Partners, Process and Points of Light
Welcome back! Since Atlanta we’ve spent the intervening 6 weeks processing week one’s learnings, conducting user interviews (learn what makes your users tick!), holding demo sessions with my peers from the cohort (think: show & tell), and challenging previously held assumptions about SparkMarket’s modus operandi – not to mention the fact there’s still a business to run!
It’s important to keep in mind that participating in an accelerator is essentially like pulling double duty. The upshot to this challenge has been overcoming that initial sense of being overwhelmed. Whereas Atlanta was about getting up to speed, San Francisco was all about being fully dialed in and bringing to bear newly acquired tools and skill sets. With that said, let’s get down to business. Here are my 3 “P’s” of week 2:
Upon returning to Atlanta I had the pleasure of holding an extended conversation with a successful serial entrepreneur/ Angel investor who inadvertently took me back to San Francisco. He made the salient point that what ventures do often change. What doesn’t – ideally – is who’s involved. Prior to investing a great deal of time learning ‘the why/ what/ how’ of a venture he needs to know about ‘the who’. He views his investment in a venture to be a marriage to the entrepreneur(s), not simply the product/ service. Rightly or wrongly, entrepreneurs spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about product/ service. However, thanks to a series of human capital-centric exercises on day 2, our cohort was forced to think about ‘the who’. Have you thought about what skill sets are needed in order to achieve company objectives? How best to deploy them? In what roles? It’s well worth your time to uncover talent gaps in order to best understand which skill sets your venture lacks.
There’s not a particular activity I can point to that exemplifies this heading. However, when taken in aggregate, I did come to a point when the pieces of the startup process puzzle started to coalesce.. There are particular ways you should probably think, talk, and do to best position your venture for success. Sure there are outliers, but more likely than not most successful ventures follow a roadmap. Understanding how the game is played (and by no means am I implying I’ve got this startup thing down pat) doesn’t guarantee success. However, a deeper appreciation/ awareness for the many processes successful entrepreneurs adhere to does help to demystify matters. Therein lies the true value of the Civic Accelerator. As is the case with all accelerators, ~2 years of startup know-how is packed into 3ish months. Thankfully I’m learning these things now, rather than 2016!
Points of Light
Last, but certainly not least, I found the highlight of the week to be our time spent at the Social Innovation Summit. True to its description, the summit brought together ‘top executives and thought leaders from around the globe to discuss opportunities for leveraging technology & innovation to affect social change’. As a recognized leader and supporter of social enterprise, Points of Light was able to gather together executives from Google.org to Indiegogo, PwC Charitable Foundation, eBay, and so on to engage with our cohort. Rather than simply demoing our wares to the esteemed guests, we had a fantastic opportunity to personally interact with everyone in attendance in a speed-dating like manner. In a world of distractions, meetings, and a perpetual state of ‘busy,’ entrepreneurs only have so much time to convey purpose/ value/ etc. As we moved from station to station we were empowered to iterate upon our spiels in advance of the next ‘speed date.’ The likelihood of a relatively unknown startup in Atlanta, Ga testing our message with such a high quality audience without the credibility of Points of Light? I think it’s safe to say it’s less than likely.
Up next: Chicago and Demo Night!