On July 14th, Mini Seedcamp was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and I went along as a mentor. As usual, Ljubljana and Slovenia put on a great experience with warm (very warm) weather, great food and fine wine along with the all-important wonderful startups.
Our first meeting with the startups came in the form of 5 minute pitches – which, for 20 startups, meant serious presentation fatigue by the end. As Mike Butcher remarked at the end of the day, more work could have gone into the practicing of the pitches. Otherwise, the companies generally had solid ideas and seemed to be going in the right direction.
After the pitches, we went into the mentoring sessions. While the sessions were good and it was very interesting talking to the startups, I found a few repeated issues worth highlighting:
1. Get your product out there
The first issue was the fact that many of the startups hadn’t released their products.
At best, they were in limited alpha with friends and families. None of the startups I saw really had a reason not to be in public beta already. When questioned on this most of the startups planned launching publicly in 3 to 4 months, which is far too long.
A maxim to remember is “Release early, release often”. Until you get validated learning from real users, spending more resources and time on developing new features or polishing is wasted.
The second issue was a lack of focus. When questioned about the market they where going after, it was the Earth, Moon and Sun.
While it might feel like wasting opportunity to ignore market segments, you’ve got limited resources, so focus on one particular market first and prove the product there (see point above about releasing early and often). The market could be a use case, geographical location or vertical. It doesn’t matter. What matters is focus.
You may well find it doesn’t work for that market; in which case, change market or the product to fit (pivot) until you do. But you can’t do that going after everything under the sun.
3. Don’t forget the data
Data is the new Intel inside. Several companies I saw there had much better prospects as data startups than they did as an application startup. Pay attention to the data you have, are generating or collecting. That may well be where your business really lies.