One of the great things at any Startup Weekend is getting the opportunity to share your ideas and get solid feedback to help improve it. In order to give the participants of Startup Weekend Aarhus Health the most useful feedback possible, we invited several mentors from local businesses to come and spend time talking with the teams.
We spoke with three of the mentors to get their views on what it was like sharing their advice on what the teams should be thinking about when it comes to turning their ideas into a workable business.
We’ll share their thoughts over the next few blog posts, starting with our first mentor, Line Dybdahl.
Line is one of the founding members of Be My Eyes, a smartphone application that allows sighted people to loan there eyesight to the blind via the phone’s camera.
Line is no stranger to Startup Weekends. Be My Eyes is a project conceived at a Startup Weekend in Aarhus back in 2012 and one that has been growing at a fast pace ever since.
“I think it is important that the teams focus on user needs and user experience,” explains Line. “Validation is important. Showing the judges that they have validated with users that what they are solving is actually a problem and that the solution offered is something users will actually use.”
The other area Line highlights is funding. The business model for Be My Eyes focuses on being a non-profit organization. Which means that investors don’t see any profits, making it vital that teams show that they know where the money to finance their idea comes from.
“We worked about one and a half years before we got our first serious funding of over one million Danish Kroner,” Explains Line. “We had received some small funding before that; however, it is really expensive to develop apps in Denmark.”
Be My Eyes wanted to focus on producing a high-quality app that was easy to use and, as Line Explains, getting a large investment helped them to achieve this.
“We had spoken about pushing the app out a year earlier with limited funds,” says Line.”But the app would not have been as mature as it is today because the funding gave us the time to solve a lot of problems and test it before fully releasing it.”
Line admits that they didn’t think about the fact that what they were doing to begin with was Social Entrepreneurship, the team simply formed around what they all thought was a cool idea.
“We did in the beginning talk about a lot of different solutions for the problem,” explains Line. “We thought about making a call centre, for example, or making a normal entrepreneurship business model — but what we ended up doing was social entrepreneurship and non-profit because that made sense.”
While Social Entrepreneurship and going the non-profit route fitted to the idea of Be My Eyes, Line is quick to point out that going down that route still means treating the project as a business.
“You can have a non-profit, but, you can also have this thing called non-profit for growth,” explains Line. “This means you are making revenue in the company but it is not anything for the shareholders.”
The money in this instance goes to developing the company as well as providing essential team members with a salary to fuel that development.
“This is something that the teams need to consider,” says Line. “If you are getting funding you need to be willing to work a lot for a long time voluntarily to show your commitment to the ones who do eventually fund you.”