As part of the Stronger Together series, we are taking a closer look at the impact of the interwoven startup ecosystem that UP Global and Techstars work within. Together, our now united organizations work to accelerate the pace of innovation and empower entrepreneurs to build companies that change the world.
In this series we’ll spotlight teams who have been a part of both UP Global programs and Techstars to explore the impact the integration of both programs has had or is having on their entrepreneurial journey.
Mamtha Banarjee had one startup experience under her belt and was convinced this one was going to be different. She had her product and her team in place, yet she also knew she had many other important tasks ahead of her. As a technical person on a team deep with tech talent, the tendency was to stay heads-down and continue to refine the product.
She knew she had to build her network, refine the business plan, do customer validation, and so she applied to Startup Next. Her team was skeptical about what a 5-week program could provide. Her team is not skeptical anymore.
Mamtha Banarjee took some time recently to discuss her Startup Next experience.
What challenges were you facing coming into Startup Next?
Before we started with Next we were deep down in building out the product, so I had no time to look at business plans, to look at the market opportunity. I knew I had to put together the whole story about why we were doing this, and how to pitch it to others and get the business model going, but we just had zero time. Also, I had no network in the Pacific Northwest. So, I desperately needed a network, and I needed to kind of put together my story.
What did you get out of Startup Next?
So the timing for Startup Next was perfect — because as soon as we got into Next, we were forced, in 60 seconds to be able to tell the pitch. And to tell the pitch in a way where others actually understood it, not just in a way we understood it.
I still use the same pitch. As is. My opening pitch that I got out of Next hasn’t changed. I’ve tried to change it, but every time I change it, if I A/B test it, everybody likes the Next pitch. I think that was the first really good learning.
Then we had amazing mentors. The feedback loop was 360-degree feedback. I was able to get industry leaders to come look at us and immediately understand whether they’re able to relate to your idea or not. If I had to get meetings with the right set of people by myself, it would have taken me much, much longer. Whereas in these five weeks I was able to quickly access that network, while I spending most of my time on my company.
Did going through the Next program help you get into Techstars?
I think so, yes. I think it helped us when we did the application, everything was a lot crisper.
Did Startup Next factor in fundraising for MagicFlix?
We didn’t open a round until the end of Techstars for fundraising, but I’m still talking to connections that I met through Next.
What advice would you give a founder or team looking at Next?
If you ask my team, they will say: ‘that was the best investment we’ve ever made.’ I’m quoting that line from my team. They’ll say ‘that’s the best $300 we’ve ever spent.’ The returns have been so much more.
Learn more about Magicflix.