By Vivian Chan – Co-Chair, Vancouver Startup Week and Manager, National Accelerator Operations at Wavefront. Originally published on Vancouver Startup Week blog.
Find target market – check!
Plan minimal viable product – check!
Join Vancouver’s startup community – check!
This is an exciting milestone in your journey. But now, the rest of your to-do list is the size of a football field. From financing, to building that MVP, to conducting market research…where do you start?
There are so many amazing people and organizations in our community – and they’re ready and willing to help! *shameless plug alert* – VSW’s got a killer event this year hosted by incubators and accelerators to highlight these resources. Check it out here!
More importantly – peer mentorship is key. I’ve rounded-up some stellar entrepreneurs (to be honest, they sit mere feet away from me in our co-working space…) to share some tips on navigating the different facets of startup life:
Ok – Step 1!
Joe Facciolo, Co-Founder, Guusto: Talk to at least 100 people, who could potentially be your customer, and see if they need what you’re selling.
Kenny Mackenzie, Co-Founder & COO, Vandrico: Validate your market!!! The first thing you should do is learn to think like a marketer. Don’t build the product until you are confident people want it. Don’t let your own fear get in the way of the truth. Stay objective! The most common reason startups fail is because they build a product no one needs or wants!
Tammy Meyers, Co-Founder & COO, QuestUpon: Assuming you’ve already begun to validate your product and incorporated your business: build your team and find advisors that are able to provide solid advice but make sure to do your due diligence too.
And when it’s time to build your team?
JANE Chung, CEO & Co-Founder, Perked!: Complementary Not Complimentary. What that means is that you want people on your team who think differently than you and who have different skill sets. You want them to not only be supporting you, but to tell you when you’re wrong or when there’s a better way to do things.
KENNY: Think long and hard about who you are. Being true to who you are will enable you to be authentic and excel as a leader. Don’t compromise your values by hiring people who don’t share them just because they have the skills you need.
JOE: If you’re a non-technical founder, like me, and you’re hirings devs, get (or hire) someone to help you find people with the right skillset. You may not even know what skillset you’re looking for.
TAMMY: “HIRE SLOW, FIRE FAST.” Best advice given from our Venture Acceleration Program Executive-in-Residence, John Diack.
Networking can be both awesome and awful. How do you make the best of it?
KENNY: Practice. If you are worried about feeling/acting awkward, then just like any skill you need practice. I promise people won’t judge you as harshly as you will judge yourself.
JANE: “How can I help you?” – By approaching a conversation this way it allows you to get to know the other side and makes it easier for everyone to lean into the conversation.
KENNY: Go to every networking event with the goal “I want to help at least one person in a meaningful way”. A focus on giving to others makes networking really enjoyable and much easier. You will get back all you give multiple fold over time, but you shouldn’t keep score.
TAMMY: Take your business cards, make the most of your time, spend 5-10 min max per person.
Investors – what’s the best way to attract their attention?
- Go online; try to connect via Angel List, LinkedIn, etc.
- Keep it simple!! This means your offering; your message; etc. Don’t overload them with information the first time you meet them.
JOE: Find the right investors (e.g. people who have invested or worked in your space). If they don’t understand what you’re doing, it’s unlikely they’ll invest. Do less pitching and more working on your business. The more you derisk, the more investors want to write cheques.
KENNY: I think any VC will take you seriously and hear you out if you have the following:
- A good understanding of the job that your product does/will do for your customers.
- A clear set of circumstances whereby your customers will need your product.
- A decent understanding of the potential lifetime value of your customer.
- Proof of your cost to acquire a new customer (think of this as objective traction AND an understanding of the cost of advertising/ marketing/ sales, etc).
- A convincing calculation as to the size and growth trajectory of your total addressable market.
There you have it, folks! Straight from the entrepreneurs’ mouths!
Come learn and mingle with more startups in the community during Vancouver Startup Week!
Say hi to the Wavefront team hosting two events during this year’s Vancouver Startup Week: