. We’d like to see the functionality and uniqueness here. Need to sign an NDA? Email the contact person.  

Tip #2: Breakdown the important numbers   

Are you looking to hire employees? What is the equity split? What’s the revenue forecast? How does your burn rate look like right now? etc. Some of the questions in the information form will test the sustainability of your business. We are not looking for startups with the most optimistic projections. The ideal startups, we expect, would have done their homework and are able to reason how they plan to improve.  

Tip #3: Highlight the strategy

While we like unique products, we LOVE great strategies. Refer to the talking points in the carousel. Step 1. Understand your market, competition and growth etc. Step 2. Be prepared to talk about how you’re going to jump the hurdles.

Tip #4: Leave no loose ends

We understand, sometimes, the time might not be enough to answer all questions and remarks. Offer to follow up, in case more information is needed to finalise the selection.    

Due Diligence and joining us!

Tip #1: Have the necessary documents and information ready to share

Following the invitation, you’ll go through a due diligence of your company and background checks. This is a standard procedure. You’ll receive a clear checklist and explanation of the procedure.  

Tip #2: Update as you go

Do you have a new partner or have struck a good deal? Have you hired a new executive? Did you win a competition? Etc. That’s exciting! Keep us posted with such developments. If you are facing some problems, we would be happy to lend support as well.   

Tip #3: Be responsive

From our experience, we know that this is a time taking process. When you co-operate by being swift in your reaction, we can kick-off our partnership at the earliest date. Return all the information and documents in time!

Other tips for getting into a startup accelerator:

  •        Engage in our open events (see)
  •        Talk to our alumni about their experience

Hope we were able to clearly manage your expectations. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have during the program. Wish you the best luck!

This post was written by Aditya Putta, Stakeholder & Startup relations manager at World Startup Factory. Applications are open for World Startup Factory Impact Accelerator 2017! Be fast to apply and get feedback as soon as possible.