By the end of the day this Thursday, we’ve promised to narrow our pool of 393 applications down to about 30 finalists for 10 spots this summer. About 80 applications were received on the very last day of the application period, just a week ago.
Obviously, we can’t do a ton of due diligence on each of the companies that applied. Between April 1 and the April 10 deadline, mathematically we have about 35 minutes to consider each company. And that’s if we don’t sleep, eat or do anything else. It’s of course true that earlier applications have received additional consideration, but you get the point. We have to make some pretty quick decisions around here.
Letting 363 companies know that they haven’t made the first cut will not be fun. It’s tough telling entrepreneurs “no”, especially so many interesting ones all at once. For all practical purposes, those 363 companies will perceive that they have been “rejected” by Techstars. Last year, once we notified the non-finalists, many of them wrote asking for specific feedback on why their application was rejected. We try to give some very high level feedback to those who ask, but it’s not practical for us to get into a prolonged discussion with each company.
Because of this, I wanted to shed some light on the common reasons that we don’t select certain applications as finalists.
We didn’t think the team had the right ingredients. There’s no exact formula for what we’re looking for, but if something jumps out at us as an obvious issue in the team, then we’ll likely pass.
The team looks interesting, but we are not interested in your general idea/market. As investors we reserve the right to invest in things that are interesting to us personally. After all, it’s our money, time, energy and effort. We’ve all had our own good and bad experiences, and this affects that types of ideas and markets we’re interested in exploring.
We aren’t the right group of people to help your company. Sometimes we receive applications for ideas that we honestly don’t think we can help with all that much. If it’s not software, web, or some form of information technology, it’s probably just not up our alley.
The application was sparse, lazy, or incomplete. This one is pretty self explanatory. If it’s not important enough to you to provide a reasonable amount of detail, then it’s not important enough for us to consider seriously.
We emailed and/or called you and you didn’t respond. 100% follow-up is an important trait for an entrepreneur. For us it’s a simple litmus test.
We emailed you, spoke to you, or met you and it just didn’t feel “right” to us. This is obviously totally subjective, but we tend to trust our gut after our interactions with you.
Lack of demonstrated talent. This one is tricky, but we do look for signs of talent and ability to execute. If your company is purely idea stage, and you have not supplied any compelling history of execution, we’re likely to pass. We realize that this could simply be “bad timing” and that your team just hasn’t gotten up and running yet.
Other stuff was even more interesting. Even if we like your team and your idea, it’s possible that we just like other stuff more.
It’s important to realize that non-selection is not really rejection. It’s just non-selection. If you look at this list of reasons, you should start to realize that there is no crystal ball. Much of this is purely subjective and the balance goes to our preferences as investors. Further, many of our decisions are based upon limited information in a highly compressed timeframe.
If you’ve applied this year and receive notification of non-selection on Thursday, we sincerely hope that you will go on to do great things. It will not surprise us one bit.