Assessing an EIC Accelerator Applicant for Innovation, Traction and the Team (SME Instrument) – Part 3

Part 1 (Innovation) and Part 2 (Traction) of this article can be found under the provided links.

3. Team

After a professional grant writer or consultant has successfully assessed the innovativeness and traction of a project, an in-depth look at the team should follow to cover the most important bases of a potential EIC Accelerator grant application.

The Implementation part of the official EIC Accelerator template covers the team in great length which means that the team’s quality should be clarified ahead of time. The key areas to investigate when identifying the suitability of the team can be summarized as the team’s background, the relationships between team members and departments as well as the track record of the company as a whole and their individual team members in particular.

3.1 Team Background

The founding and management team of the prospective EIC Accelerator applicant company should have a strong technical background that is balanced with the commercial expertise needed in order to succeed. The company profile should clearly outline the team’s experience, educational background, skills and strengths so that a strong case can be made with respect to the companies suitability to implement and execute the innovation developments.

Having a team which exclusively consists of marketing and communication experts while all technical parts are outsourced would be insufficient while a purely technical team without any commercial members would likewise make it difficult to convince the proposal evaluators and investors.

The team has to be somewhat balanced from a skill-level but it can be more R&D-heavy which makes sense for a DeepTech startup with ongoing development work and limited revenues.

An advisory board is also an important part of a startups development but it should not be the exclusive source of commercial expertise in the company and should only be additional support for an already excellent team. The assessment of the startup’s or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise’s (SME) team should, first and foremost, focus on the key members inside the business and how they are positioned from a skill-perspective.

3.2 Team Relationships

The team has to be investigated based on its individual participants and as a complete unit to make the case as to why the company can succeed. For this purpose, it should be highlighted how the team was formed, how the members are incentivised and their overall commitment to the companies success (ie. commitment is explicitly asked for in the EIC Accelerator template).

It is very common that founders all have a similar background or are all originating from a similar environment which is why close care must be placed into assuring that a broad level of commercial and technical expertise is found in the management team. It should also be assessed how well connected the team is in respect to important stakeholders such as customers, regulators, commercial partners and other relevant parties who will be integral during the commercialisation and scaling process.

The incentives should be analyzed in order to validate the long-term commitment of the team members with special attention to the companies ownership and its future projections in the eyes of additional equity investments and dilution.

A company should have a core team which is committed and avoid having excessive numbers of interns or other low-commitment members such as freelancers or contractors.

3.3 The Team’s Track Record

Out of all of the team’s most relevant aspects, the track record is still the most important and most looked-for factor. In the end, investors understand that a past track record of success is the best predictor of future success which is why an EIC Accelerator applicant will have to highlight this extensively.

A writer or consultant should carefully assess if the background of the startup is impressive and if they are able to implement an ambitious DeepTech project under the EIC Accelerator.

The evaluators will, in the application and during the pitch interview, carefully investigate the companies past accomplishments such as technology milestones, awards, prizes, secured financing (i.e. seed, angel, VC or grants) and other acknowledgements that have a high barrier to success.

The track record can also extend to the past success of individual team members whereas one of the funders might have successfully scaled the production process as the head engineer of a large company or another founding member was able to found, scale and exit a profitable technology startup. Everything that can be used to highlight the teams track record should be assessed in such a way.

Summary

As the third pillar of the assessment of startups, the team quality can be analysed through the following sub-segments to facilitate a successful EIC Accelerator grant submission:

  • 3.1 Team background: Education, industry origin and balanced in-house expertise
  • 3.2 Team relationships: Founding team and stakeholder network
  • 3.3 Team track record: Past successes

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles: