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500 Startups - how to get their attention?

My company recently interviewed for 500 Startups' next accelerator class. When we applied back in April, our interviewer told us off the bat that we were too early, named some specific metrics to hit, and kindly got us in touch with another partner at the firm for industry expertise. This time around, we got interviewed by 6 people, and I thought we had a decent chance since we hit the requested metrics, but I could have sworn that our interviewers passed on us before the interview even began. They said they haven't accepted something from our space in quite some time and barely asked us about metrics. They didn't ask many questions either.

On paper, we're as strong as could be and we were prepared to answer anything, I just felt like we never got the chance. Assuming we don't get in this time, is there a point applying again, or are they simply not interested in the space? They say on their website to not contact folks in the network to vouch for us, is that bullshit? I feel like that's the only way they would have taken our interview seriously...

4 Replies

Selvan Rajan
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Selvan Rajan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Mobile & middle-tier architect
Get some traction, and everything will change. At this point, they are not interested.
Steve Owens
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Steve Owens Entrepreneur • Advisor
Finish Line - A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products
Go somewhere else - but get one of them to tell you the "real" reason you were not picked. May require work, but it is worth it. If you can not get a reason, then give your pitch to someone who "should" know, but is not going to invest/mentor and ask them for the reason. Before your next pitch, you must find this reason and remove it.
Joseph Wang
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Joseph Wang Entrepreneur
Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories
My advice is if you can find someone that can give you constructive feedback that would be useful, but don't expect anything other than constructive feedback. Also one problem with constructive feedback is that you may find that the reason why funder A won't invest is exactly the reason why funder B will invest.

One thing that I've learned is that it's a bad idea to get too focused on one particular fundraising opportunity. It turns out that the big names are overloaded with people trying to get funding from them, and so they are forced to reject people for what are essentially random reasons. The effort both in time and attention spent on getting a big name to notice you, can be better spent getting someone else to be interested in funding your company or getting mentorship from someone else.
Andrew Schroyer
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Andrew Schroyer Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder at Oneshot Media
Having been in a startup that got accepted into the 500 Startups last fall, but also got turned down many many times before from VC's and other accelerators, here's my advice:

Obviously accelerator programs are meant to influence startups that are growth oriented. They may or may not be interested in your space, however it's your job to give them a reason to be. One good reason is metrics that not just meet the number they told you to hit previously, but metrics that STAND OUT. The metrics that will get investors and accelerator programs interested in chatting are the metrics that spell exceptional traction that's proportional to the time you went live. To be more clear, each year it will be harder to do just that. It's not impossible though to do research and listen to your users to make changes that will enable you to have a breakout year. I know this because our app went from 10,000 users to 250k users in less than 3 months.

Secondly, monetization strategies are key. If they see awesome opportunities for you to make money and you don't, they'll want you to figure that out first. If you have one or two, prove that you've been testing those strategies by either a) learning from your mistakes or b) growing capital. They want to know that their money is not the only money that will come in to your business. They want to see you work for it.

Lastly, the most important piece. The piece that probably weighs 2 or 3 times more than anything else i mentioned, which is your team. They will google, research, and talk to others to know more about you and your founders. Make that information transparent as possible before you sit down with them. It's not bullshit when they say don't reach out to individuals in their network to vouch, because normally, they won't have to vouch. Accelerator's don't invest in ideas, they invest in teams that can take any idea to the next level. Teams that can do that have chemistry while working together, same visions for where the product or idea is going, and established track records of doing so.

Hope this helps, and good luck.
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