About the program
The WHU Accelerator is an equity-free, 7-week, intensive program for WHU students, alumni, and staff designed to provide rocket fuel for your new ventures. The program will kick off on May 14, culminating with Demo Day presentations on July 2.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are still uncertain whether we will run a 100% virtual accelerator or will have the option to deliver it in a hybrid format. But from our experience mentoring recent accelerator cohorts in Berlin, London, Munich, and Silicon Valley, either option should still be great!
- Pre-Program Coaching (March 29-May 13)
Selected founder teams are required to participate in 6 weekly coaching sessions with notable WHU entrepreneurs and investors to prepare for the program and ensure momentum entering the accelerator. This will provide teams early opportunities to refine their products and business models prior to joining the cohort.
- Program Orientation (May 14)
Founder teams will get to know each other, discuss the program schedule, and learn useful tips to maximize program benefits. A virtual mixer event will allow teams to meet the program mentors before working with them the following week. And founders will participate in video interviews with our media team.
- Phase One: Mentor Mayhem (May 17-28)
These two weeks are incredibly intense, but arguably the most valuable part of the program. Modeled after Techstars’ infamous Mentor Madness, each day founders will meet with 6-8 experienced mentors to present their business models for feedback. Mentors are notable entrepreneurs, investors, and technologists from the WHU ecosystem that will provide valuable insights into various aspects of the startups. Upon completion of Mentor Madness, teams will be asked to select a handful Mentors as “Leads” who will provide coaching and support throughout the program. In other accelerator programs, it is not uncommon for mentors to later join startup teams as advisors, investors, or even team members.
- Phase Two: Product-Market Fit (May 31-June 18)
This three-week phase is designed to support teams in building their business – attracting customers, developing product, building sales pipelines, marketing/branding, etc. There will be multiple workshops each week on topics relevant to the cohort. But teams are also afforded time to work independently on their ventures. Lead mentors play an important role in this phase, offering feedback on progress or decision-making on a regular basis.
- Phase Three: Capitalization (June 21-July 1)
The final phase of the program is designed to prepare teams for Demo Day. Founders will receive workshops and one-on-one support for developing their pitches, preparing for capitalization, and connecting with the investor network that will be participating in Demo Day. By the end of this phase, teams should have all the pieces in place to take the next step toward their venture’s growth trajectory.
- Demo Day (July 2)
All of the hard work culminates in a pitch at Demo Day. The audience will be a collection of business angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, and guests from the WHU ecosystem and beyond. This will be the founders’ opportunity to show the investment community all they have accomplished during the program and potentially raise early-stage funding.
Sign-up here to experience eight outstanding pitches, enjoy a fireside chat, and speak directly to the teams.
- STAGEtwo Competition (September 8)
All teams that complete the WHU Accelerator will be invited to pitch at the first round of STAGEtwo, Europe’s First University Venture Competition. The first local round of STAGEtwo will be held at WHU September 8 with the top two teams traveling to Berlin for the finals on October 29, where they will pitch and compete against teams from over 20 other universities from across Europe. This will provide our top founding teams multiple opportunities to pitch to notable investors and gain valuable media exposure.
2021 Cohort Demo Day Pitches
Applications for the WHU Summer Startup Accelerator 2021 are officially open! Applications close on March 7, 2021 at 23:59.
Finalists will be notified on March 12 with finalist interviews taking place from March 15-16. Offers will be made shortly thereafter with the official public cohort announcement taking place on March 22.
Teams must complete the application form in the link below. Please submit only one application per team, so do it collectively with your cofounders. You are asked to fill out a number of questions about your startup, your team, and yourself as individuals. You are also required to submit a PDF pitch deck (via web link) and a short video introducing the founders.
You will not be assessed by the production quality of your video so keep it short and use a simple tool such as Zoom, smartphone, or laptop webcam. If you have a product demo video, please submit that as well (optional). Post all videos on YouTube or Vimeo as unlisted and provide the URL in your application.
Submit your application at: https://bit.ly/WHUaccelerator.
The WHU Startup Accelerator Selection Committee is comprised of WHU Entrepreneurship Center leadership and select entrepreneurs and investors from the WHU community. The criteria we will use to assess applicants consists of the following:
- Team composition
Does the team have the pieces they need to go from idea to MVP and potentially to market? Are there major gaps or redundancies that will impact the benefit they can get from the accelerator?
Has the team made sufficient progress in developing their new venture? Is there a clear idea, value proposition, business model? At what stage is their MVP? Has any customer discovery or research been undertaken? Is this a serious business that has received significant time and effort or just a last minute application?
Is the business idea well-defined and well-researched? Is it innovative and potentially disruptive at some scale? Can the business model impact thousands or millions of people’s lives? Is it a small business or an investable business model (think TAM/SAM/SOM)?
- Program Fit
Does the business model or idea fit well with the resources available to the WHU Accelerator and its mentor community? Do we think we can effectively add value to this venture? Is the business aligned with WHU’s core values?
Shortlisted teams will be notified on March 12 and asked to participate in a 30-minute video interview with Accelerator staff. These interviews will take place from March 15-16 and will include an additional 5-10 minutes for founder Q&A.
From March to May, accepted teams will be required to participate in 6x coaching sessions prior to program kick-off. These sessions will include Entrepreneurship Center staff and other notable alumni and ecosystem partners. This will ensure teams continue to work on their businesses and maintain momentum prior to the program start.
Frequently asked questions –
To the WHU Summer Accelerator.
At least one founder must be a WHU student, alumnus, or staff. Founders are expected to participate in the entirety of the program.
Although complete teams are preferred, the WHU Accelerator does not exclude solo founders from applying. But it is important to clearly justify why being a solo founder is a strategic decision at this stage of the venture.
The WHU Accelerator is an equity-free program. It does not invest in startups, nor does it take an equity stake. However, we will do our best to get you in front of the right investors who may be interested in investing in your business after the program ends.
No. The program is free for those who are accepted. Sponsors and donors to the WHU Entrepreneurship Center cover the costs of program operations.
Currently, Master in Entrepreneurship students are able to receive internship credit if selected. In addition to program participation, MiE cohort teams are required to write a short 500 word reflection paper about their experience in the accelerator.
In order to maximize benefit of the program, we suggest all team members participate in all activities. However, we do recognize that sometimes team members need to work on different tasks at different times. So absences will be approved by the Accelerator Director on a case-by-case basis. For founders seeking internship credit for participating in the program, there will be less flexibility for recurring absences.
Yes and no. Although we don’t require applicants to have a finished product or market traction, we expect that the product or service has been well-designed with some degree of testing or validation. Prototypes, mockups, or wireframes will be considered. But the more refined the product, the better the chance of admission.
No. You don’t need to be a registered business entity to participate. Furthermore, we will provide workshops and mentorship to support you in making the right decisions for setting up your legal business structure. However, if you intend to raise capital post-program, you will likely need to set up a legal business before closing an investment.
We will host a Zoom Q&A session for interested applicants on February 24 at 18:00. Please fill out the form at bit.ly/WHUacceleratorQA to confirm your participation in the Q&A and to receive the Zoom link.