How to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program? This is a question many entrepreneurs face when looking for effective strategies to launch their new ventures on their growth trajectories.
Ideating an innovative business idea and establishing a startup are only the first steps. Founders need a springboard to achieve their next milestones quickly. The right accelerator program can assist them with the appropriate training for building an infrastructure.
Close to 900 companies have achieved the valuation mark of $1B and above. Many have acquired unicorn status thanks to business accelerators that helped them scale their companies quickly. Some notable examples include Dropbox, Airbnb, Twitch, Coinbase, and Stripe.
As of 2023, there are more than 200 renowned accelerators in the US, with Y Combinator and SVB’s partner, Techstars, topping the list. Aside from these programs, AngelPad, Google for Startups, 500 Startups, and Plug and Play are the most sought-after.
Getting into a great program helps you resolve many of the pain points entrepreneurs typically face. You’ll select the right support group relevant to your industry and get access to expert mentoring, advice, and investor networks.
The most critical factor is training under veteran executives who have successfully navigated the entrepreneurship landscape. Tap into their wealth of knowledge and learn how to avoid the common pitfalls that might get in the way of sustaining the startup beyond its critical initial years.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Applying for and Getting into Accelerator Programs is Challenging
Getting into an accelerator program is not that easy since success rates are extremely low. The Y Combinator accepts startups once every six months and receives more than 10,000 applications. The acceptance rate is just 1.5% to 2%.
Let’s try another. Techstars organizes accelerator programs every 12 months and has an acceptance rate of just 1%. On the upside, 90% of ventures that successfully pass through the program get funding with an average investment of $2M.
Getting into a credentialed agency is, undoubtedly, extremely difficult. This is why we’ve put together a detailed tutorial to help you put together a winning application. Read ahead for more information about how to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program.
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Let’s Talk About How Accelerators Work
Business accelerators are organizations that have training programs for startup founders. Each program lasts for a fixed tenure and aims to compress years’ worth of experience and training in that time.
The program is intensive and comprises lectures, seminars, and workshops where entrepreneurs learn how to scale the company quickly. They also interact with networks of investors, pitching their ideas to attract funding and interest.
Although the option to relocate to their premises is available, organizers may also allow founders to train out of their own locations. Some amount of funding is made available to you, and founders commit a portion of the startup’s equity in exchange for this support.
At the end of the program, you’ll have the opportunity to present your pitch at the “demo” event. The organizers invite investors and industry experts so you can talk about your business idea, its USP, and other details. The opportunity to build strategic partnerships with like-minded entrepreneurs is also available.
The most critical advantage of getting your application accepted is that it awards credibility to your brand. Investors see your company as a project worth backing since it has acquired top-notch training and support.
Making it to the accelerator portfolio gives you added exposure. Investors looking for viable projects to back often check through their website pages for opportunities. Yours could be the one they pick.
Start by Putting Together the Business Plan
Before you apply to an accelerator program, be ready with the upsides of the startup that will entice administrators. Here’s how to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program:
- A critical element of a compelling application is the business plan, which outlines the business idea and how you intend to execute it.
- Accelerator programs typically prefer to support startups that are ready with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and have some traction.
- An established customer base and some amount of revenue are added pluses.
- You’ll include details about the founding team driving the startup, the LinkedIn profiles, and successful track records.
- Be ready with a working product prototype so you can provide a demo during the interview process if needed. If you can demonstrate how it works and the problem it solves, that factor could work in your favor.
- Most early-stage startups have yet to attract funding. But, if you have, even if it is a small amount, add information about any investors who have provided money to indicate your startup is worth backing.
- If your venture is IP-backed, that’s an attractive feature that may entice administrators to consider the application. Make sure you connect with your legal team for assistance with securing a copyright, trademark, trade secrets, or patent. Put down the complete details of the IP, how you’ve secured it, and the products you can develop using it.
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Research Suitable Accelerator Programs
Not all accelerator organizations are built alike. They can be industry-specific, serving a particular business vertical, or have specific goals. Their scope, the investor network they work with, and location can also vary.
Founders should spend time identifying the stakeholders in the program and their acceptance criteria. Make sure your startup fits the bill before applying. Reading up about the ventures that have passed through the program successfully is also a strategic move.
Be very clear and focused on why the program is a good fit for your company. Interviewers may ask you about your objectives behind applying for their program in particular. Reaching out to multiple programs is a smart strategy that will raise your chances of getting through.
Before applying, make sure you can commit to the program in terms of time to attend workshops and seminars. Expect to set aside hours each week to train under mentors and advisors. And attend events where investors are present. You’ll also cede equity, so work that into your intended outcomes from the program.
