After a panel in which I spoke about seed funding, and opportunities available through our accelerator fund, a very polite gentleman approached me to talk, and to show me an app he had developed, available in the App Store. In the first few minutes of the conversation, he flipped very rapidly through his pitch deck in a binder, and then did several swipes on the app on his phone. The app is intended to enable local merchants better access to local customers. He went rapid fire over the features of his product. This all happened very quickly, within 2 or 3 minutes. He wanted to find out how to get market traction for it.
“You know there’s a ton of solutions in this space” I interjected, slowing down the dizzying speed at which this exchange was happening. He flipped to the competition page. I remember seeing “Yelp” there, and an icon for the “merchant website”, along with other alleged competitors. I jumped in: “Have you heard of (NAME REDACTED)?”. “No”, he said. I know the founder. “Seasoned entrepreneur with an impressive pitch, raised a few hundred thousand dollars, I had the app on my phone, it was similar to yours and pretty much trying to provide similar benefits to its dual sided markets, it went out of business” I concluded. He then went on to explain why he was different and better. I added “You have the same look and feel as Letgo and OfferUp”, “Do you know how much money they have spent to get their name out there?”. “But we are not like them!” he answered…”Yes”, I responded, “and it will take a lot of money and effort to get your name out there AND explain how you are different from all these other players that look a lot like you”. My last piece of advice was “at the Innovation Hub, we can help you take a step back and validate through customer discovery what the pain points are, and then you can step in and design a solution that people, even if not fully consciously, are “clamoring” for. Then I sealed the argument with words I borrow from Mike O’Donnell, from Startupbiz.com, who during one of his key sessions with our Startup NOW Accelerator entrepreneurs, mentions how in order to really come up with a blockbuster product, especially in a crowded or massive market, “you have to be at least 10 times better and 10 times cheaper” than everything that is out there.
The gentleman with who I had the interaction proved to me without doubt, from what he showed me, that he is a resourceful, smart person. He is obviously tech savvy and was very good at thinking through scenarios and conducting a delightfully stimulating debate; he was sharp as a tack. There’s a lot of people like that, and they can become successful entrepreneurs. Their chances of this happening increase greatly when they join a community with fellow aspiring, failed, successful and exited entrepreneurs. Our community has that, and we potentiate it further by adding mentors, advisors and investors with impressive track records, vetted by us. The community shares its wisdom and tells its war stories and shows you its scars. I’m in the middle of a community like this, we have built it here at the Innovation Hub at Broward College. It is a great place to be.