Accelerators can be an incredible springboard for start-ups of all shapes and sizes – but most are fiercely competitive to get into. So how can you secure a place? Alex Bargate, CEO of online arbitration platform Ajuve, is taking part in Entrepreneurial Spark and was recently accepted onto the MassChallenge Accelerator. Here, he give his tips on how to prepare for an accelerator.
- Have some evidence to validate your idea
One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make in general is to come up with a product or service that they would want to use, without thinking about whether anyone else would!
Market research and testing is key. Positive results here can help to justify your belief in the business and instil confidence in others – such as those judging your accelerator application – as well. This is particularly true in the very early stages of your business when you won’t have many customers yet. Get out there and ask your market about the problems you want to solve! Use surveys to get valuable qualitative feedback and insights. Look into your own data to see any trends that might help you improve and refine your product.
- Have a plan to turn your idea into a business
As Chris Sacca, an investor in Twitter and Uber, put it: “Ideas are cheap, execution is everything”. There are a lot of talented people out there with great ideas, but demonstrating that you know how to turn that into a sustainable, profitable and highly scalable business model is the difference between a cool idea and a game-changing start-up. This is also what will convince an accelerator that you’re worth their time.
There are some key strands that you should focus on planning to be able to demonstrate that your business will work. Know your market, your sales channels, and, of course, the team you’ll need to build to make it all a reality.
- Pay attention to what that accelerator is trying to do
Obviously all accelerators want to find golden ideas backed by a strong team for the best chance of success, but they will often have particular areas of focus beyond that.
Entrepreneurial Spark, for example, have a focus on developing you as a person and as an entrepreneur, so applicants should aim to show commitment to your own learning and personal development as well as that of the business. MassChallenge, on the other hand, are looking for high-impact start-ups, so make sure you emphasise that when you apply.
Pick a programme which is well aligned with what your product is and what you want to do, then put work into demonstrating how you live up to those criteria.
- Know what you want to get out of the accelerator
Think about why you’re applying and have a plan for how you want to use the accelerator’s resources. That might be networking opportunities you want to take advantage of, mentors whose experience you want to tap in to, or events you really want to attend. Tie these opportunities into specific business goals for your start-up. Any accelerator will want to know that the resources they put into you are going to be made good use of.