5 Tips on How to Make your Accelerator Application Stand Out
By Lance Black, M.D., medical device innovation lead at the TMC Innovation Institute
Now that I’ve joined a health care startup accelerator, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies in all stages of development. I’ve also learned that, depending on the accelerator, there are certain things that they look out for when considering companies to invite.
As I sift through applications to the upcoming TMCx medical device accelerator, I’m reminded of a few. So, if you are a founder getting ready to submit an application to an accelerator, here are five tips that can help make your application stand out:
- SHOW the need: The problem your company is focused on solving—the unmet clinical need—has to be shown, not just stated.
In your application, show that this need exists through your voice of customer research, ethnographic research and expert interviews. This is critical and demonstrates you have a deep understanding of the health care provider’s need. Stated otherwise, no one cares what you believe about the problem, but, instead, it’s the words of those in the weeds who are experiencing the problem that matters.
2. WHY is your solution the best solution?: Ideas are a dime a dozen, so you have to show why yours will be the next best thing.
Start with a clear explanation, avoiding extensive jargon and presumed background knowledge. We have Ph.D.s, M.D.s, engineers, MBAs and more reviewing every application, so the audience is educated but wide.
Use illustrations or animations to describe the technical features of your product and how it works. Capturing different learning styles when explaining the most critical aspect of your company can not be overstated. Finally, EVERY company has competitors. Discuss what is currently out on the market, and what is to come, then describe your key differentiators.
3. BET on the jockey, not the horse: The management team is simply what makes or breaks a company. Two things really have to be exercised in your application.
First, why is your team the best suited to bring this technology to the market? This means not only demonstrating the technical experience required to develop, iterate and produce your product, but also the business expertise required to bring a company from a handful of people with an idea to a handful of millionaires.
Second, you may have a team of all-stars yet perform collectively like a junior varsity team. It can be tough to show how your company operates well together on an application. The pinnacle of which would be your team has successfully started and exited a company previously, with the trough being you met yesterday. Focus on the milestones you have achieved thus far, and how they required the collective input of a successful team.
4. “Every battle is won, before it is fought.” — Sun Tzu: Strategy is key, and the reviewers of your application need to understand your different strategies: regulatory, product development and go-to-market strategies to name a few. Spend more time on those strategies that are unique to your company and may not be well understood at first glance, and less time on clear delineated paths.
For instance, if your device is a Class II 510(k) with a well-established predicate, state that plainly, and don’t “vomit” the entire FDA process on your application and claim that as part of your ‘strategy.’ If, however, there is a unique twist to your regulatory plan, devote more time to it and describe what brought the team to adopt that strategy.
5. “Show me the money!” — Jerry Maguire: Brag about your progress. Demonstrate the traction you have gained through capital raised, partnerships acquired, key supporters and significant milestones achieved. Investors like to invest in companies that have already been invested in because they know someone else has done their due diligence and believe the company to be, well, investable.
In reviewing hundreds of applications, reviewers rely heavily on the opinion of others. If experts or organizations have taken interest in your product, spend the time explaining that. This is also where a lot of entrepreneurs can get in trouble too, so be specific regarding your relationship with different entities, as well as how you raised your capital. If you are going to lie on your application, don’t do it here. And, by the way, don’t do it anywhere.
At TMCx, we have had the luxury of reviewing applications from amazing companies, but it is always a difficult process.
Our application is open until June 20, so I will be checking to see if companies provide the answers to those questions when reading through applications in the coming weeks.
Choosing between two companies centered around similar technologies can sometimes feel like choosing your favorite child.
Thankfully, I only have one child, and you only have one company (hopefully). So put everything you have into this application, and we will certainly give it the review it deserves. Good luck!