Applying to AngelPad: How to Write a Killer Application

I receive emails every week from people that have read my previous post about AngelPad and are looking for advice as they prepare to apply. I find myself giving the same advice over and over again, so I thought I’d try to distill some of it and get it on paper once and for all.

You should still feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like some more tailored advice. My goal here was to write down the more general stuff that applies to all AP applicants.

As with all things in the startup world, there is no magic bullet, but these are the things I’d encourage you to consider as you put together your AngelPad application.

 The Message

One common mistake that applicants make is to try to fully capture every detail of their business in their application, and this often comes at the expense of a truly compelling message. The goal of the application isn’t to document your business with enough detail for someone else to replicate it, the goal is to impress Thomas and Carine enough that they can’t help but invite you for an in-person interview.

You’re not going to wow them by having an amazing idea for a company. The truth is, no matter how great you think your idea is, Thomas is probably going to think it sucks (and, given your stage, he’s probably right - you’ll think so too when you look back on this moment in a few months). They aren’t looking for the perfect fully-baked company - if they were, they’d just be passive investors. They’re looking for teams that have amazing potential.

Your #1 goal in your application is to capture Thomas and Carine’s imaginations.

Instead of trying to be totally comprehensive, try to really nail the following points:

  1. Here’s what our company does, and here’s why.
  2. Individually, each member of our team is awesome. We have relevant experience and excel at everything we do.
  3. Combined, our team is unstoppable. We’re greater than the sum of our parts, and we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Thomas and Carine don’t invest in ideas, they invest in teams. So the more you can talk about your team and your background, the better off you’ll be. Your idea, business, market and traction still matter, but mostly just as evidence that you’re a good team.

Thomas has a particular weakness for people with strong experience/backgrounds (sometimes being an ex-Google employee is enough to get you to an interview), so if you have such a background then don’t keep it a secret. Now is not the time to be modest. If you don’t have this kind of background, don’t let that dissuade you from applying.

 The Video

The video is very important. A lot of people spend lots of time agonizing over every detail in their written application and then slap together a video as an afterthought. This is a big mistake. Thomas usually watches the video before reading the rest of the application, and he’ll often make his initial judgment based on the video alone.

If you can, make a custom video for AngelPad. I know you’re probably applying to other accelerators too, but you have to at least pretend that AngelPad is your one true love. There’s no better way to get your application on the rejection pile than by singing the praises of YC in your video.

Trying to condense all of your information into a short video can be really tough. Remember: less is more. Focus on your strengths - your goal is to impress and intrigue Thomas and Carine, not to record a spoken version of your written application.

For reference, here’s our application video. It’s not perfect, and there are certainly things that I’d change if I were to do it over again, but it was enough to get us to an interview.

 The Written Application

The best written applications are simple and straightforward. After you write your first draft, you should go over it and remove as much as possible in an effort to make every word really count.

Great applications are able to explain difficult and nuanced concepts in a dead simple way. Thomas and Carine aren’t going to read through your application 10 times in painstaking detail - they’re going to give it a quick read and form an initial opinion of you. Whatever your point is, you better get it across quickly and simply.

Remember, your goal is for Thomas and Carine to walk away from your application thinking to themselves “Got it - good idea built by really smart people with extremely relevant experience. I want to talk to them in person and learn more.” Anything that doesn’t move your application further toward that goal should be cut.

 
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