/ Startmate

Accelerator program practice questions

Making it to the interview stage for an accelerator program is a big deal, you’ve got yourself a chance to speak with some brilliant people and give you startup a real boost. It’s worth making sure you’re prepared for anything they can throw at you.

Recently I posted about our journey in being interviewed for both Startmate in Sydney, and YCombinator in California. I mentioned that we built up a nice big list of questions that we fired off at each other in preparation for the big day.

This is that list.

A few tips

If I had to give a few specific pieces of advice based on our experience, it would be these:

Practice being able to answer every question concisely, in under 15 seconds. You don’t have time to babble.

Give your answer first, then expand from there. There’s a very good chance they’ll cut you off (not to be rude, but to maximise the time you have and move on to the next question), so you’ll want to get across your main point immediately.

Think big, and sell that. Your idea / startup might be a pretty good one, but pretty good isn’t enough. You need to be able to sell to them that you’ve got the potential to be an enormous, game changing, but defensible, product. What other industries can you enter once you grow? Try and think of other applications of your startup that will let you expand.

Practice questions

Major:

  • What are you working on?
  • Who would use your product?
  • How do you know customers need what you’re making? * How do you know people want this?
  • How will you make money?
  • How much money could you make per year?
  • Why isn’t someone already doing this?
  • Why will you succeed over others? What do you understand that others don’t?
  • What have you learned so far from working on your product?
  • How much does customer acquisition cost?
  • How many users do you have?
  • Where do new users come from? How do users find out about you?
  • How are you meeting customers?
  • What is your distribution strategy? How will you grow?
  • What makes new users try you?
  • Why do the reluctant users hold back?
  • What is your growth like?
  • What is your user growth rate?
  • What’s the conversion rate?
  • How many users are paying?
  • Who is going to be your first paying customer?
  • What resistance will users have to trying you and how will you overcome it?
  • How are you understanding customer needs?
  • What are the top things your users want?
  • What has surprised you about user behavior?
  • What’s new about what you make?
  • What problems and hurdles are you anticipating?
  • How will you overcome them?
  • Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Important questions:

  • Why did you choose this idea?
  • Why did you pick this idea to work on?
  • Where is the rocket science here?
  • What do you understand about your users?
  • What domain expertise do you have?
  • What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
  • What’s an impressive thing you have done?
  • How did your team meet?
  • Why did your team get together?
  • Who in your team does what?
  • Who would you hire or how would you add to your team? Who would be your next hire?
  • What part of your project are you going to build first?
  • What are you going to do next?
  • What is the next step with the product evolution?
  • If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who might become competitors?
  • What competition do you fear most?
  • How long can you go before funding?
  • Have you raised funding to date?
  • What will you do if we don’t fund you?
  • Would you relocate to better your business?
  • Who is “the boss”?
  • How do we know your team will stick together?
  • Will your team stick at this?
  • What else have you created together?
  • Are you open to changing your idea?
  • We’re not really sure this product can be huge, but we like you.
  • What else do you have?

Softballs:

  • What are your passions outside of work?
  • What systems have you hacked?
  • Tell us about a tough problem you solved?
  • In what ways are you resourceful?
  • What is something surprising you have done?
  • What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you?
  • What’s the worst thing that has happened? What’s the biggest mistake you have made?

Misc:

  • Tell me about elevio?
  • There is a bunch of other gungho founders here.
  • What makes you guys different? What motivates you?
  • What do you spend most of your time doing?
  • Whats the big problem you’re solving?
  • How big is the market – how many potential customers can you have?
  • Why do you have high growth potential?
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer?
  • How long does it take to convert a trial into a paying customer?
  • How long will it take you to get them?
  • What have been the key learnings from a technology perspective?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your legal/liability risks?
  • Do you have an exit plan?  Who are your potential acquirers?
  • What IP do you own?
  • What are the key metrics you focus on when managing the business day to day?
  • What are you planning to do with the money from any investment?

Notes

A lot of these questions came from a post by the Aptible team here, questions have been added and removed based on our use case and experience.

Chris Duell

Chris Duell

Chris is one of the founders of elev.io. He's a lover of 80s music, SaaS, problem solving, and a good whisky.

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