We recently held an AMA session to answer questions on applying to an accelerator program. To help answer questions, we had Lesa Mitchell, the managing director for Techstars Kansas City, and Ted Serbinski, managing director for Techstars Mobility in Detroit.
What is the one thing you can do to stand out during the application process, outside of user and revenue growth?
Ted: The biggest things I look for in applications are the team video and the product video. We limit those videos to just a minute because one, it’s impossible to look at all the applications if we have to watch more than a minute.
But, two, more importantly, it focuses the team on highlighting the most important things about that team or about that product that they’re working on. If you can’t crisply explain what you’re working on or why you’re working on it in a minute, it’s going to be really hard to do that during Techstars.
Focus on that one minute to say “this is the best thing about our team,” and highlight “this is one thing about our product.” That concise factor really makes it interesting to see what it is about that team, how do they think about themselves in a minute, and how do they think about their product in a minute. It doesn’t need to be high production value. If anything, how you produce the video can say a lot about what you’re like as a team.
One of the best videos from one of my previous companies was actually filmed in a coffee shop. The reason it was so good was because they waited until the last minute to film it, so that it gave us a sense of their deadline and their ability to get things done. But it also gave us a sense of their personality, where they even admitted “hey, we’re doing this in a coffee shop, and we don’t have money to put it into production, but we’re really passionate about what we’re doing.” Using whatever means to get those videos done says a lot about you and your company.
Lesa: Having an insight and understanding about the founders and the problems that they have is most important. I really want to know that founders are scrappy. Taking an easy way in is never going to work as an entrepreneur. Scrappiness could include finding other people that have been through Techstars and finding an opportunity to talk with them. Get them to make a comment about you, or even mention that you’ve talked to them.
Techstars is going to be what you make of it, and how hard you work when you’re in the program. We only get you for a short period of time, so a piece of what you have to figure out through the process is whether or not a founder and their team are all in. That’s pretty hard to discern, so anything that you can help us to understand your “all in-ness” is super helpful.
Ted: One thing to add that is important – complete your entire profile. You don’t need pages and pages per question. A sentence or two, or a tweet-like response, can be sufficient. But I’m always surprised at the companies that take the time to do a video or a team video but don’t take the 30 seconds it takes to fill out the rest of it. Just taking the time to fill it out completely can say a lot about your own personality as a founder.