Reflections on start-up life: Week 12
I’m not sure when the official “it’s been three months is” but this feels pretty close — 12 weeks in.
Last week was a big one. After three months of trialling and experimenting with different ideas, we packed up our plans and put them on show to potential investors.
The goal of our Sydney visit was threefold:
- Gain an understanding of the investment market in Australia by talking with Angels and VCs.
- Test some of our thoughts on target markets by gaining feedback from investors. Is our problem “big enough”?
- Make connections and contacts.
I think the best analogy is that we knew we had a house of cards, let’s expose it to the elements and see how it stands up. After something like 11 meetings, several rounds of opinions and modifications to the business model as we went through the week, we reached a point where we now know how our house of cards holds up — some of it was a lot further a long than we realised, while other parts of it were a bit shakier.
While it’s always a judgement call, I think that we’ve shaved about four weeks off our runway by undertaking this exercise — we have some very clear and consistent advice on the areas we need to improve in and also some appreciation for the things we’ve done well.
So how did it go? The outcome of meetings ranged everywhere between “I think you guys have got something here, send me some more information and I promise you an answer by March” to “You might find a dumb dentist or doctor with money who doesn’t know what they are doing that will give it to you.” Many people described what we were doing as a “feature” not a “product” and http://twendly.com was equally helpful (to those who could see a path from Twendly to a commercial offering) and a distraction (to those who couldn’t make that link).
The most consistent advice that we’ve taken to heart is that no matter what our next step is (Organic, Angel or VC), we are best served by demonstrating a real product, aligned with a business model with a few customers to validate that it’s genuine. It’s not that we didn’t “know” this, but the week helped quickly evolve what we are doing to a point that we can now address this directly.
Before Sydney we were an interesting technology with many potential applications, now we have a clear(ish) vision for a product built on an interesting and differentiating technology. Our goal is to sit down in front of potential customers as early as next week with a prototype.
Everyone we met was incredibly helpful and their willingness to call it as they see it was always appreciated (I relate the dumb dentist story not to discredit the person who said it, while disheartening at the time, it is better to face some brutal realities early on). In particular Brian Menzies was a super star, working his network hard to get us meetings with a wide range of people who’ve left us better focussed and more educated than we were at the start of the week.
The other people we should thank are the team at http://mob-labs.com who gave us a home base for the week. With hot weather and high humidity we looked forward to the time we spent in their office and also really appreciate the support and the advice they provided too. It’s great to see a community of tech companies willing to help each other out. Thanks Alex and Rob for your great advice, friendly support, cool air-conditioning and free internet.
- At least one serious expression of interest in what we are doing.
- All the support and advice from people willing to give up their time to help us.
- Setting goals for this week.
- Walking back one evening across the harbour bridge and getting caught in a real thunderstorm — we get soaked through!
- The backpackers — 30C and 95% humidity outside and warmer in the room (no aircon).
- Not really a lowlight, but I was amazed at how tiring the whole exercise was.
Goal this week?
Get the first prototype done ready to start showing real customers next week (or even this week if we go well).