A lot has been written about what to do in different stages of building a company. Being in an accelerator makes this journey smoother. Now that accelerators have become an integral part of the startup ecosystem across the world, we thought it would be good to give an incubatee’s perspective on it.
A bit of background would help. We have done one bootstrapped and profitable startup earlier. So we are in a position to compare the incubated journey vs. the non-incubated one.
Screwing up You screw up a lot while doing a startup. It’s one of the defining qualities of being an entrepreneur. We have done it both the times we started up together, and will proudly continue to do so in the foreseeable future (well every failed experiment is a screw up of sorts, and behind every successful execution you need two to four screw-ups).
In an accelerator, screwing up is easy
A network of mentors is there to show you the way. So the fear of not getting it right while experimenting is relatively reduced compared with the case when you do not have a domain expert to bounce your ideas off.
When we look back, we can fondly recall the confusions regarding the product, the launch and the pitch, and how we have been able to get multiple ideas before moving on.
Collaboration vs. competition The best aspect of the accelerator is that you get to meet so many other smart people (the other incubatees) — entrepreneurs with amazing ideas and smart ways to execute. There is a lot of peer-to-peer collaboration. And since all of us are going through the same stage, there is a lot more empathy and practical thoughts on how to get unstuck. It’s not uncommon to hear, “Oh yes, we faced this last week. What we did was…”
And in any group of smart people, you will always have the counter-culturists — “I like Lean Startup, but it does not always apply. In your case I think …” and “the only aspect of the Lean Canvas that makes sense to me is …” It’s really useful to discard all theory and just look at things in a common-sense perspective.
Someone recently pointed out to me that the funniest part about this camraderie is:
Eventually, you are all competing for the same money, right?
Right, but not necessarily! And then, you just can’t help it when someone is stuck somewhere and you know you can show them the right direction. I and Appknox guys spent some time convincing a team that they should be raising more than they are planning to. Codetoki gave me a full briefing on one investor they had met, to help me pitch better and not do the mistakes they had made.
I guess, we all get that:
Somebody’s loss is not your gain
The dreads of D-Day It seems funny how big the Demo Day looks. Many of us don’t see beyond it. Despite mentors’ efforts to let us know that Demo Day is just going to be the beginning, the fact is that this is the first time that your baby is going to be showcased to a large number of people. And that makes its shadow loom large on everything that you did in the last three weeks or so.
It’s anti-climactic though.
The six odd minutes you spend on stage seems really important all along, and you don’t really feel it when it’s gone. But the effects of a powerful pitch stay on. So don’t underestimate it. But know that it’s the product, not the pitch, that gets people to talk to you afterwards.
The six minute pitch vs. the real pitch On stage, you sometimes start with a story — something that could grab attention of the audience. But in a face-to-face meeting when an investor asks: “So what do you do?”, you don’t start with: “Meet Dindy. Dindy is a … “
One of my friends, who has seen the whole programme but is not an entrepreneur herself, referred to it as the “Drama of Pitching”. As an outsider, it starts to look rhetorical if everybody introduces you to a persona through a story and claims that they can solve the big problem this persona faces.
The pitches that don’t do this can stand out!
What we did was we recounted a personal experience we had faced in the previous startup. And a personal story resonates more than a third party view, though you run the risk of embellishing your pain to make the problem larger than it is. And investors know it.
Finally after the D-Day, when you start talking to investors, continue the product development and customer development, you look back and say — it was worth it!
Life’s just about that, isn’t it?
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