Last week I posted an overview of the Acceleration Project concept, which I believe, is a much better substitute for business plan competitions.
(see last week’s post for an overview of the concept)
This week I wanted to spend more time on the first part of the Acceleration Project – the Application Phase.
Why, you may ask, am I so focused on something as trivial as an application process? Can’t we just throw up a website form and let the ideas start streaming in?
No. The key to success in any venture is not the idea, the market, the technology or the pitch… it’s the team. What you need to do at the beginning is relentlessly search for amazing teams.
Yes, their idea should be good and the opportunity large but you have to look beyond the superficial elements of a pitch to understand whether or not there is really any hope that this team will actually make something real come out the end of the process.
Here are some team characteristics I look for when interviewing potential Acceleration Project participants:
1) At least some of the team should have some domain experience with the core technology or service they are pursuing.
2) The team should be committed to their idea – so much so that it really doesn’t matter to them whether or not they are selected. They are going to make this work no matter what.
3) The team has some history of working together and didn’t just form last night.
4) Are the team members capable of moving their idea forward or are they lacking some major skill set?
5) Do they have a deep passion for their idea? Does their enthusiasm bubble over when they talk about what they are trying to do or is it talked about with the same enthusiasm as tomorrow’s homework assignment?
6) Is the team interested in feedback from others or are they close-minded? You want teams that will seek input, react, pivot and keep moving forward.
7) Does the idea the team is pursuing make the world a better place in some way? Having a deeper meaning to the work will help keep the team motivated and attract talent to their efforts more easily.
The Application Phase of an Acceleration Project can take a little while to complete. You will need to find people that are motivated by the process and the connections they will make and not just people looking for some prize money.
It’s also an opportunity to get your mentors engaged by having them participate in the interview process.
Once you have the teams selected you should also celebrate the end of the application phase by bringing everyone together for a networking event. The teams will function even better if they can lean on each other for support so start finding ways to get them to connect as they prepare for the next phase of the Acceleration Project – Skill Building.