AI XPRIZE: Transforming Montreal Into an AI HUB!


aix-event

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

Montreal’s artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem has gained traction in the past few years, positioning our city as the hub for AI. The AI XPRIZE, a four-year global $5-million, open and global competition where teams must develop and demonstrate how people can collaborate and apply artificial intelligence to solve the world’s largest societal challenges. The competition is a great opportunity to showcase our talent and the strength of our city as an AI hub.

Montreal is leading the pack with the most teams entered in the competition, a total of 12! Yesterday, we heard our teams, including two from Ontario, pitch at Blakes Law Firm to the foremost experts and mentors in the AI field in Montreal.

Sydney Swain-Simon, District 3’s AI Zone-Fellow, has been working hard for over the past year to promote, recruit, support and connect the teams with the major players in the ecosystem. It’s a privilege to support our talented teams throughout their journey!

Meet The Teams

ubenwa

1. Ubenwa

Birth Asphyxia is one of the top 3 causes of infant mortality in Africa, causing the death of about 1.2 million infants and severe lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and paralysis) to an equal number annually. Ubenwa is developing a machine learning system that can take infant cry as input, analyse the amplitude and frequency patterns in the cry, to provide instant diagnosis of birth asphyxia.

sensequake
2. SenseQuake

Sensequake is making cities safer and smarter by revolutionizing how engineers assess the integrity and natural hazard vulnerability of structures. Instead of visual inspection and traditional engineering practices, Sensequake technology performs smart assessments based on actual data from sensors—saving engineers time, effort and money—all the while providing superior results. Their project can be used to help and minimize risk of Building Collapses by providing a scalable product to do building risk assessment which is 80% faster.

nectar

3. Nectar

Nectar is a Montreal based, AI startup that gives nature a voice, starting with honey bees. Through conversational interface technology, they help beekeepers apply the right care at the right time, in order to raise healthy apiaries. The current iteration of the product uses multiple sensors which go into the hive and will have an app interface so that beekeepers minimize the amount of times they need to disrupt them. Although they are starting with bee colonies,  the product is scalable to work in other environments.

data-performers

4. Dataperformers

DataperfomersX is building the Google map for disaster management. From a simple and textual query like “what is the best location for a temporary hospital?” DataperformersX provides a straightforward recommendation plans build from heterogeneous data sources and a decentralized autonomous mapping low cost drones.

 

erudite

5. Erudite

Meet Eri.AI, a chatbot that provides students all over the world one-on-one math tutoring, on demand. This is done by matching students, in real-time, with available tutors that have shown proficiency in the same subject. As a result, the student will have a better understanding of the topic, while the tutor will reach the tutoring level of a professional.

innovie-health

6. Innovie

Innovie’s solution is to provide physicians with a AI Real-Time Data Analytics platform which will be integrated with EMR/EHR’s and clinical research databases. Their system will be a fully automated real-time responsive diagnosis and provide time and cost efficiency for patients, physicians and clinic. This will lead to a reduction in defensive medicine practices and diagnostic errors.

 

premo

7. Prëmo

Prëmo is an inter-connexion platform bringing individuals from distant networks together, much faster, helping them form communities closest to their needs and interests. Rosa is our master-piece AI-system finding the fastest ways for an individual to connect at any moment, for any need, with anyone, instantaneously.

AIcare

8. AICARE

AICARE aims to develop an intelligent application programming interface (API) that will receive real-time traffic video feed and any other data/information that could help improve traffic flow. A web platform is the fastest way to reach our potential users over the world. Once the data comes to that API, it will be processed by an intelligent agent able to return to traffic light controllers the optimal cycles of green light versus red light. By the end of the competition, their goal is to improve traffic reality in at least three cities

aifred

9. Alfred

AIfred is a clinical decision aid system for psychiatry. AIfred combines deep scientific research with cutting-edge machine learning to help reduce recovery times, increase treatment efficacy and allow better allocation of medical resources through more effective and efficient treatment plans.

canadian-shield
10. Canadian Shield MVSS

Canadian Shield Military and Veteran Student Services (Canadian Shield MVSS) is a Federally Incorporated non-profit Corporation that is developing a Cognitive Computing based Veteran Transition Ecosystem to support former Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members by providing a seamless end-to-end progression through the series of steps required to secure gainful civilian employment and meaningful participation in their new communities following a service related injury.

