7 Practical Tips to Get Accepted to Startup Accelerators like Founders Launchpad

Want your idea to get the support and resources from a startup accelerator like Founders Launchpad? Here, we show you exactly what'll get your application into an accelerator program to stand out from the crowd.

7 Practical Tips to Get Accepted to Startup Accelerators like Founders Launchpad

Take it from us: getting into a startup accelerator program is hard. 

Acceptance rates into some of the most long-standing programs, like Y Combinator, can be as low as 1%—you’d have more chances getting into Harvard. 

Even here at Founders Launchpad, out of hundreds of applications, we’ll only let in a handful of startups that we want to closely work with and mentor through our 3-month accelerator program.

So what is it exactly about an aspiring startup that gets us saying, “Yes, we want your startup!”?

For every startup we look at four main things: 

  • First, what is your idea? This includes the market, the problem you are solving, how you want to grow and defend your business and the mission you are on. 
  • What is your product? How do you solve the problem? How do you take advantage of the identified opportunity and what business model will you use to monetize your solution?
  • What is the team behind the idea? Does your team work well together and have the right expertise in terms of industry and skills? 
  • Can your team execute? Show us that your team can make things happen and won’t be stuck in the planning phase. 

In this post, we'll shed some light on the details of these things we’re looking for in every startup application, so you’ll be well on your way to standing out.

Friendly tip: Some of these tips aren’t a hard requirement—meaning you don’t need every single one in order to be accepted into Founders Launchpad or even other programs. 

But we hope by sharing each of these, it gives you a better idea of how rigorously we vet our cohort members-to-be. This way, you can come to every stage of the application process prepared.

Have a Deep Customer Understanding

First thing’s first, we love founders who show that they truly understand their customers.

A startup is only as good as the solution it provides their customers—so if you can show us you’ve done the work to understand your market and users, we’d have a lot more confidence in your application.

And when we talk about doing the work to understand your market, we’re not only talking about research you get from a search engine; that should be a given

We’re looking for founders who’ve spoken to their customers, who’ve spent enough time with them to understand their pains and issues—and have a strong product idea that would ease those pains.

Here’s a practical example: say you want to build a product that’ll help retail store employees with day-to-day operations, such as inventory management and a Point Of Sale system. 

Were you able to complete potential user interviews with your end user, the actual retail store employees? Did you talk to the business owners to understand their decision process on what tools to implement in their store? 

Or taking it one step further: have you tried to put yourself in their shoes by working a shift with the existing tools or processes they use?

Show us how well you understand your potential customers, come prepared with data and anecdotes, and you’ll definitely pique our interest.

Industry Expertise in the Domain You Plan to Operate

Another factor that could tip the scales in your favor is if you have deep industry expertise relating to your startup’s domain. Beyond the expertise to create a relevant product, this is directly linked to understanding your customers and the market you operate in.

Say you want to create a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand with a custom checkout experience you want to build. And maybe you have a decade of experience in a consumer goods company and have brought dozens of successful products to market. You can then say you definitely have relevant industry expertise in your startup’s domain.

Of course, having that lengthy experience is great, but what we’re really looking for is how you use the learnings and insights from that experience to then inject it into your startup. 

So the number of your actual years of experience? It isn’t the final factor, but you should be able to show that you understand the industry you are operating in. After all, we’re willing to invest in young, fresh minds who show us they’ve got the mindset and grit to make their startup succeed.

Having a Co-Founding Team Helps More Than You Think

Okay, so remember how in the beginning of this post we said not every tip is a requirement? This is one of them.

We definitely encourage solo founders to apply—and we’ve invested in solo founders in our first cohort—but we just have to say it: The startup journey can be very tough and lonely and having a co-founder or co-founding team will make this journey a lot easier and can make your application to Founders Launchpad that much more compelling.

Having a good co-founder or team won’t just help you get accepted into startup accelerator programs, but they’ll be that much more helpful in your actual journey building and growing your startup.

