We have a big sign in our office quoting Voltaire saying “Common sense is not so common”. So after reviewing a few hundred applications to Eleven’s Batch 8, here are a few more tips on making a great application for early stage funding. And yes, they sound commons sense, but yet Voltaire was a pretty bright chap.

Tip #1: Be specific

The first thing I look for in an application is the short 140-symbol description of the project. Not because it is the most important part, but because it gives me the context for everything else in this project. So, do not waste your 140 characters on buzzwords, technical lingo, or beating around the bush. “A fresh social business providing interactive customer interactions to organizations and their clients using mobile first approach” means little to me. Just say what you do and do the grandma test — if your grandma does not understand it, change it. A simple “We build (product) which provides (key problem-solving capability) for (clients) who are not happy with (problem)” will do the job.

Tip #2: Spend extra time describing your team

Once I get the idea, I check the team, trying to understand how good it is — have they worked together before, have they executed something as a team, are they the right team to the project, are they committed or not.

Avoid these common mistakes.

    1. The platform we use (www.f6s.com) requires team members to log-in and each team member can edit and view the application. So if you claim there are three team members, make sure they all participated in the application process.
    2. Same as when you describe your project applies — don’t be vague — “A self-motivated innovator continuously looking for ways to build enterprises from scratch” sounds good, but means little.
    3. Don’t be lazy — when describing yourself or your achievements, avoid “Check my LinkedIn profile”, or worse — copy and paste it here. We want to know you care about this application.
    4. I know this is silly, but check it out — whether on F6S, Angel List or any other such site, you have a profile picture. And if this is a photo of a kitten, power car, or a half-naked guy with sunglasses, I will not take this seriously. Just google “LinkedIn profile photo tips” — the same applies here.

Tip #3: Define the problem

You will be surprised how many people do not understand the questionWhat problem does your product or service solve? Answers range from another vague description of the product to “we don’t have enough money to build it”. Don’t talk about your product, nor your vision or how you want to save baby whales (a worthy cause, no doubt, but that’s not what the question is about.) It is about what problem do your clients (or users) have that your product or service is solving.

“Available software for managing veterinary practices costs a lot of money to buy, install and own” is a problem. “We are targeting small and medium vet clinics with a cloud-based SaaS solution” is not.

Oh, and make it realistic. A job search portal will not solve the problem with unemployment, however much we want it to.

Tip #4: Shoot a real video

Let’s be clear on that, changing slides of text with some music over may technically be called a video, but is not what we expect to see. Videos are about seeing and hearing what you have to show and say, not about reading an autocue.

Tip #5: Tell a story

There are plenty of questions in the applications where you can tell a story, and storytelling is a powerful thing. For example, answering Why did you pick this idea to work on? is a great opportunity to do so. And it will be much more convincing than “We are passionate about this field” or “It is a brand new concept based on years of research”.

Tip #6: Make sure things work

Links should work, sites should be live, videos should play (as opposed to being private) and have sound, demos shall be functional. Make sure all these things work and we can actually see them.

Also, when you add a link to something, it should be the right thing. If in the video section, you send us to your favorite song on Youtube, we will probably enjoy it, but it will not do much good for your application. And adding a link to a Slide Share presentation where a link to your site should be does not help either.

Tip #7: Be realistic (or explain)

If you forecast your revenue to be 2,000 this year and 2,000,000 next, we will not believe you unless you tell us how you are going to do that. When talking about revenue, give us the underlying assumptions — number of users times revenue per user makes a lot of sense here.

And when you claim you have thousands of dollars of revenue while your product is in Alpha stage, please, tell us how you did that — it is kind of important.

Tip #8: Know the lingo

Although we try to keep it simple, we may sometimes get carried away in using some specific terms. Make sure you understand what these mean. For example, check the difference between Alpha, Private Beta and Public Beta stages before you answer What is the stage of your project? And if you have a prototype, show it to us, or we will immediately assume it is Idea only.

Tip #9: Pitch an investable idea

Maybe the most important tip here — understand how accelerators work, and why a good business may not always be an investable project. After all, we invest at valuations between 300,000 and 3,000,000 Euros, and we expect 10x return on our investment. This means the company has to grow at least 10 times in the next several years. If your idea is a good business but is not innovative, targets a limited market, or is very capital intensive, we may not be the right investor for you.

Make sure you also check this post for more tips.