Last night at Roc Brewing we had a great time meeting applicant teams, mentors and others interested in what’s going on with the HTR LaunchPad 2014. I spoke with 7 teams preparing applications and know I didn’t get to everyone. Fortunately Matt and Mike were making the rounds too so I don’t think we missed anyone! And I learned about some pretty interesting concepts including several that have a strong start on their customer discovery process. This should be a really exciting program.
As the headline says, there are only three days left until the application deadline. This is a program that could literally change your life as an entrepreneur!
Alex posted a RocNext D&C piece on the LaunchPad with his own take as both an Advisory Board member and a member of the Mentor team. Alex is also President of iCardiac, one of the area’s most successful medical tech companies and a Director at Innovocracy (disclosure: I am also a Director at Innovocracy).
Here’s some of what he had to say:
“I was privileged last year to be an adviser to HTR LaunchPad, a unique accelerator program offered by High Tech Rochester. For those that are unfamiliar with the Lean LaunchPad methodology, it was developed by a successful entrepreneur that teaches at Stanford. In short, the method is based on the idea that too much time, money and effort are spent at the beginning of a startup’s journey focused on developing or perfecting the technology or product that the startup plans to sell. This is because it very often turns out that the products entrepreneurs think people want are different in some substantive way from the products people actually want.
The LaunchPad methodology takes a very different approach. Entrepreneurs are told to spend minimal time working on product development and instead to spend nearly all of their time having numerous relevant conversations with people connected to their target market. Only once the entrepreneurs have truly validated that the problem they are addressing exists and that their proposed solution is one that will meet the needs of – and be bought by – those that have this problem do they turn to the work of perfecting a product based on their extensive field research.”
We’ve been asked to define ‘software startups’ a little more clearly and it’s a good question. First a little history. Software companies back at the beginning of time (1990ish) actually wrote software from the ground up. Most software is basically a form of a database with customization and a user-interface. Back then, if you were creating an application you typically wrote code for these components. This led to companies like Microsoft and Netscape which were ‘pure’ software companies.
Today this has changed radically. With open source components like databases and WordPress (a database), ecommerce plugins, hosted software and cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), people with ideas have easy access to software tools without doing extensive backend programming. This is particularly so at the early startup stage where issues like scaling to large numbers of users are less of a concern. So a software startup today is much more a business model made possible by software. That’s the kind of thing that we see in the HTRLaunchPad applicants.
The key phrase is ‘business model‘. The methodology we use with our teams has a specific goal: To find a scalable, profitable business model, enabled by the use of software. Scalable means it can grow exponentially into a larger market and business. Profitable means it can make money as it scales.
This definition generally excludes so-called ‘lifestyle’ businesses, companies where the founders serve a localized or niche market that can be comfortably profitable but may have a limited growth potential. However, today, because of global reach and widely available tools even these lifestyle businesses have more growth headroom. So that definition, once reviled by investors, is now also changing. Software and connectivity are unleashing the limits on many business concepts.
One example, to clarify our criteria, would be a plan to open a local business like a yoga studio or a pizzeria. They don’t fit the software-enabled model that offers a growth curve. However a really compelling pizza or yoga app with a revenue model might make the cut!