This post is the first of six to provide solid and practical information on how to apply for seed funding. It is based on the experience we have accumulated by going through a large number of applications throughout the first year of the Openfund and the posts will be structured after our application form but the suggestions included should be easily transferable to other seed funding vehicles too. First up, is talking about the idea itself.
One of the most crucial parts of a submission and also one of the most common to go horribly wrong is the description part. The reason it’s important is because this is your first chance to allow us into your idea and show off its basic merits instead of confusing us and predisposing us negatively towards it for the rest of your application. So, it should be one of the sections you work on the most: do a couple of versions, show it to colleagues, make sure you say what you mean. Avoid buzzwords, just tell us what you actually plan to do. Talking about the problem you’re addressing is an excellent way to do this. Write it first and revisit it before submitting your idea.
Remember: we start from zero knowledge on what you’re planning to create and we have our own understanding of the industry – which is possibly quite different than yours. It takes some effort to describe your idea in absolute terms that leave no room for confusion. So, you need to pay extra attention to this part – especially if you don’t have a prototype. If you can’t have one on time (there’s plenty of time for an alpha version until our next deadline:), you can try to support it with mock-ups which will probably do a better job even if they are not that polished. Make sure to include any work done so far even if it means merely mentioning your registered domain name.
Also, remember that if you are between long and short go for short and try to be concise. Can you encapsulate the entire idea in one sentence? If you can, you should and that should be the first sentence. If you can’t, think hard if that indicates a broader problem with your concept – and even consider changing it (i.e. limiting it) to fit a short description. Descriptions like ‘Twitter for pics’ or ‘a cross between flickr and Facebook’ do help – but make sure to clarify which bit crosses which. Whatsmore, we would like you to cheat and include links to whatever complements in understanding your concept. This should preferably be your work – but not necessarily.
Finally, try to have some structure in this particular passage – short sentences always help on that front. Somehow managing to include the three aspects we look for in every proposal (international market – at least potentially, some amount of innovation and solid revenue streams) is sure to get you some bonus points. Other than that, of course there’s also a ton of resources out there to consult on this specific issue – don’t be afraid to tap them.
In the next post we’ll address the issue of team and what you can do to improve your chances in that part of a submission.