Startup accelerators provide mentoring, education, and financing. Typically lasting over a few months, accelerator mentors assist entrepreneurs and founders while they navigate the confusing and sometimes chaotic early stages of the startup world. During this time, the programme aims to teach entrepreneurs and founders several years’ worth of experiences and information, designed to accelerate their timeline for startup success.
What is a startup accelerator programme?
Accelerators are there to focus on increasing the growth rate of an existing startup. Startups participating in an accelerator programme will already be past the “idea” stage.
Startup accelerator programmes are not easy to get into, you must make an application and go through an interview process. If you’re accepted, you'll undergo the training programme alongside other entrepreneurs and founders. Securing a place is a very competitive process, with hundreds often applying and only a small number being selected.
So, what can you do to improve your chances of being accepted?
Prepare your legal information
In your startup accelerator application process, you’ll need to demonstrate not just a good idea, but that you have the capacity and professionalism to run a business. This means making sure that legal documents and processes are in order. This could include incorporation documents, financial records, meeting minutes and knowledge of relevant laws and regulations.
Secure your intellectual property
Startup accelerators will want to see that participants have secured their intellectual property. That is, you’re taking the right steps toward protecting trademarks, copyrights and patents that will be important to your business. At the very least, if these processes aren’t complete, you need to have a plan for how and when they’ll be completed. Depending on the nature of your startup, such intellectual property may be a competitive advantage or barrier to competitors copying you. So, you must form an important part of a growth plan.
Do your research
Accelerator programmes for startups are not the place to be just ‘winging it’. If you’re serious about wanting a place on the programme, you’ll need to do your research.
Firstly, you need to understand what’s being offered and how it’ll specifically help you. If possible, find out about previous participants and see where it created the most value for them. Then, look at how your startup may benefit from a similar experience.
You should also know your competition inside and out. That’ll be an important part of your business plan and eventual pitches to investors. Interviewers will question you on how you’re different and what you can do that other market participants can’t.
Struggling to balance founder life?
Too often, business owners sacrifice quality sleep for their ventures. Whether it’s from a demanding workload, stress or midnight brainstorming, the fact is entrepreneur insomnia can cost more than 40 winks, it can cost you your success too. If this sounds familiar, then this School of Startups’ webinar is for you…Watch now
Think about what questions you’ll ask during the interview
We’ve all been there, at the end of an interview when you’re asked, “do you have any questions for us?”
Sometimes the interview will have left us completely blank and we’ll just be so glad it’s over that nothing springs to mind. But, asking insightful and purposeful questions serves a purpose. The interviewer will know that you’ve done your research and understand the process, which itself communicates a level of competence and motivation. If you can ask the right question, you can also set yourself apart from the crowd and become memorable. Which isn’t a bad thing when you’re looking to secure 1 spot out of 100 applicants.
You can think about these before and have them ready so that if your mind does go blank, you won't leave the interview with any regrets.
Have a plan for acquiring customers
As you prepare for an accelerator programme, your startup will be in its very early stages. But, by demonstrating that you have a plan for acquiring customers the interviewer will be able to see that your idea has a chance of success. As good as your idea might be, without a plan for getting customers, your interviewer (and investors) may question whether anyone would pay for your product.
To sum up
By securing a sought after slot in a startup accelerator programme, you can change the growth trajectory of your business. That'll be one of many challenges that you’ll encounter in the early stages of founding a startup. But the mentorship and training you’ll receive will put you in a much better place to help you overcome them.
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