Yes, be honest! Be honest about what you think you’ve learned so far, and what you hope to learn about during the accelerator.
No accelerator wants startup founders who pretend they don’t need any help, that believe they are a sure bet for success. Accelerators exist to coach you, and if you don’t need any help, you won’t seem coachable.
If, on the other hand, you’ve achieved something notable, be open and honest about it. Don’t try to hide your intellectual property from the accelerator. And don’t ask them to sign an NDA. If that’s not OK, don’t apply.
Remove all hyperbolae, all hype, all jargon, all buzzwords
You are not world-first! You are not world-leading! You are not first-of-its-kind. You are just naive and ill-informed — there are probably five other startups at the same stage as you, but none of you have been covered by the tech press yet so you’re as invisible as they are.
Words, acronyms and over-used phrases that may get your application rejected include (but are not limited to):
- Big data
- Long tail
- Internet of Things
- Low-hanging fruit
- Game changer
- Our conservative revenue estimates
- The Cloud
No bullshit research
You don’t have to limit yourself to what you think about yourself, your team or the market opportunity.
But don’t waste anybody’s time with bullshit market research about the size of the market in 10 years’ time. Those research reports are written so that suckers will pay for annual subscriptions to more bullshit research reports.
How much can you find out about how much revenue is earned every year solving this problem by your biggest three competitors? Is that revenue going up or going down?
What do your customers say about how important this is to them? If you haven’t got any paying customers, what do your closed beta users or free pilot customers say?
How much does it cost you to get someone to a landing page and click a button that they think will lead them to a credit card payment button? How does that number change when you test different prices for your product or service?
You are not a blockchain, crypto or AI startup
At least, not any more than you are a database startup, a content management system startup or a user database startup, a cart checkout startup or a payment gateway startup*. Those are just some of the components that any sensible, knowledgeable person would probably use to solve the same problem for the same kind of customer in the same market at this time. Be defined by the problem/customer set, not the tech stack.
*Well, you may be, but only when the product you sell is a database, a CMS, a database, a shopping cart, or a payment gateway.
Years served are meaningless
Don’t talk about the years any of you (or all of you combined) have spent in any field. Think for a moment, and you will be able to name several people you’ve worked with who seem to have achieved nothing in the past decade.
Focus on what you have achieved on this and other teams, how you have contributed to this startup and other ventures, but most of all, why you care about solving the problem, and why you care about solving it for the customer.
- Alan Jones is Entrepreneur in Residence for Remarkable.org.au, was a founding investor in Pollenizer, Startmate and Blackbird Ventures and is a partner at M8 Ventures. He tweets as @bigyahu