To our applicants: We wish you all success with your businesses that are creating a greener, more prosperous world. In the spirit of improving your odds of success, we are providing concrete feedback that you can use if you reapply to the Land Accelerator, or if you choose to apply to other programs.
Most candidates are eliminated when we review the written applications. Out of the 335 applicants in the pipeline, only 30 were invited to interview. The remaining applications were not selected for one or more of the following reasons:
1. The information provided was insufficient. At least half of the applications did not provide us with the information we needed to understand what the business does. Many applicants fill in short, one-word answers or blanks. Let’s look at some responses to the “Opportunity” question from this year’s pool to compare responses that answer the question and those that don’t tell us much:
Strong response: [Company]’s target is 40 tons of essential oil a year and over 1000 tons of charcoal a year. Other essential oil tree and plant crops will help diversify and reduce the risk. Once [company] had trialed an idea, if successful we show it to the farmers and assess interest. The export business is important for [country] to create foreign currency and [country] has a global 15% market share of its lemon eucalyptus oil. In [country], the Cooperative has 125 members and all benefit from the venture, and it is expanding.
Strong response: We currently have 42 clients our books and 3 contracts. [Country] is at the forefront of African environmental awareness and there is a huge market with private companies, municipalities and government. After the 1st of June 2019 where the carbon tax was implemented we have heard a lot of enquiries and are in the process of helping 2 companies understand how we can help the achieve their greening goals. Contract growing as projects requires more Trees over longer periods of time.
Poor response: Global
Poor response: 1000000
2. The link to land restoration is not clear. Several applicants are working on worthy causes that are not related to land restoration, and we applaud these efforts. But since the Land Accelerator is geared towards businesses that restore degraded forests and farmland, if we don’t clearly understand the link, we move on.
3. Your business is not moving forward. We look at multiple indicators for this: revenue, capital raised, number of hectares restored or trees planted, size of the team. We also consider your capital efficiency (for every $1 raised, how much your company generated in sales). We weigh these indicators based on how long you have been in business, so a venture that has been around 10 years should have significantly higher numbers than an idea that began a month ago.
Some applications look interesting, but it’s too early for us to see any progress. Others have been around for 5+ years but still haven’t restored any land or made any sales or hired any people.
4. There is no commercial element. Some applications came from excellent NGOs doing high-impact work. However, this cohort of the Land Accelerator is targeted toward commercial enterprises, not NGOs.
5. The application lacked focus. A handful of applications mentioned so many different business areas that it wasn’t clear to us what the focus was. Within a single application, one answer may have talked about honey, while another mentioned coffee production, and fertilizers came up toward the end. This leaves us confused about what the business actually does.
6. The website link didn’t work. This is a small factor, which is why it’s at the bottom of the list. The websites listed by several applicants were not working. If your website doesn’t work, it is better to leave that field blank. If we are already on the fence about your application, and then see that the site isn’t working, it doesn’t convince us to move forward.
By its nature, the interview process is more subjective than the written applications, so it is difficult to provide feedback. But we still could identify some trends:
1. The information didn’t match the written application. We usually start the interview by going over your written application and asking questions about it. If one of your answers in the interview doesn’t match what you submitted online, that’s okay. However, if most of the responses are out of sync, then it casts doubt on what you are actually doing.
2. There were connectivity issues. To be fair to all applicants, we schedule 30 minutes for each interview. If we cannot hear you, or the call starts 10 minutes late, it cuts into the interview time and gives us a shorter window to understand your company. Applicants can help themselves by finding a quiet place with a strong internet connection for the call.
3. Scheduling was difficult. Applicants are expected to follow the instructions in the email and schedule a time for the interview. Some candidates sent repeated emails or called several times at odd hours in advance of the interview. It is best not to do this unless you have a relevant question (such as a request to reschedule).