Top tips for getting onto an accelerator programme

Article by Megan Price, Co-Founder of Female-Founded Creative Content Agency, Be The Fox

As we enter yet another uncertain time both socially and economically, there is no doubt there will be an impact on businesses, especially start-ups. 

Accelerator programmes offer intensive and strategic business support which can be the difference between make or break. The problem is, accelerator programmes can be extremely competitive so how can businesses heighten their chances of being accepted onto one? There are six keys aspects to bear in mind to heighten your chances:

  1. Do your homework. Make sure you have deeply researched the competitive landscape. It’s okay if there are competitors out there, it proves there is a market, but ensure you know what your points of difference are. In delving into why you are of particular value you also will gain clarity over who your customers are and be able to talk with more confidence about how you plan to grow sales. More generally, in exploring your competitors you’re demonstrating that you’re not scared to face up to potential obstacles and that you can assess them with a level head to figure out the best way of moving forward.
  2. Why you? At this stage, the application team is looking for investable businesses, but the decision will rely on having the right people at the helm. It’s likely you’ll have lots of relevant professional experience, but think about other ways you’re perfect. What are your personal interests, what other experience do you have that is relevant to the sector or as a leader? In exploring these you show why you are so passionate about what you are doing as well as helping convince the team that you have the energy and determination to push through when things get challenging because we all know that they undoubtedly will!  Also think about how these other interests and experiences link to this being exactly the right moment for your start-up.
  3. Your relevance to investors’ needs. Another part of demonstrating that now is the right moment is having some idea of trends in investment. For a while there’s been talk that unicorn start-ups have had their day – it’s now cockroaches turn to, if not shine, survive whatever is thrown at them.  More than ever this outlook is applicable. If you’re a cockroach, make it clear how you are adaptable and primed for long-term survival.  However, you might be a unicorn, but have another aspect to you that is grabbing investors’ attention right now.  For a long time there has been a considerable amount of research showing the outperformance of gender diverse teams, but finally investors are starting to catch on.  It’s not that hitting investor trends will be a decider as to whether you’ll get on the programme, but they do show a certain smart, and could tip the balance.
  4. How you charge. Often there’s a lot of talk about what you are going to sell, but how you are actually going to sell it gets omitted, partly because it seems obvious. Be precise over how you will charge for whatever you are selling.  Will you be doing this as a fee per unit?  Is it a membership?  A subscription?  You don’t have to have the details such as price figured out, but stating the method is a nice, simple shorthand for the kind of business model you’re following and the kind of growth curve it might expect.
  5. What are your known unknowns? At this stage in the process you won’t know everything. That’s why you’re applying for an accelerator programme. However, it’s important to understand what you don’t know, so when you’re asked about it, you can explain how you plan to get all of the answers. Ultimately the team wants the programme to be a success, i.e. at the end you to get the investment that best serves you. Knowing how they can help, what particular expertise and guidance will best suit you, makes this much more likely.
  6. Stay calm under pressure. 20% of start-ups fail in the first year, so times will be testing. When applying for an accelerator you may be tested to see how you fare under pressure. Remain calm and refer back to points 1-5. If you know your business, the market, are passionate that you will do what it takes and have researched your journey to investment, then you have everything you need to succeed.  Try to take the application process as the first learning in your journey to get investment. And remember, like investors, the application team are on the hunt for exciting new prospects, and whilst they will stress test you, the relationship is very much a mutual one.  They will get a kick out of your business thriving (nearly) as much as you.  All you are doing is proving to them that the chance is high.

About the author

Megan PriceMeg started her career in TV making award-winning comedy series such as Gavin and Stacey, The Mighty Boosch and Live at The Apollo.  She also worked on more serious productions such as the BBC’s lead science series Horizon and the renowned (though now extinct) Crimewatch, including a special where she filmed undercover with the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

With over a decade of TV production experience to her name, Megan joined forces with Director Diana Ellis-Hill to establish the female-founded creative content agency Be The Fox. From the get go the Brighton-based agency has been producing integrated campaigns for standout brands such as Samsung, Honda, Bulldog Skincare and Nissan, often breaking gender stereotypes and challenging audiences to engage in new ways.