5 Thoughts on 5 Things I learned in 48 Hours

5 Things I learned in 48 Hours – Techvibes.com.

Some of my thoughts on some of his thoughts:

#1 The Valley Feel- yes, it is true it does exist and it is unique to Silicon Valley.  That is not to say other areas don’t have a great innovation vibe, far from it! Some other areas have great innovation. But regardless where you are, it is good to stay on top of what is happening in the Valley.

#2 The Valley Model- This I could take or leave. Yes, the Valley does have a unique VC-backed approach to innovation. But it isn’t the only way to fund and promote start-ups.

#3- Think Small in Scope, and Large in Market- I love this idea. So true. Focus on what you want to do, do it super-amazing well, and then do what you do to conquer a huge (and growing) market.

#4- You Can’t Phone It In- You really can’t. It takes work and preparation.

#5- Be Yourself- Leave the impersonations to the comedians.

#6- Start Local- I think this is the most interesting and ties in with points #1 and #2. Yes, be aware of what is happening in the Valley. Hell, be inspired by it, but don’t try to copy it (so I guess this ties in to point #5 also.) Find what is unique about your area and then build on that existing strength found, fund and grow your start-up.

How to prepare for a C100 Mentoring session

We gearing up for the next 48 Hrs in the Valley here at C100 global HQ. We’ve learned a lot from previous 48 Hrs events so expect a few surprises, to be announced soon.

But in the meantime, a few dates for you to be aware of:

  • Sept 29: Drop dead deadline for companies to complete the application form
  • Oct 7: Selected companies will be notified
  • Oct 13: First draft of mentor deck due
  • Oct 27-28: 48 Hrs in the Valley

I know what you’re saying, “What the heck is this Oct 13 deadline? We gotta hand in drafts of our presentations??”

Short answer: “Yes!”

The upcoming 48 Hrs will be the C100’s eighth mentoring event and after each one the mentors always told us the same thing, “We wish the companies were more prepared.”

That is a strange coincidence, because the companies always tell us, “Damn, I wish we were more prepared.”

Well, the good thing about the C100 mentoring team is you only have to tell us something seven times before we start to take immediate action.

To make sure everyone feels they are properly prepared, we are asking… nay, demanding… that all companies complete their mentor decks and submit to us by Oct 8 for feedback by our crack team of mentor experts.

To help you out, here are some useful tips on how to prepare you 48 Hrs mentor deck:

  • Think of the biggest challenge  facing your company and talk about it. What exactly do you want to get mentoring on? (In C100, we call this the “challenge statement” meaning, what is the biggest challenge  facing your company right now)
  • Don’t get bogged down in technology: Mentors want to talk about business issues, not about speeds-and-feeds
  • Don’t talk history: Mentors want to discuss the here and now, the long road you took to reach your current destination probably isn’t relevant
  • Be specific: generic presentations get generic feedback. Drill down into one aspect of your business, describe what is going on, and ask for specific advice and feedback

Here is a deck template all companies should follow. Your deck shouldn’t be more than nine slides long:

1)      Executive Summary: Short bullet points what your company does and what is your “challenge statement”

2)      The Market: Give mentors background on the market your company addresses

3)      What do you do?: How do you address your chosen market

4)      Who are your competitors?

5)      Short background on the team (emphasis on short)

6)      Financial snapshot including funding, revenues and expenses

7)      Challenge statement: This is the most important slide of the deck… what issue do you want mentoring on? Be very clear and specific here

8)      Context: How did this challenge come about? How have you addressed similar challenges in the past

9)      Importance: Why is addressing this challenge important? What would happen if this challenge was addressed? What would happen if it wasn’t?

Trust us, follow this template and your mentoring session will be way more valuable than if you didn’t.

The goal is always to make the mentoring sessions as useful and impactful as possible. So we at C100 will be asking the companies early and often to provide drafts of their decks so we can help ensure they are prepared for the mentoring session and ready to go.

Lessons from C100 Mentoring in Toronto

We wrapped up another amazing C100 Mentoring (C1M) session the other week with mentors in San Jose talking live and in-person to a group of great companies in Toronto via Telepresense. As with all of these “TP” meetings, the wonder of the technology quickly melts away and the groups on either side of the video wall were able to really get down to business.

We were fortunate in this last C1M session to have Rick Spence of the National Post sit in on the session and he shared his main take-aways in a recent article headlined:  Startups get face-time with Valley veterans.

It is always interesting to read what main points a third party to a C1M session zeroes in on. From Spence’s point-of-view (with some of my commentary) the main things that the recent C1M start-ups need to think about are:

  • Keep it quick; or as he put it “sum up the pitch early.” He highlights that companies need to perfect the elevator pitch. Say what you do quickly and simply. Spence says 30 seconds but I would argue that event that is too generous for the real world (we give you some leeway in C1M, so 30 seconds is OK.) Out there, keep it to 15 to 20 seconds and keep it punchy!
  • K.I.S.S me! That’s right, when you’re out there trying to explain what it is you do, keep it short, sure, but please also “keep it simple, supplicant”* If your technology or application or web service or whatever cannot be explained in simple language then what you are doing is either (1) too esoteric for these crude Earthly market or (2) not explaining it right. If the answer is (1), you’ve got bigger problems but more often the answer is (2) and you need to step back, detach yourself from your product/service, and figure out how to articulate your value-proposition in a simple, compelling manner
  • “Focus, Focus, Focus”- I won’t add any commentary here. Just focus on those three words and the point is made
  • Note when I said “K.I.S.S. me!,” specific reference was made to articulating a“value-proposition,” that was on purpose. Sometimes we love to talk tech and how great our little service or gizmo works. If you’re after engineering brownie points, that approach works great. But if you’re after customers, forget the tech and focus on value.
  • Sales is what it is all about. There is only one group of people that can make any business successful, start-up or otherwise. No, it isn’t investors, partners, or event the founders themselves. The only group of people who can make a company a success is customers and securing their support is called selling. Make sure you find someone who knows how to do that.

These insights are a very good summary of the conversation across all three companies. We touched on each of these points in one way or another with each company we met.

In addition to the points listed above, the mantra that I was repeating for each company was segment and prioritize.

I know that a lot of new companies have to throw whatever they can against the wall and see what sticks. That approach has its place, but it can also burn precious resources with little return. I’m a huge fan of looking across your (potential) customer based, segmenting them and then having a laser-focus on the ones that will be most profitable. Too often, I got the sense companies were trying to do everything all at once. Even if a product/service has multiple applications, there needs to be the discipline within a company to figure out which application has the most immediate promise and then going after the relevant customers.

*I have to admit, I had to look up what “supplicant” means. The Dictionary.com definition was “a person who supplicates”, which wasn’t very helpful.