A journey in ProcessOut's flight journal

5 tips to join top accelerators

by Cyril Chemla on

While joining a top accelerator has always been a dream for many entrepreneurs, the actual work needed to integrate one without either being a 1000% growth startup or being a serial entrepreneur is really important. Being an alumnus from Startup42 (v0.6) and Techstars NYC (S16), I wrote this post based on my personal experience in order to help founders maximize their chances to be part of their favorite accelerator(s).

The sooner you build your network the better

When we decided it was time for us to apply to a big accelerator the first thing we worked on was to connect to not only a lot of alumni and mentors but also the managing team of the accelerator. The first step was then to identify the people closest connected to our network and try to get some intros.

We focused on French people who were easier to reach—as we are French—and successfully got 6 intros. In the end, 1 never replied, 4 of them recommended us to Techstars and the same 4 are still among our mentors. Starting day 1 they always were an amazing support for us and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them very much for all they have done for us (Julien Quintard @Infinit recently acquired by Docker, Alex Winter @Placemeter recently acquired by Netgear, Romain Lapeyre @Gorgias, Alban Denoyel @Sketchfab and Romain Cochet @Numa - MD of the new season!).

And also one important thing, we managed to get a direct introduction to the managing director of Techstars NYC which started the beginning of the application process.

Be clear, direct and determined

The second part of the process was to explain in a 10min call who we were and what we were trying to accomplish. We prepared heavily this call writing simple and clear answers to basic questions. Of course these questions will depend on your type of business. Here are a few basic questions: Who are your target customers? What problems are you trying to solve? How do they currently solve this problem? Why is your team THE team to make it?

After each call, we sent a follow up email to update Techstars and if no next steps were defined, we sent a weekly update with our growth / new challenges / ideas / questions to leverage them as mentors.

Be open minded but never be afraid of disagreeing

In my opinion, one of the most important things was to not hesitate disagreeing with the point of view of the people we talked to. Being intellectually honest is a big thing. As founders you should always be looking for feedback but remember: you are the ones that know your market best and if you give a great argument, you are only proving you know what you are doing, or at least that you are able to ask legitimate questions. Conviction and vision are important so as long as you stay open minded when you talk to people, it’s okay.

Having issues and questions is okay

It is completely normal to face hard challenges with your business and to not generate revenue. And as a startup the best way to solve an issue is to ask the good questions. The key element is then to show that you have an amazing ability to think through these problems and that you have a great vision. They are not expecting to meet startups which won’t benefit from their advice. Feel free to share the challenges you face with good questions to engage them!

Never give up, Never surrender

Being rejected from an accelerator means nothing; it doesn’t mean that your business is bad, it doesn’t always mean something is wrong with your company. It could be because of the current trends in the VC world, because of the other startups selected that are too far from your industry, or because they need to see more traction to be sure you can deliver on your goals.

Techstars, for example, has 2 batches per year, so as long as you continue to update them and repeat the steps described, you will always increase your chances to be accepted in the next class!

Overall we lived amazing experiences on a human point of view as well as professional point of view thanks to StartUp42 and Techstars NYC! So a warm big up to Maxime Pico (SU42), Jillian Canning (TS), KJ Singh (TS) and Alex Iskold (TS).

Hope these tips will help you prepare your application for your dream accelerator! If we can give back after all we received, please feel free to ask us any questions, regarding the process or anything related. We would be very happy to help you at ProcessOut!