THE FUTURE IS BEHIND COMPANIES THAT ARE STUBBORN AND EXTREMELY HARD TO DISHEARTEN.
That’s Hripsime Rema Matevosyan, co-founder of URBAN-X Cohort 03 startup Swiftera and featured innovator on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the Manufacturing & Industry category, in a speech prepared for the Foundation for the Armenian Science and Technology (FAST)-hosted 2018 Global Innovation Forum.
And she’s 100 percent correct.
But even the most tenacious and difficult to shake startups can benefit from guidance in the early stages, particularly when it comes to making that first big leap and applying for an accelerator. While URBAN-X founders all have unique stories as to when and how they approached the application process, the resounding message is this:
JUST GO FOR IT.
Take Shilla Kim-Parker, co-founder of Cohort 05 startup Thrilling, for example. Although Kim-Parker’s “extremely early-stage” company — an online vintage fashion marketplace that aims to reduce textile waste — was incorporated just a few months before the program kicked off, she used that newness to her advantage by demonstrating that the concept had potential even before the business itself was properly established.
“I tried to figure out some way to tangibly demonstrate the potential of my business and the market,” explains Kim-Parker. “I decided to conduct a pilot — but I had very little funding, so I had to be creative about how to shrink down my vision of the business to its smallest and most viable manifestation. The pilot fortunately was successful and its results extremely promising — and I suspect it was this experiment that helped me get in to URBAN-X.”
John Edgar approached application with a different mindset than first-time founder Kim-Parker given that he co-founded a handful of companies previous to Cohort 01 startup Stae, a data management tool that enables cities to make smarter and more collaborative decisions. But as Edgar explains, putting in a bit of extra legwork on the networking front and seeking out outside advice leading up to the actual application process was crucial in his experience. “I actually cared about URBAN-X — it wasn’t just applying to another accelerator for me,” he says. I was going to get into this accelerator.”
At the same time, Edgar says he didn’t overthink the application process. “I didn’t lose too much sleep over it,” Edgar says, recounting when he filmed a quick and informal — and ultimately effective — application video with his cell phone in the middle of San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park. “I just tried to be as me as I could be. And they really liked it.”
Meirav Oren, co-founder and CEO of Cohort 03 startup Versatile Natures, agrees that simply being yourself and presenting your company in an authentic, straightforward manner is a surefire way to make an application stand out from the pack.
YOU STAND OUT FOR WHO YOU ARE.
– Meirav Oren, CEO, Verstaile Natures.
“Don’t look for ways to stand out,” explains Oren, “be straight and honest about what it is that you’re building, and it will stand out.” Oren also emphasizes the importance of demonstrating forward movement — progress of any sort — in the application. “Take the time to think about what it is that is moving forward and make sure that stands out.”
As to whether or not there is a right moment for startups to apply to URBAN-X, most founders would agree that there really isn’t a bad moment per se although the earlier and more growth-hungry, it would seem, the better. Kim-Parker describes the program as being advantageous to companies “at any point in their lifecycle before series A. URBAN-X provides modules of content that are essential to the building of a company — information that you as a founder may not know that you didn’t know,” she adds.
As Rodrigo de Guzman — a fellow Cohort 05 founder alongside Kim-Parker and CEO/co-founder of Borrow, a Los Angeles-based short-term electric vehicle subscription service — notes: “I think any startup that is looking for hyper-growth — that could be growth in product, users, or expansion — should apply and take advantage of URBAN-X.” He adds: “In particular, if growth can be aligned with the skills of the experts-in-residence that is an ideal fit.”
As for founders struggling with self-doubt and who might potentially be on the fence, Oren of Versatile Natures has one simple message: “Apply.”
DON’T BE AFRAID OF REJECTION
“Don’t be afraid of rejection and don’t be afraid of what might seem like hours of work that goes into the application,” Oren says. “If you know your business, know where you’re taking it and if you have your facts straight, the application should not take you more than an hour.” Oren says that her underlying advice of “apply, apply, apply” holds true to not only URBAN-X but to any accelerator program that might catch the eye of an early stage startup founder.
“Anything that’s a right fit for you or might be a right fit for you, even if you’re not sure, the first step is applying,” she says. “If you never take that leap of faith then you’ll never get in because you never applied. If you do take that leap, you’ve opened the opportunity for a yes. It might still be a no but it would have been a no if you never applied.”
A NO IS THE GIVEN, A YES IS THE OPPORTUNITY. WHY NOT OPEN THE OPPORTUNITY?
If you’re working on a solution that helps to reimagine city life, applications for URBAN-X Cohort 06 are open now through April 1st at urban-x.com/apply.
— Matt Hickman