It has been now a bit more than two weeks since the JFDI-Innov8 BootCamp started bringing together 12 teams of aspiring Techpreneurs from all different parts of Asia and beyond. Many quit their jobs, stopped their studies, left their partners and families at home and all that in order to pursue their dream- launch a successful tech company. With stakes high, every day counts in this 100 day accelerator program. At the end of it all the teams will present their work to a room full of investors who will then decide which companies to invest in.
While some teams started with nothing more than an idea and great commitment, others were already further in the process having a working product and a bunch of users. Yet the first weeks have not been easy for any of them. ‘Pitch or die’ could have been the slogan of the first 2 days. The first pitch teams gave shortly after their arrival at Block 71 was to get to their dedicated working space (unofficially called the jungle- for reasons explained here). The next day, after very, very few hours of sleep, teams presented their ideas to real investors, who had decided to visit the BootCamp early. The questions were sharp and straight to the point- what problem are you solving with your product, how are you making it stick, how are you monetizing it, what is your exit strategy, why your team is the best suited to do this, etc. Even if some of it felt like being asked prematurely, participants developed a good feeling of where they have to be at the end of the 100 days in order to receive funding.
After the first crash and burn experience the rest of the week was devoted to ideation. The BootCamp has a fantastic pool of mentors here in Singapore and also flying in from New Zealand, USA, England and elsewhere. Hours and hours were spent helping the teams to stretching their ideas, understanding what they are passionate about, good at and what real world problems they care enough about to dedicate years of their lives to solve. In a morning of one of those days I bumped into another co-worker of Block 71, who inquired how its going at the BootCamp. I cheerfully replied that it is really exciting. He looked at me with a doubtful expression “Do guys get some work done at all? All I see is they are at the meeting rooms a lot.” One has to agree, teams spend a lot of time in the meeting rooms. But that is what you have to do once you are making a company. You have to meet with people, talk with them and take the best of their advice. Programming is only one part of the work you do to launch your company and product.
Some of the teams kept to their initial concepts, however most of them pivoted. Some even reset their idea and started from scratch. Tom and YanYing from Wildby explained, “Brainstorming with the mentors inspired us to extend our idea to an even more ambitious one. Instead of just bringing toys to the cloud, we now want to turn every object in the world into a toy.”
Part of the companies have already or will launch their alpha versions in the coming days, so Week 3 seems to be all about customer development. Stay tuned and learn about the fears and revelations founders have when meeting their users and customers face to face.
JFDI-Innov8 2012 Bootcamp is organizing regular public events where the mentors share their knowledge and all of you are warmly welcomed to come along- check jfdi.asia to stay up to date.
Zane Kripe, a PhD student at the Leiden University Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. Zane is currently researching geek culture in South East Asia (Singapore, Indonesia) and explores what it means to be a geek in the region.