We are delighted to have Victor Bolu, alumni from Spring 2020 cohort, share about his programme experience, and invite you for a view of his 6 week journey to virtual Demo Day through the eyes of a founder.
My company, WebAutomation.io completed the FastForward Pre-Accelerator (FFWD) in London on the 25th April, 2020. As an alumni, I am taking time to reflect and share my thoughts on what went well and how other entrepreneurs can benefit from this experience.
What is a Pre-accelerator?
I had never heard of this concept before applying. As the name suggests, it’s a programme for early stage founders to validate their business ideas, prepare for entry into leading accelerators and/ or raise initial funding.
Why go through a pre-accelerator? While as a team, we had reasonable grip on startup basics via real world experience having launched previous internet businesses, I thought a formal programme focusing specifically on my business would be beneficial.
I found out about the program through F6s. I was impressed when I read up about The Accelerator Network and applied. Interviews are conducted as part of the vetting and in a few weeks I got an email to let me know I was accepted to join the cohort!
Format of the Programme/ Sprints
The programme consisted of 6 full day sprints followed by demo day. Each day was broken into 3 parts.
For the first hour and half of the day, each startup founder pitched for 90 seconds to the mentors on the previous week’s homework and responded to a Q&A. Homework included talking to potential users, building a go-to market plan to financial modelling, all involving the founders doing primary research and presenting their unique insight learnings.
The second part of the day involved an hour-long guest speaker covering topics from defining your problem to building your MVP, marketing, operations, finance and fundraising.
The final part of the day and my favourite was the mentoring sessions. Each startup founder spent four 20mins sessions with mentors. These mentors were mostly current/exited business owners/entrepreneurs and angels. You picked a specific topic and the mentor gave strategic advice.
Networking with other companies going through a similar journey is probably the most important part of the programme. The quality of people in your cohort can give you the much-needed motivation and shared learningsm or help you with issues based on their experience. Not only did I learn a lot from the founders and gain long lasting friends, but I even managed to sell my product to a few!
The Demo Day
Our programme was impacted by the corona virus unfortunately, so the team quickly pivoted to turn this into a virtual Zoom meeting demo day. The audience was about seventy participants from institutional investors, angels, incubators, and representatives from universities.
My Top Learnings from the program
- Identify your Minimum Viable Segment i.e. the smallest subset of the market that your solution is most effective towards. We all want to conquer the whole world from day one! But I quickly learnt a small startup does not have the resources to do that and it’s always better to build authority in a smaller segment before going wide.
- Identify your Ideal Customer Profile i.e. Segment your users to a small subset which you will focus all your marketing on
- Get away from behind your computer and speak to users. Let your customers validate your thesis. I was guilty of reading industry white papers to formulate my thesis. I quickly learnt a lot more about my businesses and the problem I was solving by speaking directly to users.
- What did you learn? That was a question I was asked numerous times after each of the homework. I was forced to formulate independent ideas and generate my own unique insight of the market, the problem, and my solution.
- Be clear about your value proposition and what differentiates your offering
- Never stop moving fast. We felt the energy and drive from our cohort companies to keep progressing.
- Keep asking for help more often. There are a lot of people who want and are willing to help. Take advantage of that!
- Keep practicing pitching your business succinctly. Amazing how I have learnt to pitch my complex business in 90 seconds or less to different stakeholder groups
WebAutomation.io is a data extraction and automation company which helps businesses extract data from websites founded by Victor Bolu.