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.”
When Mike began to introduce Todd and I to the launchpad methodology, based on his iCorps experience at Stanford, he predicted that around week Four or Five things would start changing. Basically, he said, this is the point where many of the startups began learning how little they knew about their market or found that their initial hypothesis was wrong. Last Friday was week Five and there it was- a lot of teams making major changes or contemplating them. Some learned important things that more clearly defined a better market opportunity, others found themselves in dead-ends. Both are valuable learnings.
The customer discovery process was created to generate exactly these kinds of results, before you commit time and resources to an idea. With ‘normal’ startup methodology, all of our teams would have made extensive progress writing business plans. Several already had done them. And virtually all of them would have been wrong in significant ways.
So, while there was some real pain out there last week, things will look better as a result. We see teams tightening up their focus as their discovery process forces them to accept reality. Some teams are wrestling with being wrong and having to admit it. Others have had their ideas validated but only after they got better at expressing them. And others are still working on it.
So, we expect some pivots before our next class on April 5th. Just a reminder: Pivots are major changes in direction. This should be interesting. This stuff works!