6 Ways To Get Into Leading Startup Accelerators

500 startups

What Is One Piece Of Advice You Would Give To Those Applying To Accelerators?

The following answers are provided by graduates of Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups and leading accelerators. Startup accelerators have become an increasingly important part of the startup scene in recent years in part because a number of successful startups, including DropBox and AirBnB, are graduates from these programs, encouraging other founders to apply. At the same time accelerators have become increasingly difficult to be accepted into, with programs such as Y Combinator posting acceptance rates lower than Harvard University. Below is advice on how to be accepted into these programs.


1. Network

“For your best chance of being accepted into an accelerator program, get in touch with people in the accelerator’s community – past founders, mentors and employees. Ask their advice, figure out if you are at the right stage and if your goals align with the program and expected outcomes. And then if you can, get them to put in a good word for you.”

Audrey Melnik, Zootrock – 500 Startups



2. Stay Grounded

“When applying to accelerators, be mindful to stay grounded and not read too much into the outcome. Rejection from an accelerator does not necessarily imply counter-validation; acceptance may imply some level of validation, but nowhere near as much as what you can obtain from a potential customer, user, or partner.”

Shehzad Daredia, – Y Combinator



3. Always Be Pitching

“Idea -> Prototype -> Users -> Lots of Users -> Revenue -> Lots of Revenue. That’s the ladder for startup success – make sure you are as far up the ladder as possible when you walk into the interview. And remember – Always Be Pitching – the accelerators are just a microcosm for real life – everyone there is a potential investor, collaborator, board member, etc.”

Vivek Shah, SimplyInsured – Y Combinator



4. Get An Outside Perspective

“Run your application by as many people as possible, and get a good mix of tech folks and non-tech folks. You think about your startup all the time, so it’s almost impossible to get outside yourself and see what other people would find confusing about your application. And even if you don’t get in, this experience will be invaluable for learning about how to talk about your company.”

Greg Laughlin, Statwing – Y Combinator



5. Find The Right Program

“It’s about stage fit and people fit. Make sure that the accelerator you’re looking to join has a structure/curriculum and supporting resources for a company at your stage. Next look at who is running the accelerator, its mentor community, and how engaged they are with the startups; ensure there are enough people with experience in your domain that can help you strategically grow your business.”

Josh Sookman, Guardly – MaRS Investment Accelerator



6. Be Persistent

“When applying to accelerators, remember to treat the application process itself as a learning opportunity. We applied to TechStars three times before we got in. During that time, we were forced to get in the mindset of seeking out feedback, digesting it, and giving regular updates to our supporters about our progress. This mindset alone changed the trajectory of our company for the better.”

Austin Evarts, GoChime – TechStars



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