Last week our newest (and sixth) cycle of companies began AlphaLab’s intensive accelerator program. To give the new guys a better idea of what they could expect in the weeks to come, we asked alumni from the fifth cycle to come in and share any advice or wisdom they had gleaned from their experience.
Here were some of the insights offered by Devotee’s Matt French, Levlr’s Phil Anderson and Shawn Wall, Careerimp’s Mona Abdel-Halim, NoWait’s Robb Myer and OfferMint’s Vyom Bhuta:
1. Launch Quickly. This is often the first piece of advice alumni offer up–and for good reason. Both a pillar of the lean startup model and adopted maxim of many startups, “shipping fast, and often” allows companies to test out market assumptions and use valuable user feedback to quickly pivot their product or service to fit the needs of their customers.
2. Learn How to Say “No.” This refers both to taking on potential customers that will cause you more problems than you can handle, and the laundry list of features your customers will inevitably want you to add. In the latter case, 37 signals suggests to listen, but warns against any immediate action as,
Each time you say yes to a feature, you’re adopting a child. You have to take your baby through a whole chain of events (e.g. design, implementation, testing, etc.). And once that feature’s out there, you’re stuck with it. Just try to take a released feature away from customers and see how pissed off they get.
3. Make it easy for any news outlet, blogger or reporter to cover your story. After many failed attempts of trying to get their Beerby app covered on major tech blogs, Phil uncovered the secret behind getting published: write the story for them. Levlr’s CEO and Co-founder added, “Who could do a better job covering your story than you?” Vyom also pointed out that including links to any articles or blog posts written about your company in pitch emails was a great way to establish legitimacy and give potential customers or investors an easy way to learn more about what you’re offering, without adding unnecessary bloat.
4. Don’t be afraid to cold call…but be smart about it. Careerimp found that reaching out to new prospects became easier once they obtained a positive testimonial from a colleague inside the tightly knit industry they were targeting. And after Luke from NoWait realized he wouldn’t get too far by simply asking a restaurant’s hostess for the owner or manager, he got creative. If his company was interested in obtaining a restaurant’s business and couldn’t find the owner’s name online, he’d go to the restaurant, have a beer, and ask a server for the owner or manager’s name so he could call on them the next day.
5. Always be aware of the value you can provide to a customer (ideally in financial terms). Mona also mindfully pointed out that this often should be in terms of the payer–not the user.
The last advice offered by the alums? Ironically enough, be sure and qualify the advice you’re given.
We wish our newest cycle of companies the best of luck and look forward to updating you on their progress through the AlphaLab blog.