How to Prepare for Your First-Stage Interview With An Accelerator
You’ve landed an interview with an accelerator. Congrats! This means you have demonstrated that you have a valuable idea, a dedicated team with the skills to pull it off, and that there is a market demand for your product.
So, what next? Interviewing with an accelerator is different from any other interview you would prepare for. It isn’t a job interview nor is it an investor interview.
Making a lasting impression is your priority. Accelerator programs like ours have the chance to select from over 1500 impact-driven startups from around the world. That means, you often only have a 15 minute window of opportunity to convince us that you´re a company worth investing in.
Don’t let the opportunity go.
To help you prepare, our scouting team has put together a list of tips to ensure that you will nail your accelerator interview. It is our hope that you will excel in your interview(s) and claim a well-deserved place in an accelerator.
1. Have your elevator pitch READY
Can you describe your startup in 60 seconds? You’re probably aware (or will soon figure out) that being able to pitch your company (and yourself) is key in the startup journey. Storytelling is what connects you to potential investors, clients, and accelerator programs. Your elevator pitch is essential and is quite possibly the most significant part when it comes to selling your mission.
Crafting the perfect elevator pitch is the ultimate test of making every word count. And while the pitch itself is brief, you should spend a good amount of time constructing it. Moreover, you need to use language that is relatable to everyone, not just experts or people working in your industry. Condense your story by hitting on your sweet spot while addressing the problem you are solving. No matter who you pitch to, you want it to resonate.
A winning recipe for a compelling elevator pitch has three main ingredients:
1. The Problem
What are you trying to solve? Why are you solving it? Be careful not to dole out details that are commonly known or accessible. And don’t use the short amount of time you have to give us a history lesson (i.e. “When climate change began …”). Your focus should illustrate the status quo and how the challenge affects people, places, etc.
2. The Solution
What exactly is it that your company is doing to combat the problem? How does the product or service you provide tie into the equation? This is where you point out how you will address that very challenge in the most efficient way.
3. The Hook
What indisputable fact supports your ability to tackle this challenge? What sets you apart as the problem-solver? In tackling this, you need to clearly communicate what your sweet spots are and why you are the one that will succeed in making this happen.
2. Conversation over Presentation
If you sound exactly like the words on your deck then you should brush up on how you will present. Make sure to relay with enthusiasm why it is you’re doing what you’re doing. You should be able to pinpoint the beginning of your journey, where you are now, and where you want to go. In other words, know your story. Storytelling is a crucial part of the startup world (didn’t we just talk about this?). Putting a human touch on your conversation instead of relying on your deck will show that you have personality. Accelerators want companies who can easily rub elbows with investors, build meaningful relationships, and well, not be awkward around the office.
3. What Sets YOU Apart
There is a big chance the idea you are trying to get off the ground has been heard before. By highlighting a clear vision and your unique selling point (USP), you can quickly demonstrate what sets you apart from the crowd. Be able to pinpoint your sweet spot that gives you a competitive advantage, such as a distinct benefit. A USP should be specific, clearly illustrate impact, and include a distinct key differentiator. If you can’t identify your USP, you will be hard pressed convincing future investors why they should back you. Below is a helpful formula for creating your USP.
Your startup’s name + Overview of Company + Point of Distinction USP) + Market Opportunity = Brand Positioning Statement
4. Know Your Customer
Understanding your market is crucial when you form a company. Customers, suppliers, and your competition make up the foundation of your business. Using research to infer whether you are filling a gap in the market shows that you are keeping an eye on what is going on. You should be able to speak in-depth about how your customer’s needs are changing or what your competition is doing that is akin to your business. What’s working for your competitors? What kind of feedback are you getting from your customers? Have this information handy.
5. Know Your Business Model
Your business model is as much a part of the structure and identity of your company as your mission statement. Turning a worthwhile idea into a lasting business requires a working revenue model. In the early stages of your startup, it is critical to be transparent about how you expect to profit. Be realistic when talking about projections and be creative and proactive in pursuing other revenue streams.
You should also ensure that your vision and mission lines up with your business model. It should reflect the values of your startup while supporting future growth. Accelerators look for well-structured models that are consistent with your ambitions, while boosting your bottom line.
6. Know your Team
Many companies have core team members in different cities, countries, and sometimes even on different continents. Just because you and your team don’t share the same zip code, doesn’t mean you can’t be a tight-knit team. Your rapport with your team can make or break your interview.
You should have a very clear picture about team dynamics and structure. It’s imperative to have a united voice and know who on your team will answer questions during the interview. Going into the interview, agree on who the ambassador for your company will be. That being said, it’s also wise to include more than just your CEO in the conversation. Asking thoughtful questions and showing that you’re in sync with one another is a surefire way to send us the right signal.
After all, we don´t only invest in great ideas, we invest in great ideas led by great teams.
So, are you are READY? Best of luck and let us know how your interview goes. Perhaps you are interviewing with us soon so who knows where this will take you?
Either way, all the very best from the Katapult Accelerator Team.