Application Tips: Top 40 Interviews

Apart from all of the normal preparation you would do for any interview (dress smart, practice your introduction, anticipate potential questions and rehearse the answers, prepare some questions of your own) there are few pieces of advice I give to founders when they’re preparing for the final rounds of interviews for accelerator programs. 

First, as part of your interview preparation, you should think through why you’re applying in the first place, and have an idea of how we can work with you. One of the value drivers of the Techstars Berlin accelerator, is our niche expertise. We want to be more than just a shareholder in your company - think of us as an extra co-founder. We have the people-power and knowledge to help you, we’re committed to your long-term success, and will see you through to the end. 

Make sure that your introduction highlights how the Techstars Berlin accelerator can help you. Do your research, apply what you’ve learned, and tell us how we can help you grow even beyond the program. Your story is just beginning with Techstars and the wider network during the program, not ending.

And second, remember that saying ‘I don’t know’ is as relevant an answer as any. If you’re feeling the heat during the question sessions, keep your cool and answer every questions honestly.  A willingness to learn, an honesty to what you know and what you’re looking to improve in your business are paramount to succeeding in this program.

We use Ash Maurya's Lean Business Model Canvas a lot, please take some time to familiarise your team with the principles. We recommend you fill one out if you wish to refer to it in the final interview, be sure to a copy over to the program team before your final interview. You can make a copy of the template here.

Lastly, if you have specific questions for your interviewer, be sure to indicate to them at the start of the interview, just so they're aware.

Here's the list of questions Jag often asks teams at the interview stage:

  • "What's the hardest part about the business you're building? What have you learned since you started? And what have you learned with your first customer?"
    Bonus points if we can get an answer to all this in under two minutes! I want to know what you see as the key value proposition, and also what insights and learnings you've gleaned since you started. Be prepared for a follow-up question along the lines of "If this were to fail, what's the most likely reason?" 
  • "If I gave you $200k in cash and said you needed to spend that money on hiring people - who would you hire?"
    Essentially, I'm asking, what are you currently missing on your team? Be sure to tell us how many full-time team members are on the team, and how long you've all worked together. We really like to see evidence of the team working well together, even if you're all geographically dispersed or if you've outsourced some of your development. A favourite follow-up of Jag's is "As the CEO, what drives you crazy about your cofounders?"
  • "Who are your (likely) customers?"
    Be as concise and specific as you can! 
  • What would be the ideal outcome of working with Techstars?If you've done some research about the Techstars network, the people you're interviewing, and talked to some of the alumni, this question should be an easy one!
  • "What are the most important *leading* indicators for your business/product?" and "What's your most important KPI this week?" We want to know what’s the most important unknown you need to figure out next, and also what your plan is for doing that.
  • "How did you validate this market, and what is the scope of the market?" 
    I want to know where you see the market going in the next few years, and if you can scale this. The big question you need to answer is essentially, can you defend this against a team that may be better funded, coming out of next year's YC program?

Here's another list of questions you are likely to be asked at this interview stage:

  • What led you to apply to Techstars?
  • Why are you building this company?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • Tell me about each member of your team and how they contribute to your overall success.
  • How do you know each other?
  • What's the biggest organization (in headcount) that you could picture becoming?
  • How do you make decisions?
  • Who is the most indispensable person in the team?
  • Tell us about a conflict within the team that you've resolved.
  • How do you decide compensation for each other?
  • How did you decide who was the CEO?
  • How hard would it be recover if your co-founder/CTO/etc left tomorrow?
  • Who is your customer?
  • Who built the current product?
  • How long have you been working on this?
  • Do you have a development roadmap?
      • BizDev roadmap? How far out do they go? What are you going to accomplish in the next 3 months and 1 year?
  • What do you think the lifetime capital requirements of this company will be? How much total money to raise?
  • Are you working on this full-time?
      • How are you paying your bills?
  • Walk us through the competitive landscape.
  • What early assumption(s) do you feel confident about and are building around?
  • What are your ultimate expectations for this business? 
    • big acquisition? small acquisition? run it forever and ipo?
  • What are you most worried about right now?
  • If you were offered 1 million for the business right now, would you take it?
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