7 Ways to Make Your Accelerator Application Stand Out If you want to get in to one of these highly competitive programs, listen to these tips from someone who runs one.

By Alex Iskold

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Like many startup accelerator programs, Techstars in New York City is very competitive. We end up accepting less than 1 percent of applicants.

Suffice to say, it is important to make your application stand out. Here are the things we are looking for in applications for the next Techstars NYC class that most likely apply to any accelerator.

1. Thoughtfulness

Take your applications seriously. It is pretty easy to tell when the application is sloppy. This is a big turn off -- it signals that you will be sloppy with your business as well. Put in the time to craft your application and answer all the questions.

Related: 7 Tips to Find the Perfect Accelerator -- or Your Soul Mate

2. Clear description

What do you do? So many startups come up with unclear or lengthy descriptions that make it hard to tell what the company is about. Make your one-line business description crisp and clear, and make your paragraph description further explain the business in simple terms.

Don't describe your business as X for Y. We are Pinterest for business, or we are Uber for dry cleaning are not good descriptions. These sort of descriptions strip your business of identity and soul, and aren't great in the application.

Here are some examples of good one-line descriptions from Techstars NYC's 2014 class:

  • Concert Window is an online music venue.
  • Hollerback is a fun video messaging app.
  • Infinit is the fast and simple file sharing app.
  • Lynxsy is a mobile platform for startups to recruit non-technical talent.
  • SocialSign.in helps venues leverage their guest wifi.
  • Tutum is a container-based cloud computing technology.

3. Awesome videos

Short text won't convey your soul and inspiration, but one-minute videos can. Make an awesome video about your product. This is your chance to really show off what you built and why it is great. Then make an amazing video about the founders. Express yourself, tell us who you are and why you started this business.

DigitalOcean's video was certainly stylish and notable. Here is one of my favorite founder videos from Techstars company NMRKT. Its product video is pretty great too. Here are some more great product intro videos: Concert Window and Lynxsy.

Related: How One Startup Accelerator Is Giving Social Impact a Spotlight

4. Numbers

We love stories, but we love stories with numbers even more. When did you start the company? What is the equity split? How much financing have you raised to date? How many years of experience do you have? How many customers do you have? How much revenue did you generate last month? How many new users are you adding every week?

Use numbers to tell the story of your company to date. Use numbers to show that you understand that building a business is about numbers. Companies that focus on numbers, traction, growth and progress really stand out in the application process.

5. Experience

What experiences have you had that led you to start this business? Do you have deep industry expertise, do you really understand the problem and the market? Make it clear.

What other things have you done? Tell us about things you've built, share your accomplishments and show that you can iterate and make things happen.

6. Recommendations

Do you know any of the accelerator's alumni or mentors? Have you worked with someone who is close to the network? Get them to write you a recommendation. Whether it is an introduction via email, or an endorsement, it is validation that makes you stand out.

7. Be engaging

Tweet and email, connect and tell the people behind the program about what you are doing. We love companies that get on our radar, we love when founders come forward and engage us. Tell us about your business, score a meeting or a Skype call and go to upcoming events.

Every interview is a two-way street. Ask questions and understand what value the accelerator will bring to your company if you get in. Start a conversation and treat it as a process of getting to know each other.

With deadlines approaching, submit applications as soon as possible. Be thoughtful and make it awesome!

Related: Joining an Accelerator? 8 Nuggets of Wisdom From Techstars NYC's Latest Grads.

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Alex Iskold

Entrepreneur, Investor, Managing Director of Techstars in NYC

Alex Iskold is the managing director of Techstars in New York City. Previously Iskold was founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv), founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM) and chief architect at DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO). An engineer by training, Iskold has deep passion and appreciation for startups, digital products and elegant code. He likes running, yoga, complex systems, Murakami books and red wine -- not necessarily in that order and not necessarily all together. He actively blogs about startups and venture capital at http://alexiskold.net.

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