What it Takes to Land a Spot at the World’s Best Accelerators

Getting into a GAN Accelerator can be very difficult.

Last year alone, 40,415 startups applied for a spot with one of more than 100 GAN Accelerators across the globe and only 8,130 received some sort of interview.

But just a mere 1,435 (or 3.6%) were accepted into a program.

For those chosen few, it means they did something right. What exactly might that have been? What are program staff looking for when applications come their way?

I reached out to leaders of GAN Accelerators to shed light on what helps startup applications rise to the top. Unsurprisingly, their answers were incredible, and there’s a good chance these insights might help you make the cut next time you apply.

Dylan Boyd

R/GA Ventures
Twitter: @dtboyd

The Application
I’m looking for:

  1. Clearly communicated answers.
  2. Short answers that leave room for even better future conversations—leave me wanting to ask more.
  3. Completed applications with easy links to decks, videos, LinkedIn, references, etc. (I look at 1000s of applications a year, so make it easy for me to spend time with you.)
  4. Don’t send me notes on LinkedIn letting me know your application is started or completed. I will know.

The People
I’m looking for people who are:

  1. Willing to having an open conversation.
  2. Aware of their metrics and opportunities.
  3. Equally aware of their challenges and shortcomings.
  4. Open and receptive to feedback—but more importantly, people who can process that feedback and do something with it.
  5. People I’d actually want to get a phone call from at 11 p.m. on a Saturday—not only this week but five years from now.

The Business
I’m looking for:

  1. Clarity of the idea.
  2. Understanding of the market and a vision for why this is wanted/needed.
  3. Understanding the models of driving revenue and have plans to actively do that or test that.
  4. Clear models or assumptions on the CAC, LTV, and churn.
  5. Go-to-market ideas that have been clearly thought out.

Chenoa Farnsworth

Blue Startups
Twitter: @cfarnswo17

  1. Team: We have a strict “No Jerks” policy. We always ask ourselves, “Do we want to spend the next three months with these people?”
  2. Product: Something built already. We don’t invest in ideas.
  3. Market: Global potential, but niche-focused to start (with a marketing plan that’s well-defined).
  4. Can we help them? This is probably the most important question we ask. We will reject an awesome company if we don’t think we can add value.

Daniel Tomov

Twitter: @danieltomov

First, we start with the team. We dig very much into the individual backgrounds of the team members, their history together, the challenges they have overcome together, their domain and tech expertise, as well as what other people say about them (reputation reference check). We also try to validate their commitment and ambition—the latter being a major challenge these days. Everyone claims they want to be big or be a winner, but very few mean it and are ready to live it.

The rest is a relatively standard approach:

  1. Value Proposition: What is their promise to the customer? Why does it matter? Who is the typical customer (psychology model/motivation)? Etc.
  2. Market Specifics: What specific niche are they in? Who are their competitors?
  3. Business Model: What’s their value capture and what’s their go-to-market plan?

Troy Vosseller

Twitter: @troyvosseller

Lead with traction. Even if it’s a small amount of revenue, tell us you are making sales and going down the path of customer validation.

Wayne Murphy

Twitter: @waynemurphy77

I’m looking for:

  1. Clear signs of ambition within a positive team, led by a confident CEO.
  2. Ideally, prior experience of failure and indications that they learned from that experience.
  3. Subject Matter Expertise—a detailed knowledge of the space and/or technology they are focusing on or building and the market they are targeting, which creates credibility.
  4. Global scaling potential in a valuable market with minimum 10x return.
  5. Truly disruptive technologies that have the potential to change the way a market operates.
  6. A real sense of fun!

Dina el-Shenoufy

Twitter: @Shenoufs

I’m looking for:

  1. Team: Experience, skills/product match, previous track record, worked before.
  2. Product: An inherent IP or “secret sauce.” It doesn’t have to be a patent or a 100% innovation, but enough to have a clear edge, even if it’s only a local innovation.
  3. Market Scarcity: Is there a clear market gap?
  4. Early Traction/Validation: A company already generating revenues/has users proves the market.
  5. Growth: Early signs of solid growth—even if it’s a simple idea—are sexy.