Demystifying the accelerator application process
Advice on applying to the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)
— updated 3 February 2020
We want you to focus on building a great business so we’ve made applying to MAP relatively straightforward and true to life, recreating aspects of the fundraising process.
As I approach my fourth year working at MAP, there’s quite a lot that I’ve seen over the years with the MAP team — here are seven application-time do’s and don’ts!
The Three Do’s
1. Focus on your business
When you apply to MAP we only expect to see a 3-minute video on your startup and a short online application in the first stage.
A big reason we do this is so that you can spend time on The One Thing That Matters… your startup! Rather than finessing your pitch, focus on the things you need to do to build a successful company, at the end of the day its the content of what you put into your pitch that will really catch our eye.
Whether it’s speaking to your customers, landing a vital partnership or getting to the next test phase of your product build, maintaining focus is key. It can also be exciting to rally your team towards a milestone — while our application deadline (Sun 22 Mar, 11:59 pm) can be a much-needed kick in the bum for early-stage startups, it shouldn’t be the only thing that gets you going.
2. Get your application in early
So while it’s a great big yes to remaining focused on company building, please don’t leave your application to the last minute!
Pitching your startup in 3 minutes takes thought and planning. As a first step, prepare a script and a storyboard for your slides. Then get feedback from your friends and colleagues and incorporate any amendments to the script and slides before you start filming.
Keep the language simple and production low frills, there’s no need to get fancy — get your iPhone out and make sure we can hear and see you. CNS Dose put a lot of thought into their application video, it paid off with their entry to MAP in 2016.
P.S. We’re a (very) curious team and tend to view each application as it comes through (although final decisions will only be made a week after applications close). So if you would like us to spend more time reviewing your startup, get to it!
3. Do your accelerator homework
MAP was established in 2012 as one of the first accelerators on the block. Eight years on, we are excited to be part of a vibrant startup scene in Melbourne with many accelerators to choose from.
When choosing an accelerator be sure to check out where their alumni are now, network access, mentors, opportunities for exposure, equity splits, support, resources given, etc, etc. In addition to the selection criteria, make sure you’re across any program obligations required of you before, during and after the program.
At MAP we give $20,000 (no equity taken), office space in Melbourne’s CBD, connect you to an international network of mentors and alumni, and surround you with a cohort of exceptional startup founders. Our accelerator process is founder driven and we build a program around you and your goals. We encourage you to attend the many events we have to connect with the team and our network as we head towards the application deadline.
The Four Don’ts
1. Don’t hide your impact
We care deeply about founders who are solving big problems. If you are a founder working on a particular societal or environmental issue, know that you’re welcome at MAP and we have built an impact community to support you and your work. As Social Impact Manager, I’ve been excited to see more founders concerned with building a good companies, who acknowledge their potential impact — accentuating the good and mitigating the bad. As of 2019, we expanded our application criteria so social impact startup founders no longer have to have an affiliation to the University of Melbourne to apply. You can check out more in another article I wrote here.
A quick bit of advice for impact founders, first — focus on nailing your problem statement (i.e. a tight compelling link between the issue at hand and your solution), second — get data that speaks to your impact and traction up front and centre (e.g. is it downstream savings, or redistributed revenue), and third — demonstrate the depth of experience and understanding of the problem in your team (e.g. who on your team is the domain expert that has first or second hand experience of the problem and how are you best positioned to tackle the particular social or environmental issue?).
2. Don’t underestimate the interview.
Across the entire application process, there are three opportunities to pitch (total 9 mins) and over an hour dedicated to learning more about your business in interviews (total 62 mins). This is a massive opportunity!
It’s the chance for you and your team to shine, for you to explain the inner workings of your startup and to tell us what sets you apart from your competition. That being said, keep your answers short, sharp and succinct (especially in the final selection panel interview). If you don’t know the answer, that’s ok — just be honest.
P.S. If there are two or more of you in the room for interviews, do not talk over each other — decide what types of questions will be answered by whom and trust each other to get the point across.
3. Don’t knock the feedback.
Whether you’re successful or not, the MAP application process is an opportunity to get valuable feedback. We make it a point to collect feedback from Stage 2 of the application process onwards and are happy to share it with you. As Jeremy discusses in each the Application Workshops he gives each year, receiving feedback can feel highly personal, but it comes from a good place and is a collection of observations from the many mentors in our ecosystem.
It’s all part of the process of becoming a more resilient founder — you and your startup will be better for it if you take time to reflect on and action feedback you’ve been given. HBR identifies three keys to resilience as emotional intelligence, authenticity and agility — it is an essential skill to build as you continue on your startup journey.
Last but certainly not least…
4. Don’t hide your business
When it comes to MAP application process, being modest about your achievements will not help. At MAP we want to see evidence of startup teams who have a demonstrated record of success as well as a strong vision of how to get where they want to go.
We suggest talking about your traction in a way that demonstrates momentum and learning. For example, rather than say “we’ve grown our user base to 8,000 to date” try, “we’ve now hit 8,000 users, with 20% month on month growth over the past 6 months. This was achieved with more specific Facebook ad targeting.”
Check out a little more advice from MAP17 founders Ruqi, Eleanor and Sarah.
You can always find a great list of resources from articles to example pitches in the Library section of our website.
MAP’s aim is to create a more entrepreneurial Australia and our mission is to launch high-growth ventures into the world. We believe that innovative, scalable businesses will play a crucial role in driving prosperity for Australia in the years to come.
Originally founded in 2012 as a startup accelerator, MAP has since evolved into a centre of entrepreneurship that supports founders at all stages of their startup journey.
MAP fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in the startup community by connecting and up-skilling thousands of entrepreneurs through its talent development and accelerator programs. MAP provides the funding, networks and expertise to accelerate the growth of world-class business, bringing leaders, University of Melbourne alumni and investors to our door.
For more information please visit our website: themap.co