Guest Post by: Steve B. from masschallenge.org

Joining a startup accelerator program is an attractive option for businesses looking to secure funding to scale their business. A solid plan for funding is essential to a healthy startup ecosystem, and more and more business owners are looking at accelerator programs as a way to get the funding they need, with the opportunity to scale their business at lightning speed.

Although a popular choice for business, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what an accelerator program is.

What Are Accelerator Programs?

In short, accelerator programs give entrepreneurs the opportunity to rapidly scale their companies over an intensive 3 month period. The business will have access to mentors, investors, advisors, and other founders, as well as an average investment of $20,000 to $50,000.

To be accepted onto an accelerator program, a business will generally need an MVP, and have some proof of product-market fit.

The Application Process

The application process starts by filling out an online form about the company, where you’ll talk about your team idea, problem, market, previous funding, and anything else relevant to the startup.

There will be an assessment, where your application will be looked at to ensure that you align with investment verticals, prototypes, revenue, and more. There may then be an interview of around 20-30 minutes where an accelerator will decide if you’re a fit for the program.

An evaluation will take place designed to make your application more concrete. Startup Accelerators want to see evidence such as documents to solidify their choice to invest in you. Information will then be used to vet your company across core areas.

The investment committee then meets to decide where the money will go during the 12-16 week program, and you will be informed as to whether the business has been accepted onto the program or not.

How To Apply Successfully?

Accelerators will want to know what problem you solve and who you are helping, so make this clear with research to back it up. You need to differentiate your business and your ideas – why should they choose you over everybody else? They want to see innovation.

You should also have foundational business elements in place before applying, such as a website, legal documents and accounting. These aren’t things to get in place after your application – get all of your ducks in a row beforehand.

Knowing your financials like the back of your hand is a must. If you can show that your startup idea is in demand and guaranteed to get interest, then this will give you some traction and an advantage over other businesses.

The accelerators must be able to understand all of your strategies, such as customer success and product development – and they won’t accept solo founders or an incomplete team.

Below, you can learn more using this infographic from MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup accelerator.