 

cann-forecast
11. Cann Forecast

Cann Forecast is building a revolutionary artificial intelligence system called JENN. JENN is an AI based assistant capable of predicting the risk of microbiological contamination in water. Along with data provided by the cities, it also makes use of meteorological and environmental data in order to predict the risk of contamination up to 3 days ahead not only for recreational water, but also for drinking water sources.

JENN also comes with a graphical user interface so that decision makers can visualize the system’s predicted and historical data, along with performance metrics and confidence intervals so they can make more enlightened decisions.An API is also available for data access and integration with systems already in place.

mr.young

12. Mr. Young

Mental health disorders affect more than 650 million people worldwide and cost more than 1 trillion dollars a year. It has also been found that younger generations are particularly affected by them. Although many human and technological resources exist, seeking the right kind of help can be a daunting and confusing task.

Mr. Young is an AI-powered chatbot designed to provide an “ear” that help those in need cope with anxiety, and connect them to the appropriate solution.

uOttawa

13. uOttawa AI

uOttawa AI is creating an AI system to help the visually impaired navigate their environment.  The aim is to improve the accuracy of video understanding by integrating more advanced audio, beep/vibration alerts. Their technology will aid the current methods and utilize smartphone features such as GPS and motion sensors.

leaplearnfly

14. Learn Leap Fly

Teaching the next generation to learn requires all of us, whether our expertise is with technology, with culture, with design, with psychology, with science, with art, or with community. If having experts in a single domain was sufficient, we would already be done. The challenges of global education remain despite having experts in all of the above areas. Our best solutions require the creative collaboration of expert learners, teachers, and makers across many problem domains.

At Learn Leap Fly, we seek out experts who are committed to lifelong learning and teaching, and bring them into a collaborative environment. We challenge them to find the places where their areas of expertise intersect those of others. We help them test their notions, and their preconceptions, and we do it all in a culture of respect, honesty, and experimentation.

wikinet

15. Wikinet.ca

WikiNet is a company specialized in the development of applications for the environmental sector. They are collaborating with IBM/Watson, the world leader in cognitive computing, to create intelligent applications that can learn from data and support decision-making. They give the opportunity to environmental companies to innovate and distinguish themselves in a highly competitive market by expanding their expertise with the cognitive technology. Winkinet provides decision tools for environmental companies to identify the best solutions for environmental protection and to support economic development.

If you’re interested in connecting with the teams or learning more about the AI XPRIZE, send us an email at communications@d3center.ca!  

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 3 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

Part 3: Starting your Career as an Entrepreneur  

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

This is the last part of the series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization.

We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco. You can read part 1 and part 2, where we discussed his career as a product manager and what challenges he faces on a day to day basis.

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this third part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s challenges working in startups, and the tips and tricks used to overcome them. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Question: From a technical perspective, how does one migrate towards entrepreneurship and product management? Do you have any techniques for acquiring the skills and knowledge in these areas?

Vito: There isn’t a single path. I think it depends what opportunities are available to you. If you’re stuck in a job where you have one single task and don’t have a lot of interaction with other functions, that can be a problem. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you’re going to deal with marketing, sales, support, engineering, all these cross-functional people on a daily basis. You need to have a healthy understanding of their roles. It’s easier to get this exposure in smaller organizations. Larger companies can be siloed, and you don’t get as much interaction. However, at least in my experience, product managers who worked in major corporations had a good foundation. They were trained on how to interact people. You won’t get that in smaller companies.

 

Question: What is the worst advice being dispensed to entrepreneurs these days?

Vito: I can’t say that I’m an expert in knowing. Every startup is unique, and I’m not aware of the general rules that do or don’t apply. I don’t know if there are general rules people are telling entrepreneurs that should be outright dismissed or supported.

 

Question: You have colleagues and acquaintances who decided to open a startup and that became successful. Did you notice patterns that you think might have caused their success?

Vito: Timing. One of my product managers, who worked with me at Apple and Roxio, recently sold his startup for forty million dollars to a New York-based company.

