Get Your Startup Into a Top Accelerator: 4 Insider Tips

first_imgTags:#start#Venture Funding Related Posts The top startup accelerators in the world – programs like TechStars and Y Combinator – receive a couple thousand applications for just a handful of spots each session. It’s harder to get into one than Harvard or Stanford. So how do you do it?You could Google “how to get into a top accelerator” and see what advice you find. Or, better, you could pick the brain of a recent graduate. Trouble is, those guys are busy trying to grow their companies. They don’t have a lot of time to sit down for a chat. So, we arranged a meeting with Dave Bisceglia, cofounder and CEO at highly touted mobile gaming startup The Tap Lab, which went through TechStars Boston last year and was a finalist at MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup competition. Tap Lab’s first game, Tap City, is now available free on Apple’s App Store. Bisceglia informally coaches other startups on how to win entry to a top accelerator. He offered the following tips:1. Show Capacity for Traction“The most important thing is traction,” Bisceglia says. “These programs want to see that you can accomplish a lot leading up to the program. When we were applying we met with the folks at TechStars for a first interview, with a second interview a few weeks later. We were determined to show them what we could do between that first and second interview and we accomplished so much in those few weeks – just two guys in a basement with no money. They were blown away at TechStars. It’s all about demonstrating traction and showing you can get things done.”An accelerator session lasts only a few months, so programs look for applicants with the brains and ass-busting ability to achieve product in that period. They don’t want to waste their time and money on people who will stumble to session’s end with a half-baked idea.“These programs want teams that are poised to put what an accelerator brings to the table to good use. For instance, TechStars is now giving $100,000 to every startup it accepts, so you have to be prepared to use that money to get traction for your business by doing things like bringing on talent during the program.”2. Friend the MentorsEvery accelerator has a list of its mentors. These lists are public. Bisceglia tells the startups he consults to get hold of the list for accelerators they’re targeting and talk to the mentors.“Try to get in touch with those folks before you apply and gauge their interest in your business. If you can get someone who’s actively involved with the program to be a champion for you while you’re applying, that will drastically increase your chances of being accepted.”Before he applied to TechStars Boston, Bisceglia looked through the TechStars mentor list for people in that city’s gaming community. He connected with several and they helped him craft Tap Lab’s pitch and application.“It also didn’t hurt to have their names on our application as friendly, unofficial advisors,” he says. “And since then those folks have become formal investors and advisers in my company.”Tap Lab has $550,000 in funding, with lead investment from one of its TechStars mentors.3. Build a “Fire on the Horizon”Before you apply to an accelerator, try to arrange some event that will get the attention of the admission committee. Accelerators these days are looking for viable companies – startups with the potential for an exit in the near future, not five years down the line – and if you can show that you’ve got more than an idea on a whiteboard, it will greatly boost your chances.“As corny as it sounds, we had a fire on the horizon,” Bisceglia says. “We scheduled a product launch at South by Southwest for the week TechStars was scheduled to start – and we told them that if we were accepted we couldn’t make the first week of the program because we had this scheduled product launch. They loved that. It demonstrated that we were a moving train and that we’d be able to really ramp things up once we started in the program.”A lot of companies applying to accelerators these days have already built a product or raised a seed round or both. That’s your competition. If you want to stand out, you’d better have more than vaporware.4. Ace the ApplicationA great application is an obvious element of success. But what makes a great application? Bisceglia says it’s vital in the video portion to demonstrate a couple of qualities, including your well-rounded startup team and your passion for your product.“The team component is very important. Programs want to see diversity in skill sets among the founding members. They want to see in the video your personality and that you’re passionate.”Also critical is what you don’t put in your application. Don’t put in everything.