OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | Preparing for the Application Process
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Preparing for the Application Process

OwlSpark Class 9: Startup Team Application

Preparing for the Application Process

The application is divided into three sections: (1) the technology, and (2) the team. You should be prepared to provide detailed, concise answers to questions surrounding each of these topics. We encourage each founder to review the application questions and pitch video criteria prior to applying, but to help you understand the type of technologies and startup teams that will be a good fit for the accelerator program, we have highlighted three key points designed to guide your thought process and help you formulate productive answers.

Explain your technology or business idea in a simple, specific statement.

Stick to the basics when drafting your answer — marketing lingo can lend excitement to your technology or business idea, but is essentially ineffective in conveying the necessary information. You should assume that the reviewer does not share your area of expertise, and thus should be easily understood by a diverse audience. If a one-sentence description can convey what you plan to do, then you are halfway to describing your technology or business idea.

Demonstrate each founder’s relevant, but diverse, skill set, attributes, and contribution to the team.

While entrepreneurial experience is helpful, it is neither critical nor required. IKeep in mind that entrepreneurs often possess a multitude of transferable skills, allowing them the flexibility to step into multiple team roles. Commitment, resilience, and passion are also key attributes of successful entrepreneurs — and are the primary drivers behind taking initiative and following through. An entrepreneurial mindset is vital to the success of your startup team, so elaborate on the intersection of your skills and attributes.

Conduct and apply your research: think outside the box.

Who is your customer or end user? Are there other companies or individuals addressing the same problem your technology or business idea seeks to solve? How will you generate revenue? Between customers, competitors, and revenue, you should be able to describe your startup team’s potential business model. While founders are not required to have an understanding of business fundamentals, it is critical to familiarize yourself with the terminology and demonstrate practical application of ideas. Though your innovation or business idea is important, it is also a measure of your ability to think outside the box. We place a strong emphasis on founders’ critical thinking skills and coachability, as your technology and/or your business model will evolve or pivot during the program.