You have to be smart, hard working and be willing to sacrifice. You can’t be motivated by the thought that one day you’re going to get a million dollars. You need to believe in the problem that you’re solving. Think about how many people have this problem. Ask yourself ‘can I assemble a team, align, and pay them to tackle this problem and sell it to hundreds of customers?’ If you have that kind of mindset, then you may have a shot at being successful. If you think ‘I’m going to do a startup cause I’m going to get rich,’ you’re going to miss the intermediate steps and you’ll be disappointed.

 

Question: Is it an advantage for someone, who is at the beginning of their career, to jump into entrepreneurship?

Vito: Yes. Most people who go into entrepreneurship do it while they’re young, it’s easier. They don’t have the fancy job, so there is less holding them back. You need a nest egg to fund your expenses; this is a universal law. My advice, enter the job market with the plan of gaining experience and getting the higher salary that will allow you to branch off and do your own thing.

 

Question: What’s the benefit of starting a startup in Montreal compared to starting in San Francisco?

Vito: There’s a huge benefit to starting a company outside of San Francisco. The cost structure in California is outrageous, and attracting people and retaining them is challenging. In Montreal you have a nice talent pool of educated people and we’re a very diverse population. It’s more affordable to hire people. You have a huge advantage in Montreal, from a cost structure perspective. The drawback is it’s harder to find the people who work in high tech. In Silicon Valley, at least 25% of the population specialize in high tech.

From a marketing perspective, it’s less of a challenge today. You have the internet. If you’re selling from a website, no one needs to know where you’re located. I think marketing is as easy as it’s ever been for tech companies. You can be headquartered anywhere. If you’re reaching out beyond the Canadian market, I encourage you not to make it very prominent where you’re located. We deal with companies in India; they don’t make it very noticeable where they are located. That’s smart. You want to sell to the biggest market, that’s the US market, it’s not necessarily important to convey where your location is.

 

We hope you enjoyed the last post of this series! We enjoyed having Vito take the time and share his insights with our community.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 2 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

Part 2: Challenges Faced by Product Managers

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

 

This is the second part of a three-part series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization.

We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco. You can read part 1 here, where we discussed…

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this second part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s challenges as a product manager, and the tips and tricks uses to overcome them. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Question: What are the biggest challenges that you face as a Product Manager?

 

Vito: The biggest challenge is prioritizing requirements. You have a limited number of engineers and dozensif not hundredsof potential ideas that are coming from customers and the market. We ask ourselves “what are the most important features engineers could be working on?” That’s the number one challenge of the product management function.

Another challenge is understanding the needs of the sales organization and understanding what motivates the engineers. Sales always needs to know what they can sell today. Engineers want to fix the big problems, they want a long-term road map. How do you balance those two competing requirements?

I would say the top three things product managers need to stay on top of is: 1) prioritizing requirements; 2) understanding the market and making sure you are not out of position; 3) And observing the needs of the constituencies between the needs of sales and the needs of engineers to feel empowered to do new compelling, innovative things. Those are some of the challenges that a product manager faces on a daily basis.

 

Question: How do you build credibility, especially if you don’t have an engineering background?

 

Vito: Influence is the single most important skill a product manager can have. You don’t get engineers to do what you want simply because you’re authorized by virtue of your title. You have to build a rapport. They have to trust you and believe you can bring them requirements that the market needs.

It’s challenging in a high tech company if you don’t have a technical background. What I look at when a product manager want to work for me is, are engineers seeking them or are they ignoring them?  If you can not be sought out by the engineers, then you have a problem on your hands. If the product manager doesn’t have the respect of the organization, that’s tough.

 

Question: How can you transition into the role of product manager?

 

Vito: In my case I got lucky. An easy way is to transition out of business school, usually out of an MBA or a Master Program. Generally, the easiest way is when you’re in an existing organization and you move over to product management. One of the best hires I ever made in my career came out of sales. This person really understood customers’ issues. He spent a lot of personal time understanding the technology, the products and the competitive space. He was very good with people. Migrating within a company to a junior level product management or product marketing position is usually a nice transition.

If you’re technical, you’re an engineer and you want to make a migration, that is easy as well. The more technical the product and the more technical knowledge you have, the easier it is to transition. Transitioning  to a product management position requires a good foundation in product and technology.

It’s hard to do for a startup. They’re not necessarily looking for people to migrate from one position to another unless they are growing rapidly. For example, an engineer who is brought on board to do some coding and wants to transition into product management in an environment where the CEO or CTO are the product managers. He can only make the transition if they’ve grown large enough and are ready for a full time product manager.

