By Diego Saez-Gil, inBed.me Co-founder.
On June 2011, at Startup Weekend New York, the project inBed.me was born, winning 2nd prize. Last week, less than 6 months later, after enlisting a talented team, completing the product, testing it with users, incorporating the company, establishing key partnerships, bringing on board top-notch advisors and raising a significant seed round from prestigious investors, inBed.me launched to the public, generating a good press buzz and getting a promising initial traction (+10,000 visits, +1000 users in one week).
We are extremely proud of having being born in SW and of being part of this fast-growing global community. Many projects born in SW have difficulty maintaining momentum after the event. We believed that it was possible took keep moving ahead and we did it. So the guys at SW asked us to think what we consider were the things we did right during SW, and after SW, that allowed us to actually build a real company after the event. That’s why we wrote this post. We hope that this can help others “Startup Weekenders” to keep going with their project. Hopefully this way we can increase the impact of SW around the world!
But first! what is inBed.me? > inBed.me is a social booking site for Hostel travelers that allows users to connect with other travelers going to the same destinations before the trip even starts. Users can see who else will stay in each accommodation and city, and connect with them to share tips or plan activities together, and based on that, book a hostel to stay. Here a little video that explains it better!
Top 5 things that we did right on Startup Weekend:
Here are the main things that we believe (in our humble opinion) that we did right on SW, that set the foundation of our company, and helped us to actually build a company afterwards. But first, here is our actual pitch on the Demo Day of Startup Weekend NY, back in June:
1. Enlist a diverse and skill-complementary team.
We managed to assemble a group of people with really different backgrounds, and complementary skills. The diversity was fundamental in the brainstorming process, and the complementarity of skills was extremely important to be able to build a product, analyze the market, and envision the challenges of the company. Most of the original team members are still involved with the project, directly or indirectly.
2. Think BIg.
We’ve seen many teams on SW thinking that because it’s such a short time to build and launch something, it makes more sense to build a small project. Then more than a potential company, they really build a product feature (e.g. “an app that gathers all your foursquare check-ins and shows them in a cool map”). As much as it can be fun and educational to build this cool small projects, the reality is that the chances of building a company afterwards, convincing others to support you along the way, etc, are… well, small. Rather, we choose to envision a big company, with the potential to disrupt multi-billion dollar market. It sounds like something too big to build in 2 days; but everything starts with a vision. It’s free to dream, so let’s dream big!
3. Build a Minimum Viable Product
Even the biggest companies started with a really minimum product. Dropbox with a video and Groupon with a WordPress blog. You don’t have to build a super featured product, but a minimum entity with which you can start validating hypothesis about your potential customers. (More about this on the great The Lean Startup book). We created a basic version on inBed.me and were able to show it to the world. Afterwards we needed to refine it, of course, but obtaining a working prototype was really really powerful.
4. Get feedback from your target users (not other geeks)
Instead of going around and asking other geeks like us what they thought about the concept and the basic product, we were out and walked our way to actual hostels in New York, and talked with real backpackers. A part of our team spent a big part of the weekend taking feedback from them, and processing the results in cool stat charts. This was of tremendous value for us. SW it’s a great opportunity to go and get real feedback in non-scalable ways.
5. Take the most of the mentors
Generally the mentors at SW are rockstars. And they are there, during 3 full-time days, just to help you out building your company. We took the most of them, and we took their feedback very seriously. They helped us to think bigger, to make more sense in small and big things, to craft our pitch, etc. We made them feel part of the creation of the company, and as such, they helped us out, even after SW.
Top 5 things we did right after Startup Weekend:
And here are the things that we did after SW, that we consider were key to keep going and building the company.
1. Believe it!
Whether you win or not the final pitch battle on SW, next Monday you wake up, and think something like “hey! that was cool! we could actually try to push it forward”. There, many “mind-monkeys” jump saying “yo! this was just a game, in the real world it won’t happen”. We decided to believe that we could. And there, is where everything starts. If you happen to find a good team in SW, and you feel that you can actually build something meaningful together, go for it! Believe that it can happen, and it will!
2. Take part in some accelerator program to continue building-learning
Few chances are that an investor will write you a check with the results of SW (even if you won the SW Global Battle). However, a new sort of really-early-stage investor came to scene: the accelerators. Accelerators are more focused in the team than in the product or the traction, so they will consider to invest in a team right after SW. So we did, we took part in 2 accelerator programs: Startup Chile and NXTP Labs (part of Techstars Network) [More on these great experiences coming soon]. This was the perfect following step for us, because it gave us an initial funding to keep going, and the ideal environment to keep building and learning. It also helped us to surround our self with amazing people (next point).
3. Surround yourself with great people
We learnt in SW the importance of mentoring and feedback from experts, that’s why we focused in enlisting advisors and mentors really early on. We managed to get on-board experienced entrepreneurs such as Rod Cuthbert (founder of Viator Travel), Fabrice Grinda (founder of OLX and Zingy), Alec Oxenford (founder of DeRemate, DineroMail and OLX), Facundo Garreton (founder of InvertirOnline), James Haft (mentor at Techstars), etc. We also partnered with great lawyers, Dan Green from Goodwin Procter, who advised us in all the legal matters of incorporating the company and raising investment.
4. Keep the momentum growing
SW is a great kick-off pad that can create some initial momentum for your project. However you need to keep this momentum growing by adding new value to the company every week. The value addition can come in the form of team members, advisors, investors, product features, users, or simply learning. We kept in mind that the first few months were essential to really take off, and that the opportunities are urgent, se we got obsessed with keeping the momentum.
5. Launch! (even with a lot of flaws)
As Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) said “if you are not embarrassed with your product at launch; then you launched too late”. The oxygen for your product will come from real users in the real world. That’s why we decided to launch to the public, less than 6 months from our starting point. Our product still have some bugs, and is really far from being what we envision. However we are already out there, learning, and making our dream a tangible reality.
We still have a huge mountain in front of us, and have a big road to ride before being able to call ourselves successful. But, as Lao-tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“. Startup Weekend was this first step for us. We dared to believe that the spark that we fired on SW were a real possibility of creating high-impact value for world. And we are hands on, making it happen. We heartily wish that more startups born out of SW across the globe generate new real companies, that create jobs, innovation and hope for the world. Thus, all together, we can change the world.
So, go ahead and find when Startup Weekend is coming to you city!