Early Steps the application process is done in stages
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An application will ask for specifics on a startup’s idea, market, traction, team, and other aspects vital to success.
Promising teams from the pre-screening phase move on to be assessed for investability, revenue potential, and overall strength of the product/service offering.
At this stage the accelerator is very interested, but wants to know about the team, product and evidence of traction. The interview process typically takes 20-30 minutes.
Interviewees provide documents to prove their statements about revenue, legal standing, or any claims made about the company.
Upon completion of the final evaluations, the investment committee will meet to finalize where the funding will go during the 12-16 week program. Roughly 30-60% of the teams that made it to Assessment phase will receive funding.
6. Helpful sources to spark new ideas
Try and Find Inspiration in the World Around you
Sometimes you need a source of inspiration to spur that lightbulb moment. Try and find inspiration in the world around you. Here are four places to look for inspiration:
Study successful entrepreneurs. It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where the great entrepreneurs before you have been. Read origin stories and study successful business titans. How did they come up with their business idea? What advice do they have to up-and-coming entrepreneurs? Learn all you can before you embark on your own journey.
Use your smartphone. If you know you want to create an app, but you’re not sure exactly what you want to create, search through the app store. Search categories of interest. Do you notice whether anything is missing or how apps in that category could be improved?
Can you find similar products or services using search engines? The internet is incredibly helpful when it comes to finding products and services that you are in the market for. But have you ever searched and searched for something, and not been able to find it? That should be a tipoff of a potential opening in the market that should you act on.
7. Turn to social media.
People on social media are often quick to identify issues and problems they have with current products, places, processes, etc., but few take the time to come up with a solution. Reading through people’s grievances can give you great insight into problems other people have that you can solve. Online review sites can offer the same.
8. Best practices for startup accelerators
Given the potential—but not the guarantee—of significant benefits from accelerators on local startup ecosystems and wider economic growth, it bears considering what works: What traits and conditions make accelerators effective?
Recently, Brad Feld sat down to discuss the accelerator concept, and importantly, accelerator best practices.
Feld provides a number of useful perspectives, given his experience with accelerators, and so it’s worth noting a few of Feld’s “dos” and “don’ts” for accelerator design and operation:
Along these lines, Feld suggests strong accelerator organizations:
- Understand what an effective mentor is and knowing how to effectively engage with them throughout the program’s duration
- Have a good rhythm for the program that is absorbable by founders—don’t go too fast or too slow
- Create awareness of the stress and conflict points among and between the various participants (companies, founders, mentors) that will inevitably occur throughout the program, and strategically channeling those into learning opportunities embedded in the program itself
- Build a culture and network around the accelerator that feeds on itself and perpetuates a lifetime process of learning
- At the same time, problems arise when accelerators:
- Fail to have a clear view of the mentor dynamic—not helping mentors understand how they can be effective in working with companies.
- Fail to set expectations at the outset around what the accelerator can do, and what is sensible given a company’s individual situation.
- Fail to focus on the people, rather than idea (at TechStars the mantra is people, people, people, idea—the idea is the price of admission, the key thing is the people), because it is the people that matter most and will be lasting, while the idea will morph a lot.
- Fail to understand how to scale their program (how fast do you want to grow? What is your strategy? To expand geographically? To expand the number of programs?).
- Fail to have a point of view about what they are trying to accomplish. Simply emulating what other accelerator programs are doing, for example, fails to understand that there is more than one approach.
Tip: Throughout the application process, write concise answers that leave room for future conversations. Create interest in your proposal but don’t try to answer every possible question.
Make it easy to access critical business information with links to slide decks, LinkedIn profiles, videos, references, and anything else you think would help investors realize the potential of your startup.
Useful for accelerator creators and managers, these watchwords should also be considered by state and local policymakers, university officials, and economic development leaders who are increasingly investing in or otherwise engaging in the establishment of new accelerators in U.S. cities.
The systematic information available about the impact of startup accelerators is as yet thin and fragmentary. Much research needs to be done to better understand the effectiveness of these programs and the broader impact they have on startup communities—particularly as national and regional authorities look to them as tools for economic growth.
However, early evidence points to the potential for substantial benefits. Done well, these programs can be effective at helping some of our most high-potential companies reach goals more quickly and assuredly. Perhaps more importantly, they have been shown to attract more investors and focus energy on the nascent startup communities that have been spreading throughout the United States, which will no doubt be critical for boosting high-impact entrepreneurship and hard-to-come-by growth in the future.