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Fit 4 Start: Keys to success for applicants

The 13th call for applications for Luxembourg’s start-up accelerator programme Fit 4 Start is open until 19 September 2022. The programme targets both national start-ups and young ventures from Europe and beyond. We spoke to programme manager Sven Baltes at Luxinnovation about what the flagship programme can offer start-ups and the keys to preparing successful applications and pitches.

Sven, how can Fit 4 Start benefit start-ups?

Sven Baltes: Fit 4 Start offers start-ups 6 months of expert coaching, equity-free funding of up to €150,000 and free access to co-working space. For the first time, it also provides participants with coaching and awareness building about how they can have a positive sustainable impact.

The programme helps start-ups build activities in and from Luxembourg. Luxembourg’s strong international orientation – the country ranks 1st in the world for trade openness and is the world’s 5th most global economy – means that companies here develop an international approach from day 1. For start-ups that have validated their products or services on their home market, it is an excellent base for launching their offering in Europe and beyond.

Fit 4 Start participants get access to an excellent network of people who have extensive knowledge of the European market and an in-depth understanding of what it takes to succeed in the EU. Start-ups from other parts of the world often need to adapt their go-to-market strategy in order to succeed in Europe, and our coaches can provide precious help.

What types of start-ups have the best chances to be accepted in the programme?

This edition of Fit 4 Start targets digital/data-driven venture with innovative technologies at the core of their business. A dedicated track offers places to healthtech start-ups. The programme targets highly scalable, internationally oriented ventures.

For international applicants in particular, the programme is best suited to start-ups that are mature enough to focus on market development outside their own country and continent. Timing is everything: start-ups need to be less than 5 years old to be eligible, but if they are too early stage and cannot convince a first customer in Europe, it will be difficult for them to succeed. The best is generally to start by strengthening your business case and generate your first revenues at home before going to another part of the world.

Hundreds of applications are submitted for each Fit 4 Start edition. What should start-ups keep in mind to prepare applications that stand out and pitches that can convince the jury?

It isn’t really rocket science: you need to provide a clear storyline that explains the problem you are addressing, how your offering provides a solution to that problem and why your team has what it takes to turn your start-up into a success. Most start-ups already have a pitch deck that they have worked on together with their partners, and they basically need to translate the key messages of the pitch deck into the questions from the application form.

The application includes a 1-minute video pitch in English, which is extremely important – it is often what sticks in the heads of the pre-selection committee. The committee wants to get a good feeling for the start-up and the team behind it. Don’t include product demos or similar, that is not very interesting, but focus on giving an insight into who you are and what makes you special. Making sure that your video is well done in terms of sound, lighting etc. is also essential, so check out our 5 tips for a good elevator pitch.

The pre-selected start-ups will be invited to pitch to a jury composed of industry-specific experts, investors and other key players from the start-up ecosystem. The jury will be looking for the start-ups with the best chances to succeed on the market that have the best ability to generate intellectual property and add value to the Luxembourg economy. Pitching start-ups will have just a few minutes to convince them that they have that potential, skills and drive. Providing a compelling story that shows a clear need for your offering and your ability to develop a product/market fit is definitely a winning concept.

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