“The written piece is very much like a college application,” Bisceglia says. “They want a quick pitch of your company. A lot of people get caught up in jargon and the weeds of their product. You have to really boil it down so your pitch is clear, concise and compelling.”Once you’ve written your application, find a friendly investor or VC and ask for a review. They’ll find the pain points in your business and ask you about them. This will prepare you for the interview portion of the accelerator admission process.You can also reach out to people who have been through the accelerator program. Just don’t try to get time with recent graduates. They’re too busy, as mentioned above.“If you get a vote of confidence from an alum, that’s to your benefit,” Bisceglia says. “The trick is to not reach out to the very last class, because those guys are crazy trying to raise a round and trying to impress investors, so it’s very difficult to get their time. You really have a window of two to three months once you graduate from the program to get the attention of investors while you still have that glow.”Play your cards right in your accelerator application and someday that could be you. 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostingcenter_img A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… tim devaney and tom steinlast_img read more

How to Create a Product that Truly Delights Customers

first_imgEarlier this year, Twitter quietly removed its vowels and released Twttr, a platform that essentially acted as a prototype for design changes and feature tweaks the company was considering for its regular site. By creating a separate application under the platform’s original name, the company signaled an attempt to get back to its startup roots. Unlike its more popular brother, Twttr is a place where the company can (if it wants) fail fast and often to find out what truly works best for users. You can create a product that truly delights customers.For entrepreneurs, this prototype should serve as an example of what it takes to build a continuously successful product.By introducing this platform, Twitter is attempting to create something that does more than keeping the lights on: It’s trying to create a minimum delightful product or MDP.The pure beauty of an MDPMany entrepreneurs are already familiar with the concept of a minimum viable product, or MVP, which is meant to do the fewest things required to accomplish a goal. Fewer may be familiar with the idea of an MDP.An MDP is essentially what happens when you take an MVP and add a second goal of user enjoyment and engagement.Where an MVP can mainly be developed in isolation from the real world, an MDP requires regular interactions with potential users to create something people will use regularly.For entrepreneurs, an MDP is what should eventually come out of that first spark of inspiration. It shows that a startup is not only thinking about the business side of a product but also about its target audience. When an application is streamlined and engaging, it’s clear that it’s been put in front of potential customers and that developers have thought through what the user approach will look like each day.To create and maintain an MDP, it’s essential to have the right processes in place. After all, finding a problem that needs to be solved — and figuring out how to solve it in a way that pleases users and keeps them coming back — is far from simple. Luckily, there are a few steps startups can follow when developing a project that will help keep users coming back for more:1. Identify an actual problem.An idea that exists only in a vacuum will ultimately result in a product that’s set up to fail. It might seem like the most brilliant thing in the world, but if an idea isn’t solving a problem that a wide variety of people have, there will be no compelling reason for anyone to use it.Tinder is a good example of a company that had an idea that was not only a smart design choice but solved a problem people regularly dealt with. To connect on other dating sites before Tinder, a person mostly had to shoot a stranger a message and pray the other was remotely interested. Not ideal for either party.Tinder, on the other hand, offered an easy way for two people to signal they were interested in each other without one party having to put him- or herself out there first. The swipe was a simple and elegant solution that kept people coming back.Ask three questions to figure out whether the path you’re heading down is a useful one: What problem is being solved? How is this product’s solution better than the competition? Is this an issue that occurs frequently enough to keep customers coming back? These questions are critical to a development process that will result in more than something that just seemed like a good idea at the time.2. Figure out how the product will fit into users’ daily lives.While it isn’t possible to check out every single use case for a product before it’s released, there are ways to get an idea of what typical use might look like. Develop representations of a variety of users with their own stories surrounding when and how they use the product. Knowing what the user is doing with your product helps bring a project into focus and indicates which features will be useful in the final product and which can be scrapped or delayed for future versions.Many modern