Prior to our interview for 500 Startups’ upcoming accelerator, I exercised the ‘ol Google-fu to learn from the interview experiences of applicants past. I had questions like, What were the toughest questions? Do I prepare a pitch deck? Are the parking spots in front really only 24 minutes? Google failed to find me a relevant link so here are my answers for you, Future Applicant.
We received the CONGRATULATIONS! email one week prior to the interview dates. Being from Seattle, we were faced with two options: opt for a SKYPE interview (and pray for mercy from the bandwidth gods) or buy some last-minute plane tickets and do it in person. Considering we didn’t have any strong ties to their network we decided to spend the $908 on plane tickets and do a day trip. It’s nearly impossible to make a great first impression over streaming video and since we’re serious about accelerating our startup, we didn’t hesitate to book a flight.
Interviews were conducted within three 15-minute blocks, each one putting you face-to-face with a pair of partners and mentors. We were hit rapidly with the kinds of questions any entrepreneur should already have thought about: what is the precise problem you’re solving, who are your specific customers, how do you plan to acquire them at scale, what is your revenue model, who are your competitors and why customers will switch, et cetera et cetera.
Unfortunately, however, we didn’t test or practice our answers and it was clear that some of our answers were either A) unclear or B) insufficient, which is why we were later informed we hadn’t made the final cut.
For us specifically, most damning was lack of clarity on who our customers are. To us in our heads, it’s defined crystal-clear but we’ve been in the thick of it for months; we have to know the intricacies. To an outsider, our definition is confusing and was a red flag for them.
One other key point was passion, or lack thereof. In these fast-paced interviews, you gotta sell yourself as a nutso who runs through walls. People that know me know that’s the kind of person I am. People who are meeting me for the first time, I have to convince them in a span of minutes and that’s another spot where I fell short.
My tl;dr would be “define your customers perfectly, be crazy passionate”. It may of cost us $908 to learn this lesson, but it’s up to us to make its worth invaluable.
Oh, and yes, there are actually 24 minute parking spaces and you will be ticketed at the 25th minute.