How we hacked our way in a startup accelerator

How we hustled the final selection round of one of the biggest French startups accelerator.

Having b**ls is like knowing how to bike. When you have it, it never goes away for the rest of your life. My name is Sofiane and I’m the co-founder & CEO of Clopify, a premium e-cigarette service.
Today, we were supposed to attend the final selection round of Numa Accelerate, one of the best French startups accelerator, based in Paris.
This final round was the end of a long selection process started 2 months ago, which included more than 650 appliant startups.
So, for us and our innovation project called Above, it was the « Graal », the money-time, where you are supposed to shine and step ahead of your competitors with a kick-ass presentation and qualify your team.
But we didn’t show up to this final presentation… And I’m going to tell you why.

First things first, I need to put this into context. Numa’s first round of selection was an online form with a lot of relevant questions about our business, our vision, our team…you know, just the basic questions any investor would ask before giving any more attention to your project.
Fair enough, we answered all the questions, we even made a short humble video and we were qualified to the next round of selection. Easy.

Serious things started here. We had to introduce the Above project, our innovative « personal wellness vaporizer », to a jury. This jury was going to see 100 startups in only one week, so what was the biggest challenge for us ? To be remembered.

So we went there and we pitched. The jury obviously liked it and the day after we received an email announcing that we were qualified for the great final.

We were very excited to be qualified for this final round, and we wanted to kick-ass so bad for the last presentation. But then, an unexpected email arrived in our mailbox five days before the last presentation. The Numa team asked us a lot of questions about the innovating technology we were developing, when would it be ready, what warranties could we give them …

While brainstorming with my partners on the best way to provide them security, we joked around and said silly things like : « and what if we go there and do like Erlich in the TV Show Silicon Valley and put our b**ls on the table ? » That would impress them right ?
And then I said “What if we don’t show up?”.

We did realize that we lost focus on our main goal: Ship our product. A lot of startup in France spend their time and die writing Business Plans, pitching over and over again. We are not one of those, we are Above.

So, we came up with the most rational plan : Stay at the office and work hard. We will hurry up to finish the prototype (damn we had only 3 days left), and send a runner deliver it to the jury at the exact time of our pitch, while we pursue our journey to product market-fit. A demo of the product is worth a hundred words.

It sounds arrogant right ? But think about it. What better message could we deliver ? We are a startup and we move fast. They had doubts about the technology and they wanted warranties. Ok fine. So we had to make it happen in 3 days. We had no other choice. We don’t have any time to lose on preparing the pitch, we have to deliver. It wouldn’t have been relevant to work on that pitch for 3 days. Instead, we preferred to remove any doubts from their heads on our capacity to deliver.

We leveraged our network to help us make it happen. Thanks Guillaume ;)

3 days later…

We asked a runner (who is actually a friend) to deliver our package at 5.20 pm at the exact time when we were supposed to pitch.

Here is a picture of it :

Even if we are rejected, it would have been the best decision we have made, because all we want is work with people that share our culture.

Sofiane Belghali, Founder & CEO @ Clopify / Above

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