Applying to an Accelerator Program - Imagine K12
In parallel of building and validating our hypothesis with our prototype, we also applied to a few accelerator programs. If you don’t know what accelerator programs do, check here and here for more info but basically they help your startup get off the ground. Fast. When applying to a few of the accelerator programs, you’ll have to expect 3 things: The application, the interview, and the suspense.
The Imagine K12 application is very similar to YC (maybe that’s due to all the influence YC had on Imagine K12) which was pretty awesome for us since the application we used for YC we could use for Imagine K12. The application itself is actually a really good way to really make you focus on the main core aspects of your business and thing you’re building. It helps boil your ideas and business strategy into a couple of sentences. If you’re thinking of applying to accelerator programs, you should start early on your application. Even better, if you have an idea, build it and validate the hell out of it. If you can show you have adoption (and revenue!!) on the application, the more you stand out.
Once we had a rough draft of our application, we sent it off to a lot of friends for review. This helps a lot since you need to be very concise with what you’re getting act. If your friends don’t understand what the hell you’re building, how can the partners. After a bunch of revisions and numerous comments, we had an application we felt solid with. We sent the YC application a couple of weeks early. For Imagine K12, we sent it in the day of (whoops) since we didn’t actually know of Imagine K12 until Startup School.
On November 18, we got the email from Imagine K12 that we got accepted into the next round — the interview.
The interview was scheduled for December 1st. We talked to a few of our friends who got interviews by YC or got into YC, and they helped us understand what the interviews are like. Chaotic. You actually can’t prep for the interview after chatting with our friends. The one way you can be confident into going into the interview is being logical with how you’re going to build your business and whether people want to buy what you have.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, we tried practiced a few times interviewing each other on what we thought the Imagine K12 team would ask us but after a few hours of doing that we realized that we can’t really prepare for the interview that way. Actually, the best way to prep for the interview is to try to run your business now. Understand your competitive landscape, how are you going to make money, why your team is the right team to solve this problem, are you sure people would use your product .. would they pay for it? These are the questions they’ll ask and the only way to know these answers is to try to build your product and get it in front of people for feedback. And that’s exactly what we did or try to understand as fast as possible.
When December 2nd came, we arrive at the AOL building on Page Mill. We got there about 20 minutes before hand and met with a few of the teams that were part of the last Imagine K12 cohorts. We chatted with them for a while and then I brought the team outside to clear our minds and focus on the task at hand. After 5 minutes enjoying the sun, we entered the AOL building again and they called us in.
The interview was concluded extremely quick. 10 minutes. Done, fin, all pau. Each team has 10 minutes with the 4 partners and it’s a fast pace conversation. No chit chat, but straight the point. We got into the room and I basically started the conversation off with who we are and what we’re building. After that, it was question after question. It’s like a group interview if you’ve been to one. The partners are just blazing through questions and you and your team’s job is to answer them as confident and logical as possible without stepping or overpowering each other. No tangents or side points (don’t waste time). Basically, in, out, done.
After the interview, you thank them and walk out. Now comes the suspense part.
After the interview, you have to wait until the end of the day to find out your results. In our shoes, we had to wait until the next day to figure out if we’ve been accepted. Imagine that. Your startup, your team, your ambitions are lingering on a phone call (or an email i hear if you don’t get accepted). The suspense gets to people I hear. People can’t concentrate, eat, or even sleep because they wait anxiously for the answer.
We thought we’ll find out the day of our interview around 7 or 8pm. When that time came and gone, I was frantically checking my email to see if we got rejected but nothing.
The next day, we basically continued our path as if nothing happened. We continued to build our product and idea since it was no use just waiting around. Then it happened. Around 3pm I got a call from a strange number so I stepped out of the room. It was Tim, one of the partners of Imagine K12, and we just got accepted into the program. After the call, I came back to the main space where Anthony and Joe were (my co-founders) and I told them the good news. Let’s just say a few drinks (and a game of settlers) were in order.
Hopefully that helps on what’s it like to apply to an accelerator program.