About the Program
By being a WHU founder or having a WHU member in your founding team, you have access to one of the most impressive entrepreneurship communities in the world. Take the leap now and dive into this ecosystem by applying for the WHU Accelerator 2023!
The WHU Accelerator is an equity-free intensive program for WHU students, alumni, and staff designed to provide rocket fuel for your new ventures. The program will kick off with coaching sessions from 8th of May, followed by a virtual orientation day on the 13th of May and culminate with Demo Day presentations on July 8th. The majority of the program will be virtual with the demo day taking place in person.
The following provides a short overview of the program, the application process, and a few Q&As founders may want to ask.
Onward & upward!
The WHU Accelerator Team
- Pre-Program Coaching (May 8 - May 12, virtual)
Selected founder teams are required to participate in coaching sessions with mentors from the WHU Entrepreneurship Center to prepare for the program and ensure momentum entering the Accelerator. This will provide teams with early opportunities to refine their hypotheses around their products, market trends & size, competition and business model prior to joining the cohort.
- Program Orientation (May 13, virtual)
Founder teams will get to know each other, discuss the program schedule, and learn useful tips from previous Accelerator participants to maximize program benefits.
- Phase One: Mentor Mayhem Part I (May 15 – May 19, virtual)
This week is one of a total of two weeks of intense mentorship in the program that will arguably be the most demanding, but also most valuable weeks in the Accelerator.Modeled after Techstars’ Mentor Madness, over the course of one week founders will meet each day to present their business models for feedback. Mentors are notable entrepreneurs, investors, and technologists from the WHU ecosystem who will use their expertise to help validate and challenge the founders' core venture hypotheses. This also provides a strong opportunity for our founders to convince these experts to become long-term mentors of their ventures.
- Phase Two: Product-Market Fit (May 22 – June 09, virtual)
This three-week phase is designed for the startups to analyze and act upon the feedback received from Mentor Mayhem. Startups will have the opportunity to improve their hypotheses and further build their business by attracting customers, developing their products, building sales pipelines, marketing/branding, etc. While there will be multiple events each week on topics relevant to the cohort, teams are mainly afforded time to work independently on their ventures. Mentors may play an important role in this phase, offering feedback on progress or decision-making on a regular basis.
- Phase Three: Mentor Mayhem Part II (June 12 – June 16, virtual) During the second part of the two weeks of intensive mentorship, the teams will have the opportunity to receive extensive feedback on their revised hypotheses based on the progress of the past 3 weeks. Similar to the first week of Mentor Mayhem, founders will meet with 8 additional experienced mentors from the WHU ecosystem each day and get additional opportunities to convince some experts to become more intensively involved as advisors of their business.
- Phase Four: Capitalization (June 19 – July 07, virtual)
The final phase of the program is designed to prepare teams for Demo Day. With the feedback from Mentor Mayhem in mind, founders will work on finalizing their pitches and preparing for capitalization. The teams will receive one-on-one support from the WHU Entrepreneurship Center and get the chance to leverage 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 and embark on their next funding round.
- Demo Day (July 08, hybrid)
All 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 get a head start on their early-stage funding.
Applications for the WHU Accelerator 2023 were officially closed on March 12, 2023 (11:59 PM).
Finalists were notified on March 17 with finalist interviews taking place from March 20-21. Offers were made shortly after that with the official cohort announcement on March 24.
Teams must complete the application form via the link below. They are asked to fill out a number of questions about their startup, team, and as individuals. They are also required to submit a PDF pitch deck, introducing the founders, and a product demo video (if available).
To see the application form, go to: https://bit.ly/whu-accelerator-2023
The WHU Accelerator Selection Committee is comprised of WHU Entrepreneurship Center leadership and entrepreneurs from the WHU community. The criteria used to assess applicants consist 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 your startup a growth venture (I.e., not a pure agency, consulting,or coaching business)? Is the business aligned with WHU’s core values?
Shortlisted teams will be notified on March 17 and asked to participate in a 30-minute video interview with Accelerator staff. These interviews will take place from March 20- March 21 and will include an additional 5-10 minutes for founder Q&A.
On March 24, the final teams will be announced.
Frequently Asked Questions –
To the WHU Accelerator.
At least one founder must be a WHU student, alumna/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 can 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 the 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.
Please note that during the Mentor Mayhem phases a minimum of 2 founders are always required in the calls to ensure that at least one person is always available for communication and another person is available for taking notes.
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.