A month in, this is what we’ve learned so far.
It’s now been a month since AngelCube officially opened and the first four start ups pitched to a room full of mentors and members of the Angel Cube community.
It’s been fun. It’s been intense and it’s been a great opportunity for each of the teams to learn from the mentors who’ve kindly donated their time to run a session at AngelCube.
Some of these include
- James Tuckerman – Anthill Online
- Tom Howard & Fenn Bailey – Adioso.com
- Tony Mittelmark – Venture Logic
- Scott Handsaker – Event Arc
- Darren Sommers – Meerkin & Apel Lawyers
- Gareth Adams – Private Equity Financier and Venture Capitalist
and with Guy King and Bevan Clark from Stateless systems visiting Friday; and Domenic Carosa the following week the teams are meeting and learning from great people. Each of the teams are making good strides; getting feedback from customers; iterating and improving their models and learning how to structure their businesses for success.
However, it’s not only our start ups that are learning a lot from this process.
We’ve always emphasized the fact that AngelCube is a startup too and that whilst it’s exciting we’ve started; have a great community of people helping us and encouraging feedback from the startup community there’s many area’s we can focus on improving.
The first one is the selection process. Whilst we had a great number of entries, we feel we didn’t do enough to help teams that applied understand how to apply effectively to AngelCube. We hosted a Lean Startup event, wrote “how-to” posts in Startup Smart and distributed this to all applicants and then followed a G-Score based rating process to select the shortlist but in hindsight we could have done this better.
The main problem we feel was that we didn’t know enough about each of the teams. There could’ve been (and I’m sure there is) some great teams we didn’t interview. While part of this was due to competition, part of it was not having enough information about each team. To improve this for round 2 we’re doing the following
1) Redesigning our selection form to allow startups to provide more information (and include attachments).
2) Offering a “How to apply to AngelCube” workshop for a nominal cost to interested applicants.
3) Partnering with events like StartUP Weekend – and inviting the winning teams to our shortlist.
4) Running a “Co-founder” meet-up to help people who are applying find a good co-founder.
5) Extending the interview process from one-day to two-days so we can get to know each team better.
6) Creating a Yammer Group for all applicants so they can interact, ask us questions and we can get to know more about their start up
We don’t think this will perfect the process it’s inevitable great teams will always miss out but we do think this will help us make more informed decisions.
The other main area of improvement we’re focused on is the mentoring process.
When we started AngelCube we assumed that we’d pair each startup with an Individual Mentor – whereas in reality – the teams are getting value from a wide variety of mentors and predominantly via our bi-weekly sessions and our Yammer account.
Neither the startups; or the mentors seem to be interested in a one-on-one relationship which we’d assume they may have been. This is an interesting discovery as it means we’re effectively crowdsourcing mentorship to a community of entrepreneurs and subject matter experts who add a tremendous amount of value without a lot of time and effort required. As our mentors are all busy and succesful people in their own right. This is a good thing.
Also too we believe the bi-weekly sessions are adding a lot of value. We liken them to an MBA on steroids.
Two times a week the teams get to meet and learn from a great entrepreneur (or Subject Matter Expert) about one very specific topic. Topics covered so far have been; “How to get the most from an accelerator” “Start up Legals and IP” “Hypothesis testing using the Lean Canvas” “Developing and Tracking Marketing Metrics” “Introduction to Venture Capital” and many more. These sessions are really valuable, you can almost see each team absorb and incorporate their knowledge into their businesses.
Whilst these sessions are very valuable (and with many more to come) they alone don’t make the entire accelerator experience. We also run bi-weekly pitch practice where the teams concentrate solely on practicing their pitch. This was a direct suggestion by Michael from one of our teams http://lexim.com.au after a pitch practice session with Tony Mittelmark and is becoming a valuable part of improving each start ups pitch, focus and strength of their business plan.
We concentrate on two types of pitches; a 60-90 second elevator pitch without slides and a 5-6 minute pitch with slides. The first is really a sales pitch. The second has to be more robust and indepth with an emphasis on the metrics rather than the product.
Initially Adrian and I underestimated the importance of this; preferring our teams to concentrate on customer and product development BUT watching the teams create a well articulated and compelling story (with metrics, customer validation and evidence) has been very valuable.
This leads to our other key learning. The importance of testing EVERYTHING.
We’ve learned to take the Lean Canvas and Hypothesis testing seriously. For example, one of our founders has pivoted their entire business model based on a single test. I won’t spoil the surprise and will let the founder tell the story – but I will tell you know it involved 300 flyers generating 15 calls from paying customers – without a single line of code being written.
Our other key learning is focused on Creating Pathways. To be truly effective Australian based accelerators need to be a conduit to further funding opportunities both here and in the United States. Adrian is off to the states for a fortnight from early November to continue building out AngelCube’s networks in the US, whilst my focus has been on Australia.
The first opportunity for our start ups is to pitch at the AngelCube Aurelius Digital dinner on November 17th and the AngelCube demo-day here at Inspire9 on December 1st.
We’re also exploring relationships with other Australian based angel groups like Melbourne Angels whilst he US opportunities are yet to be finalized. However, the networks we can build but with the support of our mentor community, and great people like Amanda Price from Advance Australia, Guy Bracher formerly of Commett and Adrian Vanzyl from Blumberg Capital, we’re confident we can build great pathways for AngelCube start ups.
The final lesson – Don’t Underestimate the Value of Regular Communication & Content
Being a startup too, we’re currently guilty of a lot of “doing and not telling” I’m embarrassed to say this is our first blog post in a month and that we haven’t communicated regularly enough with our community of awesome mentors.
Part of this is us being new to the process; and initially a little overwhelmed by the workload but, it’s important we build more regular and open communication so people can have a better idea and insight into what’s happening at AngelCube.
To improve this we’re aiming to
1) Develop a better calendar of events and share it on a Google Calendar
2) Host a fortnightly “open invite drinks” starting next Thursday 27th October
3) Post the mentor sessions to the Yammer group, and invite mentors to attend
4) Asking each of the teams to blog their experience and share some insights
5) Update this blog each week – and let you know what’s happening inside the Cube
Well, that’s about it for now. It’s been an awesome first month, and a huge thank-you to all that have participated by running a session, posting ideas and links in the Yammer Group, attending events, meeting our start ups and being part of the Angel Cube community.
We’re still learning and always looking for ways to make AngelCube more valuable for both our startups, mentors and the Melbourne startup community. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please email us email@example.com
We look forward to seeing you next Thursday for a drink, a bite to eat and a re-run of the pitches from each of the teams. We hope you see the improvement and look forward to additional feedback that helps them continue to grow and evolve.