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February, 2012

Another Open House for Applicants!

We had so much fun talking to the applicants at tonights open house that we have decided to do another one!  It will be on Wednesday, March 7th at 5:30pm here at Excelerate – please register now if you want to come hang out, hear more about the program and chat with folks from Excelerate (both the staff and alums from previous years) -   Space is limited so REGISTER NOW!


Filed under: Status Updates — Tags: , — February 29, 2012

How to get accepted into Excelerate…

Be bold! Apply! It’s the only way we can let you in!

Animate, Excelerate! We want to see the passion, knowledge and intuition you have for your idea. How are you communicating this in your application? And can we see that you are truly committed to doing this?

Remember, keep it simple. Can you articulate what your company does in a single sentence?  Does your pitch communicate your killer idea in a clear and relatable way? Have others read your application to make sure that someone who’s not immersed in your business understands it.

Champion the team. Why are you the best team to deliver on this vision? Where is your technical co-founder? Show us what is it about you – your background and experiences – that demonstrates your ability to execute and collectively go the distance.

Demonstrate product value. Tell us how your business works. Don’t just show us a bunch of features. It’s great that your site’s free, accessible on iPhones, iPads and in all browsers, but those are just bells and whistles. We need to hear the how. If you’re offering a website that helps squirrels learn to fly, do your flying experts post videos for others to watch? Is it based on pictures? Text? Show us, even if it’s just a mock up on a whiteboard.

Define your business model. Where is the value created? How do you capture it and when? What is the size of the potential market for this product or service? Are there similar products out there, if so, how is yours special or proprietary? What can you do better/faster/cheaper than the competition?  Two great books to help you think about the process: “The Lean Startup” and “Do More Faster

Know your customer! Who is your target customer? How do you reach those customers and get into their pocketbooks? Can you demonstrate intimate knowledge of this segment, even if you haven’t yet logged orders or shipped the device?

Know how to attract your customer…   So many plans fail to have a real customer acquisition plan.  You have to have a hypothesis on how you are going to attract all these folks and what it is going to cost – BOTTOM UP – none of the “If we just get 5% of this really huge market, we will all be rich…” talk!!!

Weave a MAT!  To quote Guy Kawasaki, what are the MILESTONES you must meet, what are the ASSUMPTIONS you are making about your business, what are the TASKS that you must perform to get your product or service into customers hands.

What is the competitive landscape?  What are the barriers to entry and exit? How do you stack up against the competition in terms of market share, price, and substitutes? Most importantly, how do you expect to beat them all?

And lastly….know your audience. Do your homework about Excelerate – the program, mentors and past portfolio companies. Think about how you fit might into the Excelerate ecosystem and the value you would derive from the experience.

Bonus Tips:

We definitely prefer teams of more than one person, there is just WAY too much to get done over the summer for a single founder.

Having a developer as part of the team (as opposed to outsourcing) will increase your chances of getting in at least 10x


Don’t forget – Applications close on March 16th (and to get special consideration, submit before the early deadline of March 1st!)




Filed under: Status Updates — Tags: , — February 24, 2012

Excelerate Needs Interns!

Excelerate is a busy place during the summer, with 10 growing companies in the throws of intense programming. We are looking for help from MBA and undergraduate interns for the summer. If you’re excited about entrepreneurship and venture capital, we offer a great environment for learning.

Every day would be different. For example, an intern might work on some market research in the morning, then order pizza for a team lunch, then take notes during a mentor meeting in the afternoon, and help one of the teams test their software near the end of the day. You’d have a wide range of tasks, from the strategic to the mundane. That’s part of startup life, and part of Excelerate. As an intern, you’ll meet our hundreds of mentors and be around as our teams get advice from the best entrepreneurs, VCs, and executives anywhere.

Requirements for Undergrad Interns: Rising senior or recently graduated. Demonstrated interest in startups. Comfortable with uncertainty and self-directed.

Requirements for MBA Interns: Completed your first year or have recently graduated. Able to leverage your knowledge of startups, business models, strategy, finance, and more to help both our companies and the program. Ready to manage one or more interns.

Both must be available in Chicago weekdays May 29th – Aug. 31th.

Interested? Send a cover letter saying why you’d be great for the job (including a link to your LinkedIn profile) and your resume in PDF form to: ”Kristin at ExcelerateLabs dot com”  by Friday, March 2nd at midnight.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — February 21, 2012

New Reasons to Live in the Windy City

We were so excited to see venture capitalist Brad Feld post about the Chicago start up scene in There’s a ton going on here, and it’s great to see it be recognized:

Troy Henikoff, one of the founders of Excelerate Labs and one of the leaders of Chicago’s startup community, sent me an update on what’s going on in Chicago. It’s pretty awesome and is a great example of what happens when entrepreneurs take a long term view to building their startup community. Here are a few of the things going on that Troy mentioned….

Click here for the full post.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — February 20, 2012

Open House(s) for Applicants – Come meet Excelerate!

Thinking about applying to Excelerate for the summer of 2012?  Have questions?  What to learn more and meet the people?  Here is your chance – we are having a couple of open houses – one in San Francisco on February 21st and one in Chicago on February 29th.

Register now as there are a limited number of tickets:

February 21st – San Francisco

February 29th – Chicago




Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — February 16, 2012