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How to get accepted to a Kiuas program

Looking to apply to a Kiuas program? Here's how to maximize your chances of getting accepted.

Aaro Isosaari

May 6, 2020

During the past two years, over 700 startups have applied to Kiuas programs, but only a fraction of those startups have made it through. Reflecting back on the applications, we recognized a few common themes that have affected the startups’ chances of getting accepted to first the interviews and eventually to the program itself.

Qualities we look for

Getting into a Kiuas program is not rocket science: we assess the most fundamental factors in terms of your product and team, as well as the validation you've received from potential customers. Having made revenue, raised funding, recruited people in your team, or even formed a legal entity are never required, so don’t worry about being too early – there’s no such thing for us.

1. A significant problem 

You’ve probably heard this a million times already, but we’ll state it anyways: your startup should essentially be a solution to a problem that exists in the world, and you should be able to understand and state the problem thoroughly. Solving a problem that you or your co-founders have encountered in your own lives, instead of solving a problem for someone else, helps.

2. Validation

Optimally, you should have put some effort to also validate whether the problem (or the solution, depending on your stage) you’ve settled on is something that has demand and is thus worth of pursuing. This doesn’t mean that you need to have paying customers for a functionable product – proving the demand can be as simple as having identified a problem based on customer interviews or getting people on your waitlist.

3. Capabilities

Your founding team (or you, in the case of a solo-founder) should have the needed capabilities to build the first version of the product – an MVP – and get it in front of potential customers. In most cases, this means that the team consists of at least one technical person. Having people with domain expertise in the founding team is great, but we are equally excited about accepting startups founded by students and recent graduates like us. 🎓

4. Progress (+ roadmap)

Even though you’re still early on your journey, there should exist a high-level plan for what you will be spending your precious time on – at least during the upcoming months. Having achieved a lot in a short amount of time (and with little resources) is always impressive, as is the ability to take risks and jump on your startup full-time, in case you haven’t done that yet. 

5. Honesty 

We know that your startup is not yet perfect, so don’t hesitate to be open about the things you’re still missing and need to work on. More importantly, you don’t have to make yourself look better or optimize on the same metrics as you maybe would with investors: Kiuas doesn’t take equity from the startups and thus our success is not dependent on the financial performance of each individual startup.

Our goal with you is not to make a billion-dollar exit – we are much more excited about selecting teams with great potential and offering them an optimal environment and tools to build their startup – either the current one or something to be founded later.

Typical reasons for rejection

The majority of the rejections we’ve have had to make during the past couple of years have been due to the following reasons – tackle these you will be much better off.

1. Not answering a question

Although the questions are purposefully broad to leave room for your own insights, you should still answer them in a structured manner. You would be surprised to see how many applicants have answered the problem question “What problem is your startup solving?” with a description of their solution “We are building a…”!

2. Lack of progress

So, you’ve worked on your startup for 4 years and it’s yet to be launched? In that case, we’d love to hear what makes the current timing different from the past and how your progress will look like going forward.

3. Lack of problem

Quite often applicants fail in expressing any problem that their startup is solving, or haven’t done proper validation to determine whether the problem truly exists. 

P.S. having validated the problem with your mom is not enough.

4. Lack of competencies 

As mentioned, the founding team should be equipped with skills to bring a product into the market. If your solution is a mobile app, your founding team should be able to build a mobile app. Outsourcing development is a no-go – here’s why.

5. Lack of commitment

While with Kiuas Start it’s OK to still be part-time on your startup, we’d love to see a path out of it somewhere in the near future. If raising external funding is an ultimate requirement for you to jump full-time on your startup, you are likely to run into a chicken-and-egg problem while fundraising. You should be able to tolerate risks since that’s what startups are fundamentally about.

6. Not being coachable

Kiuas Start and Accelerator are all about getting expert advice from coaches (who are most likely more experienced entrepreneurs than you), so entering a quarrel with one of our coaches in the interview phase is not a great start for the program! 

7. Wrong reasons to apply (or a lack of them)

Founders apply to Kiuas for various reasons: some for support & community, whereas some more for tools & other perks – and that’s fine. However, what’s not fine is relying too much on Kiuas to determine your success. We’ve interviewed founders who say that their whole startup is dependent on whether they get into the program or not – and that’s not really what the role of Kiuas should be. Not being able to state your motivation to join the program is equally bad.

Checklist for applying

  1. State your problem & solution thoroughly
  2. Be honest and don’t fake your progress
  3. Answer the questions
  4. Be humble in the interviews (and other times as well)
  5. Have solid reasons to apply
  6. Submit your application on time 😉

Application to Kiuas Accelerator is open until 20 May – Apply here!

Aaro Isosaari

May 6, 2020

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