Accelerators have been an especially hot topic in recent years. Lucrative returns and increased availability of follow-on funding has brought Accelerators to almost every big city nationwide. The result. An explosion in seed stage funding for startups. The family and friends stage round of investment round has in many cases been replaced by this new more hands on type of investing.
So how exactly do you go about applying and getting into one of the numerous accelerators out there?
How to apply:
Most accelerators have an application process through either their own website or through F6S. There are hundreds of accelerators across the nation so narrowing down the ones you would like to apply for is essential.
When narrowing down results the characteristics you should look into are the equity given up to the accelerator, amount invested and finally the vertical. Most accelerators span multiple verticals, but one specially targeting your startups niche will be able to better connect you with industry experts.
Apply to as many as possible. The top accelerator programs have acceptance rates lower than most Ivy League schools. YCombinators and Techstars, two of the top accelerator programs, have acceptance rates below 3% and 1% respectively. When applying with LendEDU we submitted our application to over 6 accelerators. Luckily most of the questions are similar across applications so with a little repurposing of answers you can easily apply to multiple programs.
When filling out the application don’t be afraid to be boast. You want them to know how great your team and your startup are so don’t hold back. There will be plenty of other teams boasting their own accomplishments so in order to stand out you need to make sure your strengths and achievements come across clear in the application.
What Accelerators Want
Accelerators look into a multitude of factors when deciding who to bring into their cohort. Showing that you are a match for their program during the application and interview process is key to being accepted. At the very core accelerators are looking for highly scalable businesses with a potential to become a $20 Million + company.
Arguably more important than the startups concept, is the founding team. Accelerators want hustlers. Someone who is not going to give up when things get tough, and trust me they will. Accelerators plan on putting the founders through grueling 100+ hour weeks. A dedicated and hardworking team is essential to survival. Not only does the founding team need to come across as dedicated and hardworking, but they must show synergy.
Founder feuding is one of the top causes of failure during an accelerator. With all the stress an accelerator will bring, you will inevitably end up in arguments with other teammates. The program wants to ensure that you and your cofounders are close enough to overlook small arguments and focus on the bigger picture.
How to make the most of your time there
Get ready to work. Work a lot. Whether you left school, quit your job or were already working full time on your business, this is the perfect opportunity to help grow your startup to the next level of funding or revenue.
Almost all accelerators have some type of mentor program. This is where they put you in front of as many relevant startup experts as possible. The expertise of these mentors will range from technology to patent law.
I would recommend getting and recording the contact information of each and every mentor in the program. They may not seem relevant at the time, but they may be friends or business associates with exactly the person you have been looking for. Finally make sure to come with an ask! The mentors are looking to help you, but if you do not tell them what you need they won’t know how to.
Traction. Get used to that word because you are going to be hearing it a lot. In order to get the most out of your demo day and investor connections you are going to need to show traction. This is preferably shown in revenue, but can also be user growth or another important KPI for your startup.
Now that you have the tools to apply and get the most out of the accelerator, the rest is up to you. The past few years have shown huge growth in startup investment and valuations. These conditions won’t last forever, so take advantage of them while you can.
Matt Lenhard is one of the founders of LendEDU. LendEDU is a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance. With one short application borrowers can receive quotes from multiple lenders all in one place.