 

Q: If you were given two products to build from scratch, but only had the time and resources to build one, how would you decide which to build?

 

Vito: Generally, we use the General Electric matrix, which is a framework developed by Mackenzie and General Electric. You look at market attractiveness vs. your ability to execute. You have to do some research, and have to assess the opportunity.

If there’s a sufficiently large market opportunity for this product or service ask yourself do you have you the ability to execute on this? Do you have the funding? Do you have the right people? Ask yourself these questions, state the assumptions. What has to be true for each of these options to be a viable successful option? Go test those assumptions. Where is the biggest market and how likely are you, with the resources that you have, the skill sets of your team, and the funding that you have, to execute?

Look at the competitive environment as well. That is part of the ability to execute. Can you out-execute your competitors? That’s going to be critical.

 

Q:   When you have these assumptions, how do you involve your customers in your product direction?

Vito: That’s relatively easy. We talk to the customers all the time, and how you talk to customers is important! Don’t ask them what they want. It’s ok to ask them, but that shouldn’t guide what you build. You have to ask them, what’s the problem? How do they use your product? Observe them use the product. What are their pain points? Then you figure out how to address their pain points, or the limitations you have in the product.

We talk to customers. We are asking what their problems are, what are they trying to achieve, then we think about possible ways of solving the problem.

That’s the product manager with the designer. The designer will create mockups and there are amazing tools you can use, like Invision, that allows you to do mockups that look and feel a little bit like your product. Whether it’s a mobile or web based product. Then go back to your customers and have them test the interactive mockups. Ask them to solve the problem.

 

Q: When you’re driving product decisions, how do you deal with the competition? What do you look for and and what’s your mindset when you’re trying to build features or your product?

 

Vito: What I learned at Apple, even then, you didn’t obsess or spend a lot of time worrying about the competitors.  Even today I don’t think Apple worries too much about their competitors. What they do is assess with their customers. They are selling to people who have money. Don’t obsess too much about the competition and don’t mimic what they’re doing.

Even in a single product category like ours, log file management, there are many players. Some serve large enterprise customers. We don’t. We serve medium size fast growing customers. That may be a different persona. We may be pursuing a completely different customer. If we are swayed by what our competitors are doing we may miss what our customer need.

Except for the following caveat.

There are capabilities that almost every category has. For example, you can try to build a cell phone today and save money by not putting a front facing camera. You’re probably not going to be very successful. The competitors’ features are relevant only in the base level features.

You need a certain minimum level of performance. Your product must have a set of capabilities. Whatever the product. Beyond that, you need to understand what the customer pain points are for the target market that you’re pursuing. Most businesses can’t target the whole market. Apple has two million dollars worth of revenue, and doesn’t target the whole market. They target the elite, people that have money.

You have to look at your sweet spot. How big is that category? Understand what those users want and built delightful capabilities for that sweet spot. If you are obsessed with your competition, you may try to mimic them and fall short.

That’s the way I think about competitors. You can’t ignore their features. It’s good to be aware, but you must be driven by your target persona in your market segment. If you miss that you will not succeed. It’s possible you’re pursuing a category that has a direct competitor, in which case it can be a race to the bottom. You’re ultimately going to compete on price. That’s why you really need to think about a large niche that’s unique from your competitors. If you’re really going to grow, you need to focus on what your customers problems are and not be too distracted by your competitors.

 

Question: If you’re a successful product manager working for a big company, what’s stopping you from resigning and starting your own startup? What is your recommendation for a product manager, when is the right time to move out on your own?

 

Vito: That’s a question everybody experiences. The answer, it’s a lifestyle choice. If you’re a successful product manager, working for an established company, getting a regular income with the typical annual increase and increased level of responsibility, there’s a certain comfort there.

You need to be willing to risk it all, and by all, I mean have no income for a while. If you feel you’re a good leader and people will listen to you and align behind you, and you feel you can attract investors who would be willing to fund your idea, provided that you do have a fundable idea, you have to make a choice.

Product management is an excellent career. It prepares you to be an entrepreneur or the CEO of a startup. You  understand the business. There is sales, engineering, support and design. You don’t own any of these skills, but you are a key player in making these people come together and, if you’re successful, lead them even if you don’t have the authority necessary.