companies rely on user stories to develop and target their products, including Apple and JetBlue, but it’s a practice that’s been around for a long time. In the 1940s, the magazine Seventeen created a hypothetical reader known as Teena to pinpoint the type of audience the publication was trying to reach. In 2019, the magazine is still going strong.3. Perform frequent A/B tests.Just because a product works well for developers doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to do the same for real-world users. To avoid succumbing to unseen biases, perform A/B testing when possible to better capture customer preferences.When my company worked with the cash-back application Dosh, A/B testing was a significant part of the process. Features, approach, design, and branding, were modified throughout multiple prototypes to best drive user behavior and increase audience buy-in. One wrong turn could have taken the whole project down the wrong path, but A/B testing helped us steer it right.For a product to survive in the long term, it generally has to reach the MDP stage at some point.Sometimes, it’s after the harsh reality of a market failure. Other times, it’s from soliciting feedback from paid users to figure out why a product isn’t working, or why some other part of the market isn’t currently working.It’s not necessary to get there the hard way, however.By being mindful of the problem that’s being solved and testing directly with users, entrepreneurs can create a product that will delight customers without bogging them down in bloat. Tags:#Entrepreneurs#Feedback#Minimum Viable Product#MVP#startups What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Follow the Puck How OKR’s Completely Transformed Our Culture Q Manning is principal and GM of Rocksauce Studios, an EX Squared Solutions company which crafts custom mobile apps for all platforms. Related Posts Q ManningCEO of Rocksauce Studios Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaceslast_img read more

Is the IoT Market Maturing? Microsoft Report and Partners Share New Trends & Opportunities

first_imgInternet of Things Makes it Easier to Steal You… Related Posts Space is limited – make sure you reserve your spot for the IoT in Action event in Santa Clara on October 10th! Register for free today!The Internet of Things (IoT), together with a series of catalytic technology such as cloud, edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and mixed reality, is creating billions of connected endpoints for businesses to optimize operational efficiency, improve workplace safety and increase revenue. With such benefits, it’s unsurprising that we see 88 percent of business reporting that IoT is very or somewhat critical to their success, according to the recent Microsoft IoT Signals report. And not only are companies increasingly recognizing the contributions IoT has on their success as a business, but IoT is also being adopted across industries: retail, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare – the list goes on. In fact, the report shows that 85 percent of decision makers from enterprise organizations have adopted IoT, and 74 percent have projects in the “use” phase. Which leads us to the question here: as the IoT market continues to grow and mature, what new opportunities and challenges are emerging that should be top of mind?We polled some Microsoft partner during recent IoT in Action events about their key takeaways on building, implementing or selling new IoT solutions and experiences – below are their thoughts ranging from what it means to be successful to partnering on going to market.IoT Success Revolves Around Simplicity & SecurityFinding success with IoT – whether you’re working on developing a solution or implementing it into your business operations – often hinges on these questions: is it simple, and is it secure?During our conversations with partners we heard the same theme over and over: IoT needs to be simple from the edge to the cloud. Speaking of their IT buyer clients, Travis Gerber, CEO of Buddy Platform said, “Customers often tell us they are looking for solutions that are both simple and secure. This looks slightly different for everyone. For us, that means translating complex building data into meaningful insights they can take action on.”The research agrees. The IoT Signals report also found that one of the top IoT barriers was challenges stemming from complexity and technical aspects. In fact, 39 percent of responders said this was their biggest barrier to IoT adoption. To assist companies with overcoming this challenge, Microsoft has focused on finding ways to make it easier to build and use IoT solutions, such as the release of IoT Plug and Play, which offers a new, open modeling language to seamlessly connect IoT devices to the cloud. Now developers can quickly connect IoT devices to the cloud, as well as build smarter solutions that just work with the cloud, all without having to write a single line of embedded code. Plus, by using Azure IoT Central or Azure IoT Hub, businesses can prototype and build larger