1) Is my startup too early or late to apply to AlphaLab?
AlphaLab helps companies accelerate their development and learning through a rapid, iterative process based on engaging customers early and often. This acceleration is applicable to the product definition and development cycle as well as the customer acquisition and sales cycle. Companies have come into AlphaLab with just an idea and companies have come into AlphaLab with a product, customers and funding. The key question is whether your company can benefit from the accelerated learning and broader network we provide. Read more in our blog post Too Early, Too Late, or Just Right?
2) I don’t think I’m ready to apply yet; should I wait until I make more progress in order to put my best foot forward?
There are some situations where it may not make sense to apply but in general, we would suggest applying if you are unsure whether to apply or not. Previous applicants have told us that the process of answering our application questions and going through the in-person interviews (for those advanced to the interview round) have been very valuable even when it didn’t result in an acceptance. There is no stigma associated with applying more than once; many of our alumni had previously applied to AlphaLab and gotten in later (either with the same idea or a new idea). In all cases, being able to see progress made in between applications was viewed very positively by the review team.
3) How do you evaluate applicants? Do you look for team, market, traction?
This is always a tough question to answer as every applicant is different along all of these dimensions and we look at a combination of all of these factors. Sometimes we see a great team where we have questions about the market and other times, we’ll see an incomplete or unproven team that’s going after a big problem in an attractive market. As noted above, we also see applicants at the idea stage or applicants with products and revenues in the market.
How I describe it to applicants is that we are focused on where an applicant could be by the end of program and their prospects to achieve their next step – usually developing the vision and gaining the market traction to attract investor interest for their next round. So we’ll look at three main dimensions – the team, the combination of the market/problem/solution they’re going after, and their current progress to date. The more the applicant can highlight their strengths in these areas or at least discuss how they’ll address current weaknesses is important to our evaluation.
4) What are some Do’s and Don’ts to the application?
a) Be specific but don’t overwhelm us with detail. Good applications are compelling; they provide enough information so that we understand what you’re doing and why and they are easy to read. Providing detailed business plans or PhD theses is way too much.
b) Specific customer use cases or scenarios are good for illustrating the problem you’re solving and help you to avoid getting caught up in just listing all the features of your product.
c) Really make sure you tell us why your solution is unique and can be a game-changer. Saying that your competition’s UI is bad and that you’ll be better or that you have some feature that they don’t have isn’t usually compelling. Having a different approach or unique technology to solving a hard problem is usually more likely to get our attention.
d) Be specific about your team, roles, time commitments, including other commitments. We understand that teams are in different stages and places when you apply so we ask that you are candid on this question so we can assess your ability to be successful in AlphaLab.
e) Be clear of where you hope to get to by the end of AlphaLab. As stated in #3 above, we are trying to figure out where you are and where you can get to, in order to figure out whether your company is a fit with the program. This also shows that you have a sense of what you want to accomplish. We recognize that things will change (and in fact, the iterative nature of AlphaLab almost ensures it will) but we want to feel confident that you have a current gameplan you want to execute.
Thanks for your interest in AlphaLab and we look forward to start reading your application soon.
Executive Director, AlphaLab