You have to be willing to sacrifice. It depends on your financial situation. If you’re used to that income, it can be really hard to be entrepreneur. If you expect certain minimal living standards like the fancy car, fancy apartment or house, you’re going to have to make those choices.

Why are so many successful startups founded by younger people? It’s because they’re at a place in their careers where they have nothing to lose. They don’t have the big mortgage or car payments, and the private school for their kids. They’re willing to say “I can sacrifice for a few years to pursue the potentially bigger goal”. If you’re leaving a successful career at an established company, with a regular salary, you need to tell yourself “I’m prepared to drop all of this and do my own thing.”

 

We hope you enjoyed the second post of this series! In the final part, Vito will be tackling what it means to be a product manager in the context of a startup. 

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 1 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

This is the first part of a three-part series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization. We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco.

You can find Part 2 and Part 3 here!

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this first part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s career path, as well as the tips and tricks he’s picked up along the way that helped propel his career. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Can you give us a quick overview of your career path?

I first started my career working for Apple as a product manager and became the director of product marketing for Mac OS until 1997. Since Apple, I’ve gone on to work as a product manager in several successful startups, such as Accrue Software, which went through a successful IPO, and Unimobile who raised Series C funding and was later acquired by Syniverse. I worked as the VP of product management at Hewlett-Packard, and in several other organizations.

You made a decision to move to California to work in the startup ecosystem. Do you feel that startups today can stay in Montreal or other cities and still be able to achieve the same amount of success that you would see in San Francisco?

Vito: It’s pretty easy to build a business today almost entirely online with staff working remotely from several cities. For example, if you look at Atlassian, they had an IPO last year or the year before. They’re a very successful company with tens of thousands of companies using their products. They’re highly distributed so they are able to find talent anywhere.

At Loggly, we struggle to hire engineers and personnel locally. We’ve now begun to hire people that are farther from downtown San Francisco. My commute is over an hour but on Tuesdays, I work from home. We have an engineer that works from the Philippines, and he works our hours. He went to Waterloo and just happens to live in the Philippines. I have a product manager who is living in India right now. He works our hours, 13.5 hours time shifted but from India and he’s a rock star.

It’s much easier today to build a business by finding the right people wherever they might be. I think it bodes well for other cities, like Montreal.

When you want to join a post-series A startup, you have some element of due diligence that was made by investors that minimize your risk when you decide to join as an employee. However, how do you assess a Pre-Series A startup that you’d like to join? How do you minimize risk and ensure that you are investing your time in a startup that has a higher likelihood of succeeding?

Vito: There’s no question it’s really risky to join an early stage startup, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re going to join a team of fewer than 10 people, you really need to look at the team. Who’s the CEO? Who are the founders? Who are their investors and advisors? The startups are going to ask you all the questions to determine whether they should hire you. You should do the same as well, you should ask and talk to their references. Before I joined Loggly full time as the VP of product development, I was a consultant. I wanted to see what customer bought the product, I wanted to see who my peers in the organization would be before I decided to join their startup full-time.

If you’re very confident in your abilities and you want to vet the quality of the team, you can offer to join as a contractor. It will give you time to think about the company you want to join. It will really give you the time to look at who are their customers, what’s their sales ramp like, what’s the VP Sales like, what’s the CEO like. These are the things I think about when I’m looking at a really small company that has a really small track record.

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and build a startup. It seems like it’s becoming a popular avenue people want to pursue. How can you keep grounded in this environment where everybody’s excited? Are we facing a bubble, similar to what happened in the late nineties or are we in a different situation now?

Vito: I think it’s similar, but not identical. In the late nineties, there were lots of companies that really had no business getting the money they did. Today we see a little bit of that. A year or two ago, it was all about Unicorns. Billion dollar valuation companies! But many of these billion dollar companies have a solid business behind them. A lot of these companies don’t have profitability, but they’re growing rapidly. Some companies are able to raise a lot of money at a high valuation on the basis of breaking even and becoming profitable.

I think better companies are being funded, but the phenomenon is a little different. It’s easier today, from a capital perspective, to start a company. Software companies can be up and running in weeks. In the late 90s, you still had to build infrastructure and so more capital requirements and it was easier to fail. You can fail now too, but it’s much easier to build a business with lower capital and test if there’s traction. In general, I’m not seeing a lot of frivolous things. It’s just a good time to start businesses.

