Our New Pre-Accelerator Program

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[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px”][text_output]Last year’s application process for the Iowa Startup Accelerator was good, but there was definitely room for improvement. With 10 startups launched in 2014, we took the feedback from last year’s cycle and designed a new approach for selecting the 2015 cohort.

Thus, the Pre-Accelerator program was born.

First, we evaluated more than 110 applications from all over the world. From those, we selected the top 30 teams to join our Pre-Accelerator, a 3-week intensive vetting process that would allow us to establish much deeper connections with the teams than we had in 2014.

The program consisted of:

  • Introductory customer discovery – learning more about the tools and methods to thoroughly understand potential customers’ pain points
  • 72-hour sprints – an introduction to the agile practices we use in our program – and using sprints as tools to drive their businesses forward
  • Evaluating business model canvases – one of the key tools we use to conceptually diagram business models

We were looking for a few key things:

  • Hustle on the part of the entrepreneur and their team – Can they get staggering amounts of work done in a short period of time?
  • Conceptual thinking – Can they see their business’s strengths and weaknesses clearly?
  • Coachability – A willingness to dive into ideas that might be new to them and accept critical feedback.

In 3 weeks, we interacted with the teams no less than 6 times; David Tominsky talked to each of the 30 teams for 30 minutes at least every 72 hours. Managing that much information was tricky, so we hired Sally Vandenberg as our Pre-Accelerator Coordinator to assist with the thousands of emails and documents going back and forth. The approach provided a ton of information about how the teams work together, their ability to make and show progress in a short period of time, and their capability to adapt to new information and concepts quickly.

We also designed the Pre-Accelerator to be useful to the teams even if the team wasn’t accepted to the full Accelerator program. It provided valuable feedback for the teams that weren’t selected, which is part of our mission to enable the growth of the startups in the broader startup community.

There was one downside, though. Because we got to know the entrepreneurs, the new approach made it much harder to choose who to admit to the full program. We got to know some astonishing entrepreneurs that maybe just weren’t ready yet, or the idea needed more vetting, or the company needed a cofounder or key hire before they could be admitted. But in the end, the Pre-Accelerator helped us make good decisions about which teams were the right fit for our 2015 cohort.

So, we have our cohort made up of amazing teams from around the world. They are skilled, passionate, and driven entrepreneurs ready to take on the rigors of our program starting August 3.

You’ll have to wait until then to know who made the cut. Stay tuned![/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]