Alex Zapesochny of iCardiac and the HTRLaunchPad Advisory Board (and an Innovocracy partner) surfaced this must-read blog post from a Brooklyn seed investor, entrepreneur and blogger. It details how startups this year may not need investments to grow. Several of our teams may fit this model.
This morning I had a long mentoring session with one of our founders and afterwards realized that nearly all of my input was about focus. Specifically, choosing a market, a user-profile and a simple minimum viable product (MVP) with the emphasis on ‘a‘ as in a single one of each. We’re nearly halfway through the classroom sessions and most teams are still struggling with this and looking at pivots, as I discussed in my last post. My general advice at this stage is that you should be starting to understand how to refine your business model down to these segments: One market, One customer/user profile and one example you are showing people.
For the market, consider these filters:
- Ability and willingness to pay
Choose the one that has all of these characteristics and focus your model on it. If you don’t have one that meets these criteria, your idea is probably flawed.
For the customer/user:
- Early adopter
- Technology- friendly (it doesn’t scare them)
- Willing to accept imperfection
- Willing to refer you to peers
- Wants to buy
These are the people within the market that you want to focus on.
For the MVP:
- Only enough to demonstrate how it solves the problem
- Build the user interface, don’t worry about the code and underlying data
- Build your story- in this morning’s case, they needed to populate their demo with content to show how it works
Here’s the deal: Don’t spend time and money building functionality until your business model is complete and validated. Getting the user-interface and story right makes the actual development process much easier.
So, it’s time to focus on these three things. Let everything else go, especially the ideas you love that don’t have a market, a qualified user or an easily understood solution.
This TED video is revolutionary and it illustrates many things relevant to the launchpad experience, even though it apparently has nothing to do with entrepreneurship (though I think it has everything to do with entrepreneurship!). She realized that asking for things is a gift to the person you’re asking, a sign of respect. So think about this as you do your customer discovery and ask strangers to help you develop your idea.
We’re initiating office hours so founder teams can get one on one help with the various challenges you’re working your way through. We have a couple of different approaches.
Todd will be available at State St on Wednesdays from 10-1pm. He asks the following:
Please send a calendar invite for a time block of your choosing, not to exceed 20 minutes, including your venue/modailty preference: Phone, Skype, or Live (39 State St.)
This time can be free form, but please come armed with (and include in your invite) at least one specific question or issue you want to discuss. Themes hitting your radar this week might include:
* Did I contact 10 customers last week, will I contact 10 this week, and if not, why?
* Have I crafted a set of testable hypotheses, with pass/fail criteria?
* Do I have questions/concerns about particular areas of my BMC, and why?
* Is my pitch/product summary sufficiently succinct/compelling/descriptive?
* Do I have a MVP?
* Have I engaged the right mentor(s)/advisor(s), and if not what am I doing about that?
I (Martin) will be available on Thursdays from 12-3 for drop-ins. Shoot me a note if you are coming by and please understand that you may be sharing a discussion with other teams. The issues Todd mentions apply but I’m open to discussion of general issues regarding your business model, resources, etc.
The MindWriter team has created software that could radically change the way writing is taught. It gives the teacher insight into the student’s process when they are out of the classroom. Yowsa!
I’ve just posted a comprehensive directory of the LaunchPad mentors and advisors. We’re already seeing match-ups between teams and mentors and encourage our founders to learn about these invaluable resources, and look for people that might be helpful as you begin your customer discovery process.
If you are unable to reach a mentor, just contact Martin, Todd or Mike R and we’ll help you make the connection!