By Craig Lambert, Co Founder, Slingshot Accelerator
In early December we will be holding two full days of pitches for Startups to apply to the third year of our HCF Catalyst program.
After running close to 10 of these events this year I often get asked “what are you guys looking for?” or “how do I increase my chances of receiving an offer?”
So for those who may be applying to HCF or any other programs we will be running next year, here are a few things I look out for.
Apply for the right reason.
Don’t just apply to get an intro to the Corporate, or a bit of seed funding or just to see what happens. Carefully consider what the Accelerator offers, is it right for you and your team and can you put the time and effort into making the most of the experience if selected. If the answer is no, then maybe apply at a time when you are ready to commit to your Startup.
It’s a competitive process.
Typically, we have 300 plus Startups apply to one of our Corporate Accelerator programs. You will need to put effort in at all stages to be considered. Just because you have one strong element to your proposal (like a high profile advisory board member) won’t guarantee that you will get in.
Well completed application.
We use a fairly standard 12 question application form. For Startups who fill this out without any effort, leaving some questions blank or with poor responses it is difficult for me to imagine that you are going to run a highly professional Startup. The time difference between a poor application and a good one would be no more that 15 minutes.
Intent before pitch day.
I love Startups who use social media to celebrate that they have made it to the pitch round and so does our Corporate clients. It shows a real and genuine enthusiasm for the program, which is needed to be successful in any Accelerator. I certainly feel like I have more of a connection with the team when the walk in the room to pitch.
You are being assessed at all times.
From the moment you enter the building, to preparing in the green room and also post your pitch, we are taking notice. Be polite, courteous and humble the entire time not just when you pitch for 4 minutes. I have certainly chosen to progress Startups through the process based on feedback not related to the pitch.
4 minutes isn’t long.
Yes 4 minutes isn’t a long time but when you have experienced hundreds if not thousands of pitches it is enough time for our selection and investment panel to make a decision on whether your team should be considered for the next stage. Don’t worry about the limited amount of time, just get good at telling your story concisely with brevity.
Quality speaker support.
That means slides people! Slides reflect the aspiration of the team. Spend the time, engage a designer (from the large selection of online options), make your slides reflect the type of business you want to build. Sloppy or poorly designed decks do have a negative impact on your presentation.
Put your best person forward.
Pick one member of your team who is the most comfortable presenting the idea. Rehearse together and be objective when making this decision. Sometimes the CEO isn’t the best person to pitch the idea. Pick your best option.
I pick founders over ideas.
The team is really what I am looking at, not the idea. With a Corporate Accelerator typically there are themes related to the Corporate sponsors strategy and an Accelerator is an ideal environment to test ideas so I am not looking for the next big thing. What I am looking for is industry knowledge, market knowledge, honesty, enthusiasm, respect and humour and whether the assembled team can execute the idea. If there is a track record of success in another chosen field which could include academia, sport, the arts or public service it certainly carries weight.
Be the best you can be.
At each stage of the selection process from the application to the pitch to the follow up be the best you can be. If you are consistent, respond to questions in a timely manner and are applying for the right reasons you have a very good chance of receiving an offer.