Ask Techstars: Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to an Accelerator

We recently held AMA sessions about applying to an accelerator program. To help answer questions, we had Lesa Mitchell, managing director for Techstars Kansas City, and Jenny Fielding, managing director for Techstars IoT in New York City. 

What are common mistakes to avoid when applying to an accelerator?

Jenny: If you send an incomplete application, meaning you don’t put a video of your product and of the founders, that’s going to be really hard for us. You have to understand that we get thousands and thousands of applications, so the first thing we do is look at the founder video. If you don’t put that in, that’s really tough for us. Similarly, the product video is very helpful.

Another common mistake is being very verbose and writing paragraphs and paragraphs. This is not a college essay, this is all about being concise and making your point. I encourage you to think it through. If you tend to be long-winded, then have someone edit it.

Another mistake is the question in the application where it asks if you could list a few competitors, and people say ‘none.’ That always gives me pause, because I’m pretty sure that there are people in the space that you are working in. They may be thinking about it differently, but you need to know your market.

Another thing I would say is that you can wait for the night before, but the thing I would encourage you to do is try to make contact with people that are running these programs before you apply. If you just send in an application, you’ve never been to any of our events and you’ve never had any contact with us, and you send it in the night before, sometimes that’s not the best approach.

Although we look at and read every single application, my strong advice is get to know us before and apply early. That way, as we read them we can get back to you and schedule something or contact you if we see something missing.

Lesa: There is no such thing as being too simple when describing what you’re doing. You want to do it in a way that investors and customers can understand. Keep it as simple as possible in terms of trying to help us understand the problems that you’re solving with your company.

You can watch the answer here and also replay the full Q&A.  

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