Because of that, don’t just recruit any co-founder for the sake of advancing your application; believe us when we say you might just end up with more problems that way, especially if you’re accepted and suddenly need to launch your idea to a real market.

Building a startup team is very similar to creating a sports team. You want to get the best people for each position and let them work towards one shared vision. 

Make sure you’ve got a team of people you want to enter startup life with, because you will see them often and for long hours. So you should have people on your radar with similar values, complementing skills, and as much grit as you.

Bonus: if you and your co-founder or founding team have worked together before (say you both were developers at Amazon or this isn’t your first joint startup project), that always makes your case stronger. Be sure to mention that in your application.

Initial Traction Isn't Required—But Always Strengthens Your Application

Just like the previous tip, having some form of initial traction isn’t always required, but when we see that there already are interested (or better yet, paying) users for your product, that’s a really strong signal for us that you’re building something people want.

This also shows us you’ve done the work to take your concept to market. 

Initial traction doesn’t just mean actual paying users with a working prototype, either. 

You might have garnered some traction through some other means, like getting press coverage for your idea,having B2B contracts or LOIs, or building a waitlist. 

Remember: Robinhood the trading app garnered a waitlist of 1 million users before it even built the product!

Demonstrate Your Ability to Execute

One thing any startup accelerator, including ours, asks for in your application is a pitch deck explaining your idea and your potential to create a successful business. 

But beyond a compelling pitch deck, we’re looking very closely at your ability to execute and turn ideas into reality. Whether it's being able to build a usable prototype or even to create a website with fantastic messaging to help bring your idea to market, we want you to show us that you have more than just ideas and words; you have the skills, resources and most importantly the grind to make sure you can bring your idea to life.

After all, being a startup founder means being scrappy and just making things happen. You won’t always get the funding you need to outsource and hire for every single task. So if you’re able to show us you can truly turn your idea into some proof of concept, we’re all ears.

You Have a Huge Commitment to This Business

Look, any and every founder who applies will tell us how committed they are to their idea. 

They’ll share their story and their product and how it can truly change people’s lives, and we love hearing that.

But we’re looking for people who are truly committed to making this idea work. These are the people who show us that commitment too.

For instance, did you just quit your full-time job to build this business? Did you put your own savings into learning skills or getting the tools to make this startup work? 

Show us the opportunity cost of building and committing to this business—and if you become one of our chosen startups here at Founders Launchpad, we’ll show you the same commitment to your success too.

Having a Tech Person is a Huge Bonus

For tech startups, the value of having a tech co-founder or team member can’t be stated enough.

You’ll want to avoid planning to outsource development work because most freelance developers or agencies won’t have as much skin in the game as you or a founding CTO or head engineer would. 

Make sure that the people building your product actually care about it and want to solve your customers' pain points. The only way to ensure that is by having them on your team!   

If your application shows us that either you or your team is a tech person who can build and improve your product, it’d definitely help convince us that you have what it takes to go from idea to real business.

Use These Tips to Get Into Founders Launchpad

Hopefully we’ve shed some light on the application and vetting process here at Founders Launchpad. Take these tips and really understand why we’d look for these traits and factors, and you might be one of the few startups we accept and work with in our next cohort.

FAQs about getting accepted into accelerator programs

What is a startup accelerator?

A startup accelerator is a program that helps early-stage companies develop their business through mentorship, funding, and resources.

How can I demonstrate commitment to my business?

Showing a high opportunity cost, such as investing personal savings or quitting a job to work on your startup full-time, demonstrates commitment.

Is industry expertise more critical than initial traction?

Both are important, but industry expertise is crucial, especially if your product addresses specific domain challenges. 

Should every startup have a tech person in the founding team?

While not mandatory, we highly suggest having a tech-savvy co-founder on your team as it brings valuable technical expertise and commitment.

What are the benefits of having a co-founding team?

A co-founding team provides diverse skills, shared responsibilities, and often enhances the overall dynamic of the startup.