How to get into an accelerator?
The selection process for accelerators has its basic principles. To get into the accelerator program, wherein three to four months your startup is developed from code and business to PR in the media and demo-day, you need to go through the application selection, personal interview, and selection days.
The selection for the accelerator program takes place once a year. After completing the questionnaire on the website and completing additional tasks, the selection begins. Both accelerator teams and program mentors are involved in the selection. Investors can often see your application. A well-completed application increases the chances of going to the next stage.
Then the qualifying days begin. Already at the event, an intensive rotation of mentors and teams takes place, as a result of which the final selection takes place and about 10 of the best get into the accelerator program.
With product owning and Business Incubator participation experience, the Sannacode team prepared a new post on how to get into an accelerator.
What is an accelerator?
An accelerator is an intensive startup development program with experienced mentors. During the acceleration program time, mentors teach your team, help improve the product and bring it to a qualitatively new level. Selected accelerators also provide for an initial investment. The business accelerator ends with a demo day - a public presentation of startups for investors.
Benefits of accelerators
You get a lot of support from mentors, interested investors, and potential partners.
You gain valuable experience. Even if you don't get hired, the application process itself can teach you a lot.
After working with business accelerators, you will have a product and a database of useful contacts.
In the early stages of a startup, the accelerator environment can become a business community of like-minded people. Communication with other startups and accelerator alumni is a good opportunity to find friends, gain new knowledge, and learn about success stories.
An accelerator is a quick entry point into the industry and an opportunity to understand how things work there.
Most accelerators include educational programs: pitch sessions, industry leaders lectures, networking hours, and demo days. They help you learn how to run a business correctly, communicate with investors and partners, create a pitch, present yourself and your product on stage.
Participation in a well-known accelerator is a good news feed for specialized media. Therefore, if you are chosen as a popular accelerator, you will receive additional PR for your project.
You can get some perks in different accelerators. Some investors give discounts or grants for using cloud services. For example, Google gives 3 tiers for 3 years. DigitalOcean gives $10k per year. Amazon gives $5k. Also, some accelerators distribute the services of their previous graduates with discounts.
Disadvantages of accelerators
Serious selection of participants. For example, competition in Techstars sometimes reaches 1000 applications per place, less than 1% of the submitted applications are selected.
To participate in most accelerators, you need an already formed team. If you do not have enough like-minded people, it is better to pay attention to business incubators.
Accelerators rarely give large sums of money. Funding is enough for the duration of the program, testing several business hypotheses, creating an MVP, and finding the first clients.
How to choose an accelerator program?
To get started, see Rice University's list of top accelerators. They have a website at seedrankings.com. Next, analyze everyone who has open sets. The top 20 accelerators of this list would be the best option.
Y Combinator has the strongest brand. But it will not always be the best option for you. You need to be clear about your goals.
For example, if you are looking for a production base for a hardware project, then you need the HAX Accelerator. The program is split into two parts in San Francisco and Shenzhen. Acceleration in Shenzhen allows you to build primary relationships with contractors and start producing something.
If you have a deeptech project, you need SkyDeck. They love to work with technical and scientific projects. Their program is aimed at finding possible monetization for such startups. If you already have a hint of market fit and great traction, you've already entered the American market - you need YC. This is the valuation hype machine.
But getting into YC is not a magic pill. If you are not ready for primetime, then demo day will not allow you to raise the required amount.
If you need BizDev, you need accelerators like Techstars, Alchemist, or StartEx. It's hard to get into StartEx - it's purely Stanford. Alchemist is a great b2b accelerator. But it has its limitations. Although for the program, to launch BizDev on the American market, Alchemist is one of the best accelerators.
First, the program is designed for six months. There are no daily intensives. You receive the program once a week, you are tracked, and you work with the advice given to you. Some high-level mentors have sold billion-dollar companies, and it's very interesting to listen to them.
In summary, take a look at the current rating. Look, based on your situation, what exactly you need, find alumni, talk to them, read what the accelerator writes about itself. Focus and serve the application.
4 tips on how to get into the accelerator
We have prepared some important tips for our readers that will help increase the chances of becoming a part of a major accelerator program in Silicon Valley and other countries.
1. Rethink the acceleration process
Before applying for participation in the acceleration, make sure that your company is at the right stage of development.
Some accelerators consider startups even in the very early stages, but most still require at least a prototype or MVP (minimum viable product). "
You should also familiarize yourself with the requirements of the accelerator program and take time out to prepare.
Accelerators often ask startups to provide certain materials: video presentations, documents, business plans, etc. Therefore, read the terms carefully and prepare properly.
2. Check everything
The first thing to check is whether your vision aligns with that of the accelerator you are striving for.
Most accelerators are looking for people who intend to build a local ecosystem.
A competent full team is extremely important. In most cases, Accelerators prefer to work with groups of people, rather than with a single founder.
The ideal startup should have professionals with different skill sets and a flexible team. You will have an advantage if the startup staff includes an engineer, marketer and sales.
If you outsource most of the work, there should still be a team member who is versed in the technology and the functionality of the startup product. This will go a long way in managing contractors, controlling the quality of their work, and their level of integrity.
It is also important to demonstrate the progress of the project from the moment the startup idea appeared until today.
3. You need a competent pitch
Founders make big mistakes when pitching their products. First, startups are pitching too technical. Algorithms and dashboards are good, but for the business audience, the essence of the solution is more important. Too many technical terms make the product opaque, so the pitch must be tailored to the audience you are talking to.
Another factor is how you market your product. You must be able to differentiate yourself, and also justify what market share you are applying for.
It may sound strange, but experience doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you've been in the industry for 20 years or just getting started. If you show that you know what you are talking about, you will certainly be accepted into the program.
4. Make the most of the accelerator
The main advantage of the accelerator is its networking. Helpful contacts include mentors, mentors, experienced investors, and peers.
There is always a whole generation of people around you. They may work in a different industry or niche, but they face the same challenges as you - attracting new customers, developing products, and so on. Therefore, you can support each other during and after the program.
You must learn to accept feedback and be prepared in advance that not all of it will be positive. On the other hand, it is important to understand that although advice and criticism are valuable things, it is also important to pass them through a certain filter.
Not everything you hear will be great advice, and not everything will help the company grow and move forward.
Checklist of how a startup can get into the accelerator program
Carefully fill out the application
At this stage, up to 90% of projects are eliminated. There won't be a second chance.
Complete the team
Accelerator teams are unanimous in the opinion that it is too difficult to survive the program alone to be useful. The minimum combination for all startups is CEO + CTO.
Prepare the product
You have to prepare an MVP. Nobody will be watching the presentation.
Teams that are too stubborn, clumsy or difficult will not qualify.
Build networking in advance
Contact an accelerator, tell us about the product and why you want to get to them. This will demonstrate your interest.
Meet in person
Keep an eye on the participation of representatives of the accelerator in conferences and try to get to know them there. This is not only the first point of contact, but also the opportunity to immediately find out your chances.
Have a cool startup idea? The Sannacode team offers services to develop an idea to a finished product. Fill out the form on the website and our project manager will contact you.