Startup Diaries Week #12: The Road to an Investment Round Begins
April 7, 2016
It’s weird, really. You know the situation: something seems so far off that it can’t possibly be real? Yet somehow, that “thing” comes around so blindingly quickly that you feel like you haven’t seen it creep up on you.
That’s how it’s beginning to feel now on the Ignite programme here in London.
In case you don’t remember, Adam and I (co-founders of Pip™ left our families and in my case, my agency HACKSAW™, to live in London for the full 14 weeks of the Ignite accelerator programme.
Coming into Ignite, we were Cavalry, the UK’s only on-demand roadside assistance service; coming out of Ignite we are Pip™, the pre-emptive artificial intelligence personal assistant.
We made a really conscious decision when we came here: to make the absolute most of everything we do here. To leave our egos at the door, embrace humility and to soak up every single bit of learning and experience that we possibly could.
Coming into Ignite, way back on January 11th, it felt as if the world was our oyster and that the end would never come – after all, there was over three months to go, a trip to the United States and a hundred different things to do.
But now, it’s coming to an end. The end of week twelve signals the beginning of the last two weeks, and it feels weird.
It feels weird for a number of reasons.
From a professional perspective, the experience of an accelerator, particularly a pre-seed accelerator, has been a mixed bag of emotions.
I remember back during the first day when both Adam and I were both excited and kinda worried that we’d not be “smart enough” for this thing.
Classic imposter syndrome was in play at that point and there was a real sense of the complete unknown that we were about to face.
And then, once we had been involved in the accelerator for just a few hours, there was this complete sense of being at ease.
I said it in an earlier post: it was like finding “our people”.
By virtue of the interview process, the Ignite team somehow managed to create a melting pot of people who not only share professional values, drive, ambition and a willingness to learn but also a group of ~25 people whojust really get along.
Obviously, this is part luck, but I do believe that it’s part design, too.
If Jim Rohn says that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, then time on an accelerator like Ignite simply makes you better.
It’s really that simple.
There’re still two weeks left, but of that I can be sure.
Challenges this week
We had a our first investor lunch this week.
These events aren’t a direct route to investment, but at the point we are now, the point at which we’re looking to open a seed round of investment, they’re the way that the Ignite team have devised to get all 10 teams into a room with potential investors – both angels and VC funds, with a view to building lasting relationships with a network of the right people.
Adam did our first one, and will do the second one too – with me running the third and final lunch plus the end-of-programme showcase – and he did a superb job.
The challenge that faced us before this first lunch was really nailing down the pitch, and importantly the script for that pitch.
We had 30 seconds to tell our story. 30 seconds to entice the room enough to generate the right questions, from the right people.
Now, it doesn’t matter what anyone says – getting this 30 second elevator pitch down is really tough.
Because anyone who puts themselves in the position of needing to do it, is extremely passionate about their startup – and with that comes a willingness to over explain and dig into the minutiae of the subject.
Luckily, recognising that early on can really help and I eagerly urge anyone who needs to put any sort of pitch together, to seek outside feedback from someone who doesn’t know their startup at all. It’ll help keep you clear, concise and honest with yourself.
Real-life: how the co-founders are doing
I mentioned it at the beginning of the post: it’s weird.
We both really love London life and relish being here on an ongoing basis. It’s just the right kind of place for our minds to work, the right environment to really help catalyse what is in our heads into real life results.
It’s a place that thrives on networks and we’re both concerned about losing that if we end up back “up North”.
I know that the easy answer is “Hey, we live in a connected world so everything can be done online.” but there’s a huge air of serendipity that goes with being in a place as vibrant as London.
One of the most valuable things about being here has been the impromptu social events – the random drinks after work that generate ideas or cause you to meet / bump into the sort of people who you can both help, and be helped by.
Of course, there’s a huge focus on building relationships with the other startups on the accelerator whilst socialising, but the complete pot-luck of certain meetings in a major city like this, is just invaluable.
Just as importantly are the walks to / from TechHub that Adam and I do twice per day.
These are our board meetings, plain and simple. They’re our strategy sessions; our idea sessions.
And they’re really important, working better as an informal session than a “meeting” and generating countless ideas every single day.
Heck, we’ve pretty much strategised the entire Pip™ offering during our one-hour walk per day.
Again, it’s completely invaluable.
For me, I’ll miss the social side and I LOVE the vibrancy, convenience and the entire experience of capital city life, but it’s those two things that I’m really concerned about changing – they are the two things that go unseen & unsaid and yet make such a difference.
Lessons learned this week
- Your pitch is never complete. You will ALWAYS tweak it. Don’t worry about that, embrace it and iteratively improve.
- Tell your story, try to get past the tech. That can be hard, so work on it. A lot.
- Don’t assume anything – you have to put the relationship work in to build a network of people, even if you can’t see anything you can work on together right now, or even in the near future.
Next week, it’s investor lunch #2 and we begin preparing our complete showcase pitch for the final Ignite showcase on April 15th.
Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!