I often get asked, ‘what’s the secret to getting into X startup accelerator?’ The truth is – there is no secret. Here’s how to get into a startup accelerator.
TL;DR — You need a strong team (2/3 founders), an MVP/prototype to show how your product/service will work and a deep understanding of your customers, market and competitors. If you have some early traction in customer or revenue growth then you are in a good place. So forget the silly hats and gimmicks and focus on building a great product and getting customers, the result will speak for itself.
A startup accelerator is a great way for you to take your startup to the next level. Funding, mentorship, community, potential clients and investors are just some of the many benefits you’ll get.
There are many startup accelerators around the world and this number is growing. But that doesn’t make applying easier. You are competing against hundreds of other startups for that coveted spot, so you really need to stand out.
What startup accelerators are looking for….
Yes, you need a good idea. We like novel approaches to solving problems. But it doesn’t stop there, without execution ideas are worthless. you may have the most ‘revolutionary’ or ‘disruptive’ idea in the world. Without being able to execute on it you’re not going to get far (see following points below).
One of the most important, if not the most important factor is the founding team. At this early stage the decision of the program is heavily weighted towards the team. Ideally Two or three founders with complementing skill sets, experience in the domain and a strong history together. (i.e previous startup/worked at X company together). Plus the ability to execute and get stuff done.
You need to be able to show what it is you are building, whether that is a mockup, an early prototype or beta.
Prove that you are solving a true customer pain. And show that there is a big enough market of people with this problem to go after.
If you’re getting some early traction with customers signing up, (and even better, paying!) you’ll be at the top of the shortlist.
Competition isn’t a bad thing. You need to deeply understand your competitors and what differentiates you. Know who they are and what gives you an advantage over them. Please never say ‘oh we don’t have any competitors’. It’s the fastest way to lose any credibility you have built up, the person reviewing your application will probably name at least five off the top of their head.
If you can do the above, you’ll stand a good chance of making the shortlist for an accelerator program. Some have extra selection criteria or a specific focus, or will take startups at earlier or later stages. Make sure you’ve done your homework before applying.
If you’re a founder applying to a startup accelerator and need some help, feel free to get in touch here.