One Incredible Way to Improve Your Chances of Getting into an Accelerator

Another Way to Get In

There are any number of ways you can improve your chances of getting into an accelerator, which—in the GAN Community—looks like being one of the rare 3-4% of applicants. Take, for instance, these tips from program directors at GAN Accelerators in various locations around the world. Or, these tips we pulled together straight from our yearly data reports. Or, these additional insights on specific factors that accelerators favor for when reviewing applications. You can also go to business school, read on your own time, or find a good mentor.

But, one of the best ways I know to improve your chances is to consider attending a pre-accelerator program.

There’s no official definition (or curriculum, for that matter) when it comes to what a “pre-accelerator” is, but the title should give you a pretty good idea of what they do, which is help get your company ready before you decide to apply to or go through an accelerator. Attending one shows accelerator Managing Directors that you’re truly committed to your business and getting help. It also demonstrates you’re humble enough to get the support your company needs.

With that in mind, I asked Managing Directors at accelerators in the GAN Community about some of their favorite and most-liked pre-accelerator programs so you have ideas on how to get help, straight from some of the best in the world. Even if these specific programs aren’t in your community, you might find similar programs closer to home. Or, if there isn’t anything like this in your hometown, maybe you can use it as inspiration to start a program that might help you—and your peers—become the next local success story.

Pre-Accelerator Programs

Recommended by: Troy Vosseller and Chelsea Linder, gener8tor
Chelsea says: gener8tor runs a pre-accelerator called gBETA. We have two iterations of the program: One is industry-specific (e.g., MedTech, MusicTech and social impact, to name a few); and the other is community-based (e.g., gBETA Indy is for Indianapolis-based startups). We work with startups on connecting with mentors, validating their business models, acquiring customers, and investor-facing activities like developing executive summaries and pitch decks and pitching to investors and accelerators. gBETA’s goal is that one-third of graduates will go on to participate in a full-time, equity-based accelerator or raise at least $50,000. So far, out of our alumni who are at least one year out from graduatiion, 54% have achieved one of those goals.

ICAP Lean Startup Short Course
Recommended by: Evans McMillion, 757 Accelerate
Evans says: The best pre-acceleration program in our neck of the woods is ICAP Lean Startup Short Course. It is run by Bob Smith who has deep startup experience. His program provides early startup founders an introduction to the lean canvas model but focuses specifically on business model validation. Among many other things, course graduates leave with a structured and organized process by which they can do customer discovery and gather and learn from customer feedback. The program is currently supported by the Virginia Small Business Development Commission and offered for free. We are working together to raise funds to offer more courses a year, as well as to expand the offering to include how to get your first customer, how to run a pilot program, and how to structure a licensing deal or channel partnership. I cannot say enough about the depth of experience Bob and his team bring to this subject.

Lightning Lab Pre-Accelerator Program
Recommended by: Laura Reitel, Lightning Lab
Laura says: We run a pre-accelerator as one way to drive applications to our main accelerator programmes. We do this as an incentive for those who apply early (i.e., submit an application about a month before they close). Then, during this four-week period, one of our coaches runs weekly 1:1 remote meetings over Zoom where they mostly concentrate on customer and problem validation. This is a key starting point for any venture and very early/idea/prototype-stage ventures often have not done validation to an extent we’d like to see when applying to our full programme (sometimes it’s also the case with ventures that are further on). So we jump in, understand where they’re at, and then have weekly calls and check-ins and give them tasks to conclude for the next week. This gives us a good overview of their coachability as well as their ability to execute and helps us get to know the team. Founders see the value we can add to them before the accelerator kicks off, too, and we get to know them to see if we want them in the programme.

Recommended by: Tyler Booth, Relish Works
Tyler says: 1871 runs a great pre-accelerator program for women entrepreneurs called WiSTEM. Rebecca Sholiton, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at 1871, runs the 12-week program and is the former co-founder of a kids school lunch meal kit startup called Wise Apple. Rebecca is an awesome person and has a wealth of experience in the startup world. One of our Relish Works’ incubator companies, poolside, is an alumnus of WiSTEM’s 8th cohort, which graduated just this past fall and had nothing but great things to say about the program and the experience they gained.

Nova Startups
Recommended by: Sebastián Hernández, Orion Startups
Sebastián says: From our standpoint, it has been hard to make the bridge between the incubator and the accelerator, mostly because the startup scene in Mexico is still in development; but Nova Startups from Parque Tecnológico Orión is our go-to incubator. We are at the same building which has also helped aligned our interests throughout time.

Co.Starters & 48 Hour Launch
Recommended by: Eric Mathews, Start Co.
Eric says: Co.Starters is run in Memphis and now national and globally. It is a part-time, multi-week introduction to starting up and the lean methods. Further, Start Co. also runs 48 Hour Launch. It’s similar to Startup Weekend and that definitely lets people get to know us and for them to test drive their ideas.

Top Gun
Recommended by: Jason Harkins, Scratchpad Accelerator
Jason says: Here in Maine, we have Top Gun as a statewide effort alongside other pre-accelerators being developed within a variety of institutions around the state.

Blue Health Innovation Center
Recommended by: Lies Boghaert, imec.istart
Lies says: This program is just for startups focused on the health vertical but it’s a great pre-accelerator program for us to get to know startups and vice versa.