Tips for Applying to Accelerators: Fierce, Flexible and Functioning


Eric 3If you have done much research on investors, you realize that they don’t bet on ideas; they bet on teams. What’s true for venture capitalists is doubly true for accelerators, where the likelihood for significant changes, including a wholesale reboot to another idea, is highly likely for all entering teams.

With this in mind, the selection criteria for all early stage investments is heavily weighted to the team dimension. In fact, we estimate that 90% of the decision for acceptance into Start Co. accelerators is based on the team. Our application questions and our interview process help us uncover these traits. Within the team, we look for the three Fs:

1) Fierce: Willing to face a lot of rejection as well as hard knocks.
2) Flexible: Coachable and willing to change when faced with feedback and data that indicates a change is needed.
3) Functioning: execution oriented, rather than getting stuck in the idea and thinking phase.

The other 10% of the investment decisions are more like table stakes items that can get a team disqualified fast. These include:

1) Communication: Being able to clearly articulate verbally and in written language your business concepts, etc.
2) Idea: Must be high growth potential and leverage a significant innovation. In almost all cases, they must also leverage a technology.

Finally, there is one other important aspect that we consider in a team: number of founders. Being a solo founder is a negative selection criteria. While it won’t totally disqualify you, it will reduce the likelihood of acceptance. Research shows that teams with 2-3 founders function best. There is also such a thing as too many founders. If your team is over 4 people we’ll also start to look hard at the team — too many cooks will spoil your startup soup.

Looking for even more application advice? Check back Thursday and I’ll talk about specifics on application tactics.

Eric Mathews is CEO and co-president of Start Co. He can be reached at