Being part of an accelerator program is a great starting point for any early stage startup founder looking to close deals and get the business to the next level. However, getting into such a program is no easy task to do and your application is a deal maker (or breaker for the record). If you are working on your accelerator application or simply doing those final tweaks on your How to Web Startup Spotlight application (the deadline is September 25th, by the way), then you read on!
We’ve asked Bogdan Iordache, Co-Founder and board manager of How to Web & TechHub Bucharest, a couple of questions that might help you out. Bogdan is an active investor with a wide experience with acceleration programs. Serial entrepreneur, Bogdan has founded TechAngels and MVP Angels, angel investors’ networks, has been the program director of Springboard IoT and has mentored hundreds of startups in accelerators such as Seedcamp, Techstars, hub:raum, LauncHub, Eleven, or HackFWD, to name just a few. So grab your coffee close and read through the hands-on advice he offered during a fireside chat moderated by Gabriela Bejan, PR Manager of How to Web:
What is the first thing you look at when evaluating an application from a startup?
Any respectable accelerator program out there is looking for disruptive innovation and they evaluate:
- The quality of the startup – they need to have developed something significant in their industry.
- Their capacity of proving that they can execute on their idea.
- The team’s capability to present their ideas simply and sustain their plan in front of an audience.
This is how we evaluate the startups in How to Web Startup Spotlight, a deal-making program for European startups that aim to disrupt the industries they’re working on.
Should startups apply early?
The best option is to make an early application since it gives the team more time to have a proper look at it and ask you the necessary questions. However, if you don’t have everything put together yet, you can send a summary of the application and then give the full documentation later on. Obviously, we prefer the first situation since we get a lot of applications every day and we would like to have the necessary time to properly go through them. And this is the case for most accelerator programs out there.
When you look at an application, what are the numbers that you need to see in order to say: “we have to have them”?
That depends a lot on the company. It could be:
- Traction – simple products with immense traction prove that the product is interesting to a large market.
- Retention – whether it’s software or hardware, if it satisfies a need and solves a real problem you can see that in the retention numbers.
These are just 2 examples. You have to figure out for yourself what’s the number that you want to present as a key metric and what’s the number that truly sells what you do and shows that you’ve got promising perspectives ahead.
A key part of every startup accelerator is the mentoring part. How do you do the matching at How to Web Startup Spotlight?
We do all the matching manually for all startups and mentors. That means around 500 individual meetings during the program.
What is important is that you have:
- Field expertise in the domain and the type of business that your startup is in. For instance, if you want to do a B2C startup, maybe it would be interesting to meet someone who is a gamification expert or who has some knowledge on virality because you can take that type of info and apply it to what you are doing.
- Stage expertise. It probably wouldn’t be relevant to you to meet with a fund that does private equity as an early stage startup. What you need are angel investors, seed funds or maybe later stage acceleration programs. We say this because even if you might not want an investment right away, you still get asked lots of questions that can prepare you for when you’ll interact with the investors that you’ll actually work with.
Are applications allowed for social projects as well?
Of course! Bear in mind though that social projects have different types of stakeholders. It’s probably less significant to meet investors (who want a financial return) but you can definitely meet other people who have the expertise you need and can help you move to the next level.
How does the mentorship relation evolve after How to Web Startup Spotlight?
Startup Spotlight is like a speed dating process: you try to do some matches between people that have never seen each other. You have both their profiles and try to figure out if they’re going to be a good match. After you met the people during the conference, you can keep in touch with the ones you liked the most and hopefully, on a longer term, they will start contributing to your business.
Last but not least, what are the objectives that startups should bear in mind when applying to an accelerator program?
You need to have a thorough self-questioning process for this one:
- First of all, ask yourself: how is this going to help me? What am I going to take out of this? What’s in it for me?
- Figure out what are the people you want to meet, that are really important for you.
- Find ways to get the most out of the program. For instance, if you are selected to attend How to Web Startup Spotlight and you are not from Bucharest you can take the time on one of the days to meet with contacts for a coffee.
- Take into account that you might also meet competition. Will you be meeting other people who could have a significant impact on your business?
- Make sure that it makes sense for your business to be part of the program you try to get into
Talking about How to Web Startup Spotlight particularly, we help with all of the above. You can always write to us – maybe we can help you get in contact with someone in the industry.
If you’re an early stage startup founder with global ambitions and you are looking for great business development opportunities (and the chance to win amazing cash prizes), don’t miss the chance to be part of this year’s How to Web Startup Spotlight. Applications close on Sunday, September 25th, so hurry up and start working on yours now.