Advice On Applying To An Accelerator

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ED: Guest post by Mick Liubinskas & Rachel Bui from muru-D

ONLY 36HRS TO GO – Applications close 12PM on October 31st.


An application with a great founding team, technology, traction and vision to go global could be overlooked if founders can’t articulate their ideas to investors. As always, we want to help you improve your odds. Here are some tips to clarify your thinking when applying to an accelerator (or approaching other investors).

Research and understand the accelerator (or investor)

Before you start typing your application, it is important to understand the investor you are pitching to, whether it be an angel or an accelerator. Do your due diligence on us, just as we do on you. Again, every accelerator and investor need to differentiate themselves from each other so targeting your message is very important.

Desktop research can only get you so far and I would be surprised if founders don’t read every single page and resources on the website (they are there for a reason). Founders should demonstrate they have hustle and done proper ‘DD’ by reaching out to the people in the accelerator’s network or find opportunities to meet the management team. If you can make yourself known and make your name sticky, you’re likely to be remembered, thereby increasing your chances of making the shortlist.

Explain the root of the problem

Many founders superficially discuss the problem that they’re trying to solve but do not understand the core drivers of those problems. Most problems are reverse- engineered from the initial solution that the founders have in mind. These applicants tend to be following trends or adopt a X for Z (e.g. Uber for pets) rather than solving a real itch. Fortunately, most people do this so it’s not hard to stand out.

Have a very succinct definition of the problem you are going to solve. The ‘problem’ is usually the itch, the inspiration that causes you to start. Keep it simple and don’t forget to explain the context.

Focus on your strengths

Everyone is obsessed with the word ‘differentiate’ these days. While founders may not realise that there are other dormant clones of their ideas, investors do. Always focus on your strengths and ask, ‘What makes us better at solving this problem than other people?’

If it’s the team, HIGHLIGHT them (see the point below). Are they skilled and come from Google or Tencent? Does your team consist of domain experts with many years of experience?

Demonstrate your creativity, great work ethic and resilience through past experiences and traction. Show us your hacks and the outcomes (not output) you’ve achieved.

Technology is also important. If you are developing something interesting, have an expert in a relevant area endorse it. Can you get an evangelist on board as an advisor?

Passion is in abundance in the startup world but in reality, it’s perseverance and discipline that count. Don’t forget to emphasise your strengths.

Highlight your team

Startups are high risk investments so many investors base their investment decision on the ‘founding team’. What’s constantly going through their minds are questions such as, ‘Is this team backable?’ and ‘Are they the right team to solve this problem?’.

There are some qualities that investors look out for including: educational background, work experience, previous track-record, character, vision, leadership, and a git hub portfolio.

When it’s time to review your application, ask yourself, is this application strong enough to convince reviewers that we are the right team with an awesome product to solve this problem (and take over the world)? If not, make sure you continue to hustle and search for the right people to jump on board.

Determine if you’re prepared to go global from day 1

Cash-strapped founders need to focus on their local markets so that they can validate product-market-fit but the global market is becoming so competitive that the ‘competitor radar’ needs to be on auto.

In today’s world, being ‘local’ or ‘domestic’ reduces your chance of receiving investment, particularly in Australia since the market is small. It would be difficult to provide 10x returns for investors. Also, international competitors can swiftly move in with significant funding and aggressively capture market share.

Being prepared means the ability to quickly hop on a plane if an opportunity arises to do further market research into international markets. Observe your competitors, explore potential business opportunities and do enough due diligence so that if an accelerator or an investor ever poses the question if you plan to expand to the US/China or stay domestic, you can back up your decision with logical reasoning.

Know your competitors and be specific

This is one of the most important part of the application yet founders don’t pay enough attention to it.

An obvious way to show you’re inexperienced is by not knowing who your competitors are. This is usually because the founders did not put in the effort to research by identifying:
a) global competitors as well as local competitors; and/or
b) specific competitors or clones in the same addressable market.

A quick search through Crunchbase or Angellist shows plenty of competitors so don’t forget to monitor the competitor landscape.

Show your traction and think of the unit economics

Founders also get excited once they have some small traction and think they will be the next unicorn. Unfortunately, even some unicorns don’t survive e.g. if it costs you $150 to get a paying customer and their lifetime value or revenue is only $50.

Traction is great but what accelerators and investors are looking for is whether you understand the drivers accelerating your traction and the unit economics underpinning your business model. A company with early positive traction is still not a great potential investment if it doesn’t have the ability to scale or find repeatable channels. A business is still a business and getting to profitability is important.

Show your character in you pitch videos

Lastly, the most overlooked part of an application form is the pitch video. Accelerators want to see your charm, persuasion, interpersonal skills as we’ll be working with you full time for 3–6 months!

There is no need to get fancy with the video but your pitch to us does need to be coherent, convincing and aligned as a team to get to the next stage. Get that first 15 seconds right and the last 15 seconds too. Don’t forget to focus on your strengths.

One bonus tip, use bullet points if necessary (you should still put it in sentence form though). There is no reason to waffle on and write paragraphs after paragraphs. So there you have it, plenty of tips for you to master your accelerator application.

If you are interested in muru-D #SYD3 Program, don’t forget to apply: Applications close 12PM on October 31st.

I look forward to reading your application! If you have any questions, please send me a tweet at: @buirachel.

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