We've been applying for a couple of acceleration programs and now we would like to share with you our experience.
What is an Startup Acceleration Program?
- Open the selection (Startups apply)
- The selected startups receive some funding (in exchange for a %)
- Work during few months in a free co-working space with other startups and with some mentors
- At the end of the program, startups get a chance to pitch to top angel investors and venture capitalists for funding.
Obviously, these companies are not NGOs, so the reason why they provide you with (some) money, support and mentoring is because they hope to get a revenue. So, the last point is really important for them (and for you of course :-D).
You can see in the picture below a summary of our solution, in a future post we will explain it carefully.
We had the idea, we had the knowledge to do it but we hadn't the time.
One day reading a blog we hear about accelerator programs and we thank they could be a solution for us.
One month later Alex Farcet (Startupbootcamp Director) informed us we have passed to the next round. We were selected between more than 300 startups. At that moment only 50 startups continue "playing", the next test was an interview by Skype with Alex Farcet. From the 50 teams interviewed, 20 would be selected to participate at the 2 Day Selection Event in Berlin, and 10 would be the winners.
We had the call with Alex and one of the surprising things is that he asked a lot more about the team and our commitment that any other thing. It was a very interesting chat of around 30 minutes.
In this case we had to sent some documentation. From PlugandPlay sent us a template to fill out. It was some kind of business plan :-)
We were selected for the second phase. And they asked us:
- A powerpoint presentation in english (maximun 20 slides) selling our project and with an specific point of the project status and the metrics.
- Access to a beta or a demo (at least in case we have nothing yet).
- In case it was a hardware project (it wasn't our case) a video with a demo (with as much details as possible).
They even passed us a presentation example, really good, to be honest, so let us share it with you too.
At the end we were called for the third and last phase (more than 150 startups applied and only 10 were on this round). After that, they had to select 4-5 startups for the acceleration program.
Juan Luis Hortelano (PlugAndPlay director in Spain and one of the most important bloggers in Spain) contacted us in order to have an interview by Skype.
We had the interview with Juan Luis and other 3 colleagues from PlugAndPlay. Again, they focused a lot on the team and the commitment. Of course, they also asked about the product and the business model. The duration of the call was about 45 minutes.
Anyway, we are happy to be between the first 50 from more than 350 startups from all parts the world.
PlugandPlayAccelerator: We weren't selected either. Again, to be between the 10 finalist from more than 150 was a bittersweet experience. The good news is that Juan Luis Hortelano provided us with feedback and coming from a person with so many experience we think it's a good idea to have them into account. This is more or less a translation of his constructive feedback (let us keep some secrets ;-):
- We like the team and the project in general terms.
- It's not so clear the business model. It is not providing a clear focus. Also, you will need a lot of resource to escalate the consultancy part and this is not what Plug&Play is looking for.
- There are a lot of competency in transit apps and you are at risk that Google try to "eat" all that market in any moment (with Google Transit).
- The team is scattered and some of you are working yet.
Positive and Negative
Everybody in the team must to take a stance, it sounds like something easy but it isn't.
Ok, let's go with the summary, is it positive to apply to one of these accelerate program?
- You must to prepare some documentation and presentations, this is very good because you are obligated to put it on a paper.
- They ask you a lot of interesting questions that maybe you didn't, so you must to think in your idea from a different perspective.
- They give you a third party vision of your project. A clean vision. Many times, we were so concentrated in our idea that we didn't spend a minute to know what could think other people about it.
- We had to do a very hard job in order to align the whole team.
- They ask you about the money, the business, etc... so it's a good chance to think it your idea can provide revenue or it only will do a better world ;-)
- In our case nothing was negative, maybe to be so close to get it the both times. We felt like the guys that are the 4th in an Olimpic Games, you know, so close of the medals and so far from the glory.
Conclusion (Worth the effort?)
Maybe, after reading the post you are thinking a lot of effort and poor results, but we see the things in a different way.
Thanks to this job we have thought a lot in our product. We have analyzed the strengths, weakness , we have discussed about the future.
Also, we have received very interesting feedback from people with a lot of experience on Internet and Startups and we have taken note.
We have learnt during the process and we've done self-criticism.
And finally, we have known each other a lot better and we are a better team no.
So if you are asking if it worth the effort for you team and/or your idea, from our perspective the answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY.
How to get accepted? (The million $ question)
If you look what they are looking for, you will notice it's very similar:
Startupbootcamp: 5 Tips to Get Accepted
1. Be 100% Committed
Joining Startupbootcamp requires total focus and availability. The rest of your life — from jobs to studies to, yes, your social life — has to be on hold.
2. Be a Team
We love teams who have done stuff together before – another startup, being colleagues, or just knowing each other really well. Startupbootcamp will put on tons of pressure and tension. We look for tight teams who can handle it.
3. Be Coachable
Of course your idea and product are brilliant. But can you listen to (often contradictory) input, see the wood for the trees and act on the best advice for you?
4. Be Resilient
You and your idea will be questioned, argued with and pushed around. You have to be determined, unstoppable.
5. Have a track record
This may be your first startup. But what have you achieved before that’s truly impressive?
Plug&Play Valencia: Assestment
- You have a company or you are working on it
- You have at least a developer
- You are looking for funding
- You have a product or service that can be tested, checked. Not only a business plan on a paper.
- Someone in the team is able to talk english (this one is from Spanish perspective)
- The project must be international and you would like to go to Silicon Valley.
Maybe you didn't notice one thing yet. It was surprising for us in the beginning, they don't ask about THE IDEA. How is it possible? Isn't THE IDEA the most important thing?
Perhaps, haven't all of the entrepreneurs the best idea in the world (that anybody thought before us)? DEFINITIVELY, not for them. The most important thing for them is the COMMITMENT. And if you think about that 5 minutes you will probably agree with them. Would you lend your money to someone who doesn't believe 120% in his/her project?
And the second important thing is THE TEAM. It should be a complementary team (better if you have a developer and a marketing guy than two developers, etc...).
During both interviews they pushed us a lot about our commitment and also a lot about the team, our rèsumè, how did we meet each other, our relationship, who is taking care of each part of the project.
We talked about 70% of the time about commitment and team and 30% about the business plan and the idea.
The idea is not the important thing, it's the EXECUTION, that's the step where fail most of us.
And finally THE PROJECT. Regarding this point it's important that you are able to show how you and them are going to get money with it. It's a "silly" detail but they are not NGOs, they are assuming a big risk giving you money in exchange for "a hope".
So, you must prove you are not "a hope", you are "a reality", and they will have a revenue for each $ they invest on your idea (and of course thanks to that the world will be a bit better ;-D).