18. Selection


Eenie meenie miney mo…

The applicants are typically idea-stage and prototype-stage teams, half of which have yet to legally incorporate. The products and plans of the invited companies are expected to change during the incubation program. Some change drastically. Given these realities, traditional Angel investment strategies are not a perfect fit. For example, financial plans are not of much use, as when the product and market change, the financial projections usually must be recalculated from scratch.

The application takes this into account, asking a series of simple, general questions which together provide most of the information from a business plan. The application forces the applicants to explain what problem they are solving, how they intend to solve it, how they are or intend to make money, the existing funding, the historic revenues, what they want from Fledge, and some information about the team.


Applications are primarily submitted via F6S.com, a web site designed specifically for business accelerators, and provided free of charge to Fledge (and thousands of other incubators around the world).

Fledge also has an account on Gust.com, the defacto standard web site for processing deal flow at Angel Groups. Gust provides Fledge a free account, and a few applications arrive every month, regardless of the official application period, finding Fledge through the Gust interface, which has no concept of application period.

Wheat and Chaff

Reading through these applications takes between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, depending on the quality of the answers. The norm for accelerators is for half of the applications to be “chaff” and those are easily rejected.

Follow-up Questions

The questions on the application are not specific to any sector or geography or business model. Every applicant worth rating is sent individualized follow-up questions to learn the specifics of the business.

Often the answers beget further questions.

Skype Interviews

Starting a week or two before the application deadline, the best of the applicants are invited to schedule a 45-minute interview over Skype.

At this point, the key questions about the business/idea should have been answered already. The point of the interview is to probe the founder and team, to separate out the great entrepreneurs from the great ideas.

All interviews are ideally over Skype, even for local applicants to avoid a local bias.

Second Opinions

The applications are incredibly diverse in terms of geography and sector. No one or two people have enough knowledge to properly gauge the abilities of every team nor to understand the potential pitfalls of every business plan.

To help vet the team, the Managing Director can turn to his investors and to the whole Fledge mentor network for second opinions.

These support networks include people with experience across a vast array of geographies and sectors. At a minimum, they can provide good questions to ask the applicants. At a maximum, they volunteer their time to interview the applicants over email or Skype.

Learning: In Fledge1-7, rather than asking investors and mentors to rate one or more applicants, the question posed to them was a simple yes/no. “Would you invest in this company?” More often than not, that provided decisive questions which clearly demonstrated weaknesses in the applicants or unseen hurdles only understood by people with experience within the specific sector.

Decision Criteria

To make the decision rigorous, the criteria and weightings have been turned into a mathematical model with help from 1000minds.com. The key criteria include:

Team. Applicants must have a minimum of two team members.  No solopreneurs. They must be “all in”, dedicated to pushing their plan forward into the market. The founder/CEO must be willing to be at Fledge for the duration of the program. They must be trainable and coachable. Ideally they have deep knowledge of their market space, have some prior work experience in that market, and in short, be the right team to execute the plan they submit in their application. Overall, they need the rare entrepreneurial “spark” which sets them apart from most other people.

Impact. The world must be better off by having the company exist. The impact must be embedded within the product or service. The concept should be scalable nationally, if not globally. It’s fine if the applicant doesn’t have the desire to grow it to be of that scale, as in terms of impact, its fine if others copy the idea in other geographies. Remember, the world is full of big problems, and Fledge exists first to make a dent in solving those problems.

Odds of success. Fledge only makes money when the fledglings succeed as businesses. It is impossible for anyone to accurately predict which startups are going to succeed and which will fail, but certain factors are known to get in the way of success. Competition. Large capital needs. Complicated plan. Multi-sided business models. Apps, websites, and hardware tech. Most of all, changes of behaviors before prospects become customers. At the same time, certain factors are indicators of potential success. Bootstrapping to meaningful customer revenues. Pre-sales/crowdfunding. Profits.

Each of these criteria do not stand alone. They are intertwined in a multi-variate game of rock-paper-scissors. The decision model created through 1000minds.com has specific weights for the ratings within each of these criteria and their sub-criteria. Evaluating all of the interviewed applicants within that model produces an ordered list of applicants.


After creating that list, before the final list of invitees is determined, the portfolio of top applicants is reviewed for geography, market sector, expected growth, as well as for potential synergies within the cohort, with previous cohorts, plus any potential competitive conflicts within the portfolio and applicant pool.

For example, the eighth or ninth entry in the list may from the game geography as one of the top seven, or have a synergistic business to a past fledgling. Or the top seven may have too many companies from a single sector, or be all companies founded by men. Or they may all be revenue-generating companies, with #10 being a highly impactful company still in its idea phase. In short, the mathematical model is useful, but other factors may make for better choices than blindly inviting the top seven teams.


It is best to review all of the early applications as they arrive, starting two weeks before the application deadline, and to start the interview process at least one week before the deadline.

It is best to run through all the last-minute applications in one (potentially long) day as soon as the deadline passes. For Fledge1-7, the deadline was set at midnight Seattle time, usually on a Friday or Saturday night, leaving the weekend to do all the initial reviews.

The scoring process, inclusive of all the interviews can be completed in one month.

Learning: For Fledge Seattle, the goal is to provide 6 weeks notice to the invitees, to allow them enough time to get a U.S. visitor visa, find a place to live in Seattle, and organize their company so that it can continue to operate in the absence of the CEO. Before Fledge4, this time lag was 4 week. For Fledge5-7, most of the teams were from overseas, and the U.S. Immigration service is slow.

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