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How to improve your chances of being accepted into a startup accelerator (2021)

26 February 2021

The application round for our 12th cohort in the SpinLab is officially open, and with that, we wanted to take some time to highlight some tips we’ve collected over the years to help you make your startup accelerator applications really stand out.

In case you want the short and sweet video version

And believe us, we’ve seen some really bad applications. So we definitely know what you shouldn’t be doing. Collectively between all projects, our team has evaluated over 4,000 applications to various programs, and we are now ”trained” to easily find the most outstanding applications.

So let’s get started shall we?

Four tips you can use to create outstanding startup accelerator applications


1. Personalize the application for the specific startup accelerator you’re applying to

We get it. Founders have extremely busy and stress lives, so time is of the utmost essence. However, nothing will get your application denied faster than having your first slide in your pitch deck be addressed to the wrong startup accelerator because you forgot to change it.

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Sadly, platforms that are commonplace in the scene such as F6S and Crunchbase have made “1-click” applications too common, so a founders can apply to 30 startups within two minutes.

While time efficient, it comes off as lazy. We can tell when an application comes through that has been used as the default template for 100’s of other programs.

We take pride in our program, and only allow the best startups we find to make it to more advanced stages in the evaluation process.

Treat the application like a job interview

When you’ve applied for jobs in the past, you didn’t just walk into the interview with the exact same documents and answers you had from the last job interview did you?

Well the same goes for accelerators. It would work to your advantage to research that accelerator and see what their focus areas are, what their success metrics are, and much more.

The more you can tailor your application to the specific accelerator to show that both your startup and the accelerator can profit from the relationship, the better.

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2. Actually read the application in detail, and fully understand it

This is a direct connection to point one, but following simple instructions can make or break your startup’s application.

You would think it is quite self explanatory, but you really need to read the application questions and make sure you’re answering the questions properly, and providing the information how it should be provided.

We recommend reading the application from A-Z in its entirety, and then going back and start preparing your documents and your answers to the question in the application.

In doing so, you’ll know how you can best structure your answers and tell your startups story in a way that makes sense and shows value.

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And please, don’t overlook small technical instructions. If an application is asking for a certain file type for something, be sure to follow this instructions.

Not doing so just makes you look lazy and incompetent, and it gives the impression that you don’t have time to deal with the accelerator.

If you don’t have time to submit us quality information, why should we have time to support your startup with its goals for 3, 6, or even 12 months?

3. Give us an in-depth of your current competition and what you’re doing to be better

"We currently have no competition” is a bullshit answer and such applications will come off as bullshit as well.

This gives off the air that you really think you have discovered the wheel for the first time, and it just makes you be perceived as arrogant.

Every concept in 2021 has some form of competition, and we expect you to know what that is, inside and out. Our job is to help you succeed as quickly as possible, and if you get blindsided by a competitor later on in the game, this can put your startup out of business.

Show us you value your own time, and your own concept, and own your competition. Show us what they’re doing, how you’re aware of it, and what you’re planning to do to ultimately be a better solution.

4. Cut the FLUFF

Longer does NOT equal better.

While good intentions are here, you do not need to make your application look like a novel.

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s another human being(s) that are evaluating your application. And chances are said human being just had to deal with 100’s of applications that fail miserably at points 1-3 of this article.

The last thing we want to be hit with is a five paragraph answer to the question, ”What is founding team’s history?”

You want to be detailed and focused in your answers. If you have such a complex solution or product that can only be described in a way that is super long, then so be it, but stay focused.

But in general keep your answers clear, focused, relatable, and short.

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Conclusion

If you follow these four guidelines, you’ll be in a really good spot with your startup accelerator applications.

If I were to put a figure out there, I would say that only 30% of the applications I have personally reviewed in my life hit all four of these points, and those are the applications I almost always put through to later stages.

The only exceptions to this would be is if the technology or concept the startup is developing is not related at all to one of our core focus areas.

If you’ve got questions, then definitely let me know in the comments, otherwise be sure to take these tips to heart should ever decide to apply for our program in Leipzig.

 

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Topics: Startup Tips
Shawn Segundo

Written by Shawn Segundo

Shawn Segundo is the marketing manager at the SpinLab. He’s worked extensively with all company sizes from startups to enterprise clients while working as an online marketing consultant in both the United States and the European Union.

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