As a product manager how do you schedule your time and what tips would you give with regards to product management?   

Vito: The higher up you go in an organization, the more likely you’re going to spend time in meetings and less time doing the work of a product manager. You need to find the right balance. My approach is, every day, I think of the three or four things I need to get accomplished that day and make sure that I don’t get caught up in just doing e-mail or meetings. Just really focus on getting those things accomplished. Make lists. Lists are your friends. You make lists and cross things off your list. You’ll focus on getting things accomplished. Prioritize things that the business needs to move forward.

That doesn’t mean don’t respond to emails. I think it’s very important in smaller companies to be very responsive to people who email or contact you. But don’t get wrapped up in doing only that. Make sure you spend a fair amount of time getting the deliverable. Turn your phone off. Turn your e-mail off and, if you’re writing requirements because you’re a product manager, focus on requirements. If you’re creating a survey, complete the first draft of the survey. Make sure you have, in your schedule, a lot of uninterrupted time without meetings so that you can get these things done. You have to learn how to manage your time.

That’s going to be critical for a product manager because product managers are a Nexus within the organization, large or small. Sales, engineering, design and marketing all come to the product manager for advice. It’s very easy to be split into different tasks. Make sure you have time to dedicate yourself to getting things done.  

How would you compare the work-life balance between working for big companies like Apple, and working at a startup company?

Vito: If you’re going to a startup company you need to be prepared to make the appropriate level of sacrifice in your work-life balance. Larger companies can accommodate 9 to 5 easier than startups, it’s just a fact of life. If you go to a startup that has a  pretty balanced lifestyle, you should examine whether or not they’re going to be successful. The smaller startups that are emerging out of nowhere and want to become real players, it requires a tremendous amount of effort.

Work-life balance and startups aren’t often in the same sentence. It’s a choice you have to make. Very often, I see people who want to join startups but are looking for that work-life balance. That can be pretty tricky. Now different corporations handle it differently. By the way, by work-life balance, I don’t mean you have to be there from 9 to 5.

At Loggly, we’re pretty flexible. Somebody needs to leave earlybecause the commute in Silicon Valley is a nightmarethey leave early. But they’ll log in after they put the kids to bed, and do some work for example. That’s OK. That’s a reasonable work-life balance. I don’t believe that companies require employees to work 70 or 80 hours a week, I don’t think that’s a good balance.

Can you share some resources or materials that got you inspired to be thinking this way? Books that you read or people that you’ve been exposed to that helped you in your career?

Vito: I’m a pretty voracious reader. I’m mostly focused on good magazines and good blogs. I read a lot of well-researched publications; Law and Management Review, MIT Review, The McKinsey Quarterly, The Harvard Business Review. Any articles in general that have been vetted and reviewed. Now, there are a lot of smart venture capitalists that have amazing blogs, and they can help you stay current if you’re in a particular domain.

You really need to stay on top of your career and stay incredibly informed, and Twitter makes it easy. You can subscribe to publications and individuals, and get notified when the leading venture capitalists publish. The VC firm Andreessen Horowitz have some amazing writers and Redpoint Ventures have Tomasz Tunguz.  

If you’re in the SaaS space look for some leading blogs. SaaStr is one, Growth Hackers is another place where others in the industry write interesting articles. They will help you shape your ideas of what you want to do in your domain.

How do you make time to read?

Vito: I read every single morning on the subway, and on the way home. I listen to podcasts on my drive to the station where I park. I listen to podcasts at one and a quarter speed. There are amazing podcasts. The Stanford Entrepreneurial Forum has discussions with startup founders. You’ll hear amazing people talk about their career trajectory. Multidisciplinary podcasts such as Freakonomics and This American Life are just for entertainment, but they can give you different perspectives. I’m constantly absorbing information.

The reason being, Silicon Valley is pretty young. If you go to Facebook or Google, the average employees are in their late 20’s. The way to be viable in Silicon Valley is to be current and knowledgeable. When I was at Concordia, Fortran was what we studied. I didn’t learn HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT or JAVA. I took those courses at a local community college, all online, in the last few years to make myself relevant. Whatever your domain is, you have to remain relevant.