scale IoT deployments in significantly less time. Security Should be an End-to-End ProcessWe also found that while Microsoft partners place a high value on security when building IoT solutions, security is rarely a barrier to IoT adoption. And the IoT Signals numbers back this up with only 19 percent of companies listing security as their biggest barrier to adoption – even though 97 percent of companies said they were concerned about security when adopting IoT. Yet with billions of new devices being connected, organizations still need to secure them to protect data, privacy, physical safety, and infrastructure. So how should companies be thinking about IoT security? The first step is looking at how you can simplify the complexity of your IoT security solution with built-in protection at each stage of your deployment – including cloud services and devices – and minimizing security weaknesses wherever they exist. Building security into every part of your IoT platform is essential for minimizing risks to your private data, business assets and reputation. Microsoft has been successful in thinking about security from an end-to-end perspective – and even more importantly – has been successful in helping their partners and customers do the same. Azure Sphere, for instance, is a comprehensive IoT solution that includes hardware, OS, and cloud components so partners can securely connect existing equipment as well as build and roll out new, connected IoT devices.And securely connecting existing equipment is a big piece for companies that were early adopters of IoT solutions. By using the guardian module with Azure Sphere, for instance, companies have the ability to enable secure cloud-connectivity on existing equipment. This in turn, helps unlock new customer experiences, new business models, and improved operational efficiency.You Need More Than Data: Actionable, Real-Time Insights MatterIoT solutions only solve challenges if customers can manage the data and obtain pertinent insights. Even more importantly, partners told us that the insights must be based on real-time data and presented in an actionable format to customers. One such partner, Zencity, uses Microsoft services and platforms to provide real-time insights to its customers, which are local governments that must make quick decisions that could affect the safety and wellbeing of their citizens. “We use a lot of Azure’s more advanced capabilities around AI to build the processing that we need to analyze millions and millions of data points from all of these different feedback sources and turn them in real time into insights for CD leaders,” says Eyal Feder-Levy, CEO of Zencity. Microsoft is also focused on providing companies with the tools and resources they need to turn data into actionable insights. Those attending the Santa Clara IoT in Action event will have a chance to join Microsoft experts on October 9 for a full day of hands-on technical training that explores how you can use Windows for IoT and Azure IoT to power more intelligent solutions.Collaboration is Critical for Accelerating Time to MarketPartners also stressed the importance of having a short development time so they could quickly get to market ahead of competitors and capture market share. But they also needed to do so without compromising quality and security, as well as come up with effective marketing and sales messaging – all of which can take up precious time.During the Microsoft IoT in Action events, many partners shared how by collaborating with Microsoft and their IoT ecosystem, they were able to surface valuable IoT build-with and co-sell opportunities. Additionally, by using the first- and third-party accelerators designed for Microsoft Azure, as well as Microsoft programs and resources, companies can leverage already existing building blocks and fast track their next IoT project.“One of the great things that we’re seeing that Microsoft is doing is with its solution accelerators, really helping our customers and ISPs that are partnered with Cradlepoint bring that solution to market much faster,” said Tony Puopolo, VP of North America Channel Sales & Alliances at Cradlepoint.IoT in Action: Connecting Technology and PeopleIoT solutions aren’t just about the technology – it comes down to people. At the core, IoT solves people’s problems and challenges. And successfully developing or implementing those solutions requires relationships with people: partners, vendors, device makers. Join us for an upcoming IoT in Action event in Santa Clara, CA (October 10) or Warsaw, Poland (November 13) to start building future business partnerships, optimizing efficiencies, and maximizing revenue opportunity. For additional insights into how other companies are developing and deploying IoT technology across industries, watch our short, actionable IoT in Action webinars. Justin Slade Follow the Puckcenter_img Justin is part of the Microsoft IoT Channel Marketing team and is responsible for developing channel marketing programs – such as IoT in Action – that target Microsoft’s IoT partner ecosystem & build awareness of Microsoft IoT solutions. Small Business Cybersecurity Threats and How to… Top 5 Areas Where Companies Want IoT Solutionslast_img read more

