As part of my job as program specialist here at the Akron Global Business Accelerator, I manage client company intake and deal flow process. This means I review applications, handle questions from potential clients, present applications to our team and arrange applicant meetings with appropriate staff. I guess you could call me the “gatekeeper” to the Accelerator. What you may not know is that all incubators and accelerators have “gatekeepers” that manage the flow of applications for their organizations. If you’re thinking about applying, it’s important that your application not only stands out, but also makes it easy for them to do their jobs.
Needless to say, I read a lot of applications and I talk to a lot of potential companies. Over the course of my time here, I’ve encountered a few repeat scenarios that sometimes cause delays and roadblocks in the process. In order to help you avoid these unexpected delays, I’ve compiled a list of things you should do to help get your company to the top of the queue.
I know it sounds simple, but those of us in my position love processes – it makes our jobs easier! So follow the procedure the incubator/accelerator has in place and have patience in the process. It’s ok to follow up to ensure that they have received your application, but give them some time to read it and review it. Sometimes we do our own preliminary research before we get back to you. Just remember, if we tell you that the best way to get a meeting with someone is to submit an application, make sure you do that.
Know the technology sector that you’re working in. You can’t possibly be all things to all people. We are looking for focused entrepreneurs! Checking all of the boxes won’t get you to the top of the list – in fact, it will have the opposite effect. If you apply saying that you are in the “Advanced Energy,” “Advanced Materials,” AND “Medical Technologies” sector, that’s a red flag to me.
Be clear and concise when describing your product or service AND your value proposition. This is probably the first time we’re hearing about the problem you’re solving and the product you’ve invented, so be sure that you are writing it in a way that ensures we don’t overlook it. If you provide us with the bones of your value proposition and product, we’ll be able to flesh it out in a follow up meeting.
Know your market
You should have a preliminary understanding of the market you are planning to operate in and who your customer will be. While you don’t need a detailed market analysis right now (that’s what we’re here to help you with) you should be able to provide some verifiable numbers that substantiate the need for your technology and show that your company has high-growth potential.
Know what stage you’re operating in
Incubators are often interested in what stage of business you are in because they typically focus on early stage companies. For the record, you can’t really be in multiple stages at once, so don’t check all of the boxes. Really think about where you are. Are you just imagining what you could invent? Do you have a rough beta of your product but need further development before you can make a sale? Or have you sold a few early renditions and are now working on more specs? For help in understanding this, refer to The Ohio Development Services Agency’s Commercialization Framework.
Do your research and know what you need
I’ll handle the latter part first – you need to know what YOU need. Do you need space? Do you need investment? Both? Know that ahead of time. You also need to know who you are applying to, so you must do your research. Some incubators provide space and business development support (like the Akron Accelerator) but do not provide investment monies to companies. Make sure you’re not applying to this type of incubator if you’re only looking for investment.
All of these things will help you get one step ahead of those who are less prepared and there is always an advantage to helping us do our jobs! If you are interested in applying to the Akron Accelerator, please visit www.akronaccelerator.com/entrepreneurs/apply.