I have spent the last 12 weeks mentoring at the Techstars inaugural cohort focused on Artificial Intelligence and let me tell you it was a phenomenal experience! When I first signed up I was a little skeptical of what the experience would be like but….. like all great things in life it came down to meeting some wonderful people.
The team of Bruno Morency & Justine Marchand always made me feel welcome and supported. There were 85 or so mentors from across North America with some major people at the table but they always found time to connect and listen – pretty amazing!
However my hat really comes off for the team at Thermo AI – Aiden Livingston and Carolina Chavez who were the easiest company that I ever had to mentor. Attentive to detail, amazing follow up, realistic on their opportunity and humble in the presence off all – made for a great experience.
I would also like to add that they nailed their pitch in front of 1000 people which is no small feat, see for yourself:
I wanted to share a few of the high level items that came up with Thermo that I also think affect all startups.
Take it slow
This is probably one of the hardest things to instill in a startup, where they can be brave, eager and raring to go but at the same time that normally means going on all cylinders and also in all directions. It’s imperative to identify the tasks which add value to get you to the next decision point with real data. At this point I usually bring up the idea of a hypothesis table, which I think is a great way to visualize and qualify all your ideas and how you intend to validate them.
Focus on your core customer
This is about focus. Its true that you have an amazing idea and it could be 100 different things in the future but right now you are a startup with little cash….. If you want to get customers or funding you need to have something real and at least a minimum viable product. They all want to see you execute not only talk. This is where I tell them to draw a line in the sand and go for it. I also have to tell them that it’s okay to change – if new real information highlights that your path needs adjusting, then change is a necessity.
Cash is King
Cash has so many impacts. If you are making monthly revenue it changes your valuation. If you have cash in the bank you are not at the mercy of a shark. If you can take cash / debt loans then you don’t need to give up equity. Cash at the early stage gives you options which is power.
Beware of contracts
This is an area where I often see startups have a blind spot. The issues of how, when and what they should be doing in agreements from NDA’s to sales agreements to negotiating opportunities. Mistakes here can limit your funding, handcuff your sales and comprise your intellectual property.
Obviously these are just a few of the challenges, feel free to reach out if you are looking for support on your startup, Im always open!