This day, that year: India knock Pakistan out of 1996 World Cup in dramatic quarter-final

first_imgIndia and Pakistan have played some memorable cricket matches in the past and the one that arguably tops the list is the 1996 World Cup quarter-final in Bengaluru played on March 9. It had plenty of nerve-racking moments from even before the start of the match to the final ball at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.There was plenty of buzz around the tie as it was only the second World Cup meeting between India and Pakistan. India had beaten Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup by 43 runs in Sydney.Akram pulls out with an injuryWith a plethora of superstar cricketers in both the sides, the expectations hit the roof. However, Pakistan fans faced a huge shock when their captain, Wasim Akram pulled out of the match hours before the toss with an injury. Akram’s decision created a lot of tension in Pakistan as his effigy was burnt on the streets of the cricket-crazy country.Following Pakistan’s defeat, quite a few violent incidents were reported from across the border. One fan reportedly shot his television set before shooting himself.It all began well for India as Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar stitched a 90-run stand. However, much to the disappointment of the crowd, Tendulkar fell for 31.While the likes of Sanjay Manjrekar, captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Vinod Kambli failed to convert their starts, Ajay Jadeja played a blinder, hitting 45 runs from just 25 balls to help India post 287 on the board.In reply, Pakistan began the run chase with a bang. The opening duo of Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar took the Indian fast bowling attack to the cleaners, scoring 84 runs in the first 10 overs. The crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium were watching the on-field action in disbelief but local boy Javagal Srinath gave India the first breakthrough removing Anwar for 48.advertisementPrasad-Sohail exchange adds drama to the proceedingsSohail though kept the scorers busy even after Anwar’s dismissal and brought up his fifty with an eye-catching push to the extra-cover boundary. Words were exchanged between the bowler and the batsman and Sohail pointed at the cover boundary and sledged Prasad, who was also booed by the local crowd.In a dramatic change of fortunes, Sohail was cleaned up Prasad in the following delivery after the Pakistan opener tried to repeat his cross-bat slap. Prasad gave Sohail a mouthful and a send-off as the Chinnaswamy crowd erupted in joy.Prasad made use of the shift in momentum and removed Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq in quick succession to put India in the driver’s seat. All hopes now rested on Pakistan’s experienced campaigner Javed Miandad but the former captain disappointed by getting run out on 38.Wicketkeeper-batsman Rashid Latif added impetus to the innings but lack of contribution from the lower-order helped India restrict Pakistan to 248.Prasad shone with figures of 3 for 45 while leg-spinner Anil Kumble also picked up three wickets and put the brakes on Pakistan’s scoring rate after the visitors got off to a flying start.Following the win, the streets of Bengaluru were filled with Indian supporters celebrating the moment. On the contrary, effigies of Pakistan cricketers were burnt and the reactions were violent on the other side of the border.Since the iconic India-Pakistan clash in 1996, the two teams have met at the quadrennial showpiece event four times and India have managed to win all of them.Cloud over India-Pakistan 2019 World Cup tieIndia and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in the 2019 World Cup on June 16 in Manchester. However, several India cricketers have urged the senior national team to boycott the tie following the terror attack on Indian CRPF personnel in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir.Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai recently said India will continue to emphasise its stand regarding the isolation of Pakistan in international cricket. The International Cricket Council had earlier turned down the BCCI’s request to sever ties with countries from which “terrorism emanates”, saying the ICC has no role to play in matters like these.In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, the BCCI, in a letter to the ICC, urged the world body and its member nations to sever ties with countries which harbour terror.The BCCI letter did not make a specific reference to Pakistan, which has been accused of harbouring terrorists by India.Also Read | India vs Pakistan: Top 10 cricketing momentsAlso Read | India vs Australia: All eyes on Rishabh Pant’s 2019 ICC World Cup auditionAlso Read | Virat Kohli better than Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara in ODIs: Michael VaughanAlso See:last_img read more