Chronicles of a Flawless Choice: SBC HighTechXL Class of 2014 Part 1

Chronicles of a Flawless Choice: SBC HighTechXL Class of 2014 Part 1

23-Oct-2014 by Startupbootcamp

A wicked premonition locks Jost’s eyebrows. The woman next to him narrows her eyes. Trembling fingers hold a reeky cigarette. A frantic giggle echoes on my right. Anxious feet tap on the wet cobblestones in front of the conference centre as I walk past the teams, clutching tightly the awards in my arms. Everyone’s awaiting the final say. Who will get a ticket to the program and who will go home?

So have you ever wondered how we do that? How do we filter the best out of 200, even 300 startups that apply for the program? How we narrow things down to 11.

Choosing an amazing 11 is not a gut feeling, and it certainly isn’t based on our 6th sense. On the contrary, it’s a complex and well-thought decision. As a matter of fact, just as any other accelerator we strive to abstain from subjectivity reigning over our professionalism.

A couple of months ago TechCrunch featured an article on multi-factor analysis of startups and the way these metrics are employed in Y Combinator’s selection process to avoid biases.

Although we are only 1 year old, we have developed an elaborate matrix to assess each and every startup we screen. And because we believe the aforementioned should be transparent, let me explain in this post the inner workings of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL Selection Days.

Weighing the Factors

There is, of course, plenty of subjectivity involved in the sense that we are people who work with people, and we sober up by engaging all stakeholders of this program in the decision-making.

Also, we invest in startup teams, not products, and for this reason the people factor will always hold a special place.

Remember this post where I discuss what’s the right time to join an accelerator? Well, take it as the conceptual framework one needs in order to build a foundation for their research project, their magnum opus. We use it, too, to evaluate your startup.

Remember the main concepts? I walk through four major readiness points: idea, a.k.a. product, team, commitment, and your resilience potential.

I start with your idea, natuarally, as it is the first and foremost element that helps you go through the initial phase – the application; move on to team, and finish with how coachable and agile you are. There’s more to that, though, but I’ve saved it for the next post.

Let’s go back for a second to the team. As Steve Blank once put it: ‘team composition matters as much or more than the product idea’, and he went on by saying: ‘the best ideas in the hands of a B team is worse than a B idea in the hands of a world class team.’ Couldn’t agree more.

We cannot emphasize enough how important your team is, in any of its aspects.

‘Team dynamics’ is a chapter on its own within the decision-making process, and it weighs – if not outweighs – as much as the other factors we consider. A ‘reg flag’ for your team almost certainly means no spot in the final batch.

So how do we actually evaluate your team? How do we know whether you’ve got the right composition in place to turn your idea into real business?

Team Dynamics GoPro

Well, we don’t rummage through your teams’ personal record and we’re not really HR specialists. Therefore, we need a serious helping hand with this matter.

Luckily, we’ve got InContext as our partner. Their commitment to create a collaborative environment and to fine-tune all of us here at sbcHighTechXL Headquarters goes beyond the program team. They did an amazing job evaluating the startup teams exactly 48 hours prior to Selection Days. Here’s a peek into how that worked.

First, all team members completed a Facet5 personality test. It’s a tool that quickly and accurately measures your behaviour, motivation, attitude, and ambition. It indicates your scores, based on self-assessment, in 5 major components: Control, Will, Energy, Affection, and Emotionality.

Here you can see how a sample personal profile looks like.

The individual profile contains plenty of insightful data explaining how effectively you work with others. But apart from that, one needs to be thoroughly trained in order to be able to read and comprehend the report in the context of an entire team.

Therefore, the next step was to set up group interviews with all the members of a startup, conducted by an InContext specialist. During the interviews, everyone could deepen their understanding of how exactly their personal awareness could help them build a better relationship with their colleagues.

Observations from the converstations were converted in feedback and also quantified with the help of an online tool. The feedback covered 8 elements, each divided in a qualitative and its quantitative subelement:



This is how a completed feedback form looks like:


The story doesn’t end up here, so bear with me. As you can see, in the last 3 sections InContext professionals give an overall grade of your team as well as their opinion whether the team is practically ready to go through the 3-month acceleration.

Further, they can openly state whether they want to mentor your team during the program or not:

This means that every team can rely on the specialized advice and support of our HR mentors to resolve inner team conflicts, as well as to work on their weaker points. Team dynamics are thoroughly woven into our program design, from beginning till end.

Finally, we sit down with our colleagues from Incontext and talk their feedback over, team by team.

The Good Deed Within

The overall grade given by InContext specialists is an index we include in our selection algorithm.

As I mentioned previously, there is much more to team assessment involved in the Final 11 decision-making process. Teams still need to pitch; pitch in front of our 150+ mentors, each of whom brings their own expertise in a specific business area.

We are yet to explore the remaining 20 criteria. More about these in the next post. To be continued next Thursday, 14:00 CET sharp. Cheers, Sophia.

P.S. Here’s more about how Facet5 works >>

Facet5 Workshop – Startupbootcamp HighTechXL – Weekly ( 23/10/2014 ) from StartupbootcampTV on Vimeo.