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Application criteria for startup accelerators: insiders’ tips & tricks

At some point in your startup life you might want to join into an accelerator programme to really get things going. However you need to do a bit more than just filling in an application form. How to perfectly apply for the best accelerators in The Netherlands? We asked Startupbootcamp, Rockstart Accelerator, YES!Delft and UtrechtInc for some insiders’ tips and tricks.

For Startupbootcamp, general partner Marc Wesselink;
For Rockstart,international programme specialist Eric Brotto;
For YES!Delft, we spoke marketing manager Sagar Boers about the LaunchLab programme;
For UtrechtInc, we talked to director Jorg Kop and acceleration manager Ruben Brands about the Pressure Cooker programme.

What’s the first thing you look at when receiving an application?

Startupbootcamp: The team.
Rockstart: Traction. It may be obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many companies focus on other things such as raising investments or PR.
YES!Delft: The idea. Is it innovative? Is it tech? Next: potential and scalability.
UtrechtInc: The team and a fit in our focus areas (e-health, e-climate and e-learning). Next: scalability, potential and a good product.

To what extent have criteria for accelerators changed in the last two years? What has become less/more important?

Startupbootcamp: We look more if there might be a fit with our partners, who can help them better.
Rockstart: We have been around for a while now, so we are looking for more mature startups. We are better at what we do, so we expect the same from our companies. Coachability is also a major factor that we emphasize more and more. This means the founders take criticism very well and learn quickly.
YES!Delft: Prior we looked at a startup in general. Now we are far more specific: we look at the tech, the market, IP and team.
UtrechtInc: Since a year and a half we aim at startups with a positive impact on society. In six years of UtrechtInc, we’ve looked more at the strength and potential of teams.

Do you see a trend in the entrepreneurs’ applications as well?

Startupbootcamp: There are so much events these days, that applicants are prepared way better than before.
Rockstart: People are trying to create two-sided marketplaces for anything. ‘Uber for X’ has been big for a while now.
YES!Delft: Overall we see more enthusiasm. Entrepreneurs are very detailed in telling about their business. We’re happy about that, because that way we have more intel, allowing us to select faster and better.
UtrechtInc: More ‘non-entrepreneurs’ are entering the funnels, thinking an accelerator programme is beatific to them. This is not the right mindset for building a company.

When in doubt about an applicant, what will be decisive?

Startupbootcamp: We create a teamscan with the Facet5 personality test, which gives us insights in how complementary the team is.
Rockstart: A top 50 of applicants gets interviews with us and our mentor network, focusing on character and personality. Aside from that, it would be the market potential of their product.
YES!Delft: We have three rounds of application. When in doubt, we’re asking detailed questions in round 2.
UtrechtInc: The people behind the startup. For instance: do they have a strong CEO? What skills do they have and are they complimentary?

What is absolutely not done when applying for accelerators?

Startupbootcamp: Nothing! I think when you create something out of nothing, you should be very creative – even when it comes to applying for an accelerator.
Rockstart: People with big egos who don’t listen to feedback. If you get someone who says he’ll be the next Steve Jobs, that’s a red flag.
YES!Delft: It’s important to give detailed and complete information, so withholding something is a no-go. Next to that, it’s not done to make your team look better than it actually is.
UtrechtInc: Apply to accelerators only to participate part-time. Not taking coaches seriously. Burying your head in the sand when something goes wrong, not keeping coaches/mentors/investors in the loop.

Image: Pixabay

Lorenz van Gool

Lorenz is co-editor-in-chief of StartupJuncture. As a freelance editor and journalist, he writes about startups, innovation and (e)-business. Loves to report from conferences. Really likes cleantech and journalism startups. You can ask him anything about dinosaurs. Twitter: @lorenzroman

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