We hope you enjoyed the first post of this series! In the next part, Vito will be tackling what he faces day-to-day as a product manager and marketer.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

How to Feel at Home At District 3


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By Sofia Carbone,  Communications Coordinator

You’re finally here! It’s exciting being surrounded by people who are passionate about entrepreneurship. You must have a lot of questions about the space and community. Here are some need-to-knows about District 3.

1. We’re a Family 

The first thing you should know about District 3 is that we’re a tight-knit community. You’re surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about entrepreneurship and building their startup. 

Take advantage of the open space. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people to get to know them and even ask them for advice or feedback.

Pro tip: if the thought of walking up to your peers seems daunting, you can send a message through our internal community channel. People are very receptive and will most likely private message you.

2. Come to our Community Events

District 3 organizes regular community potlucks and monthly mixers. These are perfect times to unwind with your peers, but didn’t have the chance to meet or talk to.

Pro tip: download the District 3 Events Calendar to keep up to date with community events! You can find it HERE

3. Notion and Slack are your Best Friends

Notion is your portal to all things District 3. From booking conference rooms (believe me they come in handy) to figuring out slack, Notion has got you covered.

Slack is where everyone goes to chat, give updates and find out what’s happening in the community. The #General and #Community channels are the two almost everyone uses. You can reach the entire community (that’s right all 1,075 of us) in one go. There are also group channels which give you updates about the space, events, and programs.

Pro tip: if you need to mass contact the group on slack write in “@channel” and then your message. It will send to everyone. Fun tip, type in /giphy and write something… you’ll have a great surprise!

If you follow these simple tips District 3 should start to feel more like home in no time. You’ll be receiving a weekly newsletter every Tuesday where we’ll be sharing initiatives taking place in our space. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the community! 

Building a Hardware Startup: Lessons Learned with Revols, OMsignal, Apisen, and Wurth Electronik (Part 3 of 3)


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This is the third of a three-part series on the challenges you’ll face building a hardware startup. In this third blog post, we’ll talk about the parts and processes: what it takes to find the right suppliers, the challenges you face when dealing with manufacturers abroad, as well as how your product evolves in a changing environment and how it affects your results. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already.

When we think of startups, we often think of people making software or processes. We had the opportunity to host a Q&A panel with the founders of some of our most successful hardware startup. We are joined by panelists whose work touches hardware development in multiple ways, from established large-scale manufacturing operations to startups breaking into the hardware space with innovative designs, to research out on the edge of hardware applications.

Noah Saber-Freedman, our Makerspace technician and team management coordinator, was the moderator for the panel. Our speakers include:

– Ryan Desgroseilliers, Co-founder of Apisen, a startup producing specialized equipment for emergency responders and situations requiring forced entries.

– Daniel Blumer, Co-founder of Revols, a wearable technology startup that is creating the world’s first custom-fit earphones. Revols raised one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of over 2.5 million dollars.

– Joanna Berzowska, Chair of Concordia’s Design and Computational Arts and Head of Electronic Textiles at OMSignal–a startup that seamlessly weaves technology into life by designing beautiful and functional smart apparel to help people live active, fit and healthy lives.

– Marios Lteif, Area Sales Manager at Wurth Electronik, one of the leading manufacturers of electronic and electromechanical components, printed circuit boards and PCB-based intelligent power & control systems.

 

PARTS & PROCESSES

 

What did it take to find the right suppliers for the parts you need?

 

Ryan, Apisen: The relationship with manufacturers and suppliers is extremely important and you need to set up a whole infrastructure. There is a unique language and a unique process that nobody teaches you how to deal with. It’s a learning experience. Depending on the stage of product development, when doing early prototyping, it’s better to go to smaller manufacturers, because you may require a small amount of production for a given component. For large manufacturers, they value products that are scalable and have reached a level that requires a large amount of production, otherwise, it’s too costly for them. Moreover, you need to have someone physically there to build a relationship with manufacturers, otherwise they will mentally de-prioritize you.

 

Daniel, Revols: It was the main reason we went to China. Initially, we were worried about the quality, but we learned that if it’s done properly, it can work very well. There was a major cultural challenge, and we needed to learn how to communicate with manufacturers. Moreover, many people are worried about protecting their patents, but we aren’t as concerned. We still need to take precautions. For example, the more manufