Here at 500, every time a new batch opens up we receive a flood of applications to sift through. As we review them, we often see a lot of the same common mistakes repeated over and over, so we figured it was time to give a quick 101 on how to give your company the best head start when application time rolls around.
1. It’s all about the traction.
It’s important for us to understand what stage your company is at—be clear about any traction you may have and put it front and center. This will look different if you are a B2B or a B2C company, so we’ve broken it down below:
- B2B: Highlight any pilots you have, and include if they are paid or not. Even LOIs are important to mention. If well-known companies are testing out your product, we want to know about it. Although you may not be generating revenue yet, this shows us that you’ve built something people want.
- B2C: Talk about the velocity of your growth—this can be early stage or late stage. We want to see that you have momentum, so tell us how your user growth has improved since you launched. If you have just started charging for your product or service, talk about engagement or conversions within your customer base.
2. Break down your business model
Have you started charging for your product yet? The answer doesn’t have to be yes—but the answer should be honest. We want to know how your team is thinking about monetization. 500’s superpower is growth, so we want to find companies that are ready to scale.
3. Tell us your unfair advantage
Ideas change and companies pivot, but it’s the belief in the team that we’re betting on. If there are members of your team that have unique domain expertise, make sure that that’s clearly communicated in your application. We invest in a wide range of diverse and global founders; we’re not looking for big name logos or universities—we’re looking for the reason why your team will win.
4. Differentiate your product
As previously mentioned, we evaluate a high volume of companies during each application season. This means the chances of us seeing your competitor is high, so make sure you explain what makes your product unique and address any major competitors in the space. If you don’t think there are competitors in your market, you probably haven’t done enough research, so look again. Find the closest competitors you can and tell us why the route you’re taking to solve your market’s problem is smarter than anyone else’s.
5. Don’t forget your pitch deck
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not including a pitch deck with your application. Think of your pitch deck as a chance to tell your company’s story. It should be clear, concise, and convincing. Talk about the problem you’re solving, and then present your solution and why it’s better than anything else out there. Include any notable metrics you’re tracking and the size of the market you’re looking to tap. And don’t forget to include your business model—how do you plan to make money?
NOTE: This article first appeared on 500’s website under the title “5 Tips for Making Your 500 Startups Application Stand Out“
Author: Emily King
Emily is on 500’s Portfolio Management team, where she helps manage our community of over 2,000 portfolio companies.
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