Most importantly, founders should be realistic about what the program can do for them. While accelerator programs can help build the necessary infrastructure, gain traction, and acquire funding, they cannot guarantee success.
Don’t Hesitate to Network
The startup ecosystem is all about networking and the contacts you can make. All through the entrepreneurship journey, your focus should be on the strategic partnerships you can get into.
Whether you’re looking for funding sources, incubators, angels, venture capitalists, potential investors, or any other influential entities. Knowing the right people can open more doors. Make an effort to attend conferences, seminars, meets, and any other events organized in your business community.
Interact with people, and don’t hesitate to give out business cards. Ask for introductions or introduce yourself and ask for contact information. Always be armed with an elevator pitch.
Networking is especially critical when applying to an accelerator program. Research into their key decision-makers and any other top-ranking board members–anyone you can connect with. Meeting up with them even before you apply can help you get a foot in the door.
And that’s how to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program.
Crafting a Compelling Application
Raise your chances of getting accepted into the program by creating customized applications for each organization. Take the time to check their website for their requirements and prep the paperwork carefully.
Be ready with a compelling story that describes your passion and objective for starting this business. Let your enthusiasm and dedication shine through since, more than the business idea, people back the face behind it.
Create an elevator pitch that crams everything about your business into a 30 to 60-second pitch. Focus on the core points about what the startup does, the problem you’ll solve, and the funding you need. Start by being real and carefully avoid standard and uninteresting marketing lines.
Use simple-to-understand terms, quick outlines of the team, and an anecdote that will stay with the interviewer. The objective here is to create a lasting impression that cuts through the thousands of competing applications. Use metrics because real numbers always impress.
End the pitch with a concrete call to action that specifies the potential returns and benefits of backing your startup. Avoiding industry jargon is always preferable. Don’t assume the interviewer knows what you’re talking about, even if you’re pitching to a program from the industry.
Provide Validation for Your Startup
Your application should include validation that the startup has what it takes to succeed. Include verifiable information, such as market reports that indicate the brand has a presence and sells products.
If the company is generating revenues, add reports. If you have an established customer base, you’ll include email server lists. Traction on social media is another metric interviewers may be interested in.
Ventures that have yet to build their market presence or revenue can present projections. Attach estimates of the market share you hope to capture based on industry valuations. Talk about the product’s USP and why customers may want to purchase your brand.
If your company has received mention in leading industry papers or news channels, make sure to include that information. Customer reviews and results of beta testing are also excellent validation.
Are you looking for more detailed information about how startup accelerators work? Check out this video, where I have explained everything you need to know. This information will prove handy when you’re looking for the right program to apply to.
Practice for the Interview
Accelerator programs typically have an interview as part of their recruitment procedure. Prep for it carefully by practicing with mock interviews. Get trusted family members and friends to throw a barrage of questions at you. If you have co-founders, practice together so your answers coordinate.
Expect the interview to be fast-paced, scarcely giving you time to think about an appropriate answer. Keep your responses short and concise, directed only at the query before you. Make sure you understand the question. Ask again if you have to.
Let your enthusiasm for the project and energy show through—also, prep for unexpected questions designed to disconcert you. Maintain presence of mind and remember not to run down competing products.
Instead, be positive and focus on why you’re better. Face up to your shortcomings and explain what you’re doing to overcome them. Your objective is to walk away with the interviewer impressed about the potential of the unicorn you’re presenting.
As the interview draws to an end, you’ll have time to ask questions of your own. Have a list of queries about the mentors, expected funding and resources, and any other information you should have.
Be aware that you’re entrusting the future of your startup into their hands. You’ll also offer equity as compensation. So, getting all the relevant details could help you determine if the accelerator program is a good fit.
Be open to the possibility of having to pull out. That aspect is also critical to knowing how to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program.
Get Business Operations Organized
When building a startup from the ground up, taking a break for even a few months could be a setback. This factor is especially true in the case of tech, cloud applications, and blockchain ventures.
Consider the possibility that the founders may need to relocate to the accelerator’s premises for the duration of the program. In that case, get the business operations organized so that work continues to operate in your absence.
You should also lay the groundwork for the possibility that the original business concept is not worth pursuing. Keep the startup flexible so you can pivot and shift to a different product range without any issues.
On a Final Note!
Knowing how to secure your spot on a notable accelerator program can be a valuable asset. You can leverage the many benefits when you’re ready to scale operations quickly and set the business on its growth trajectory.
Make sure to research the value and perks the program offers and align it with your goals. Find out about the investment opportunities that you can avail. And, get into the appropriate program after assessing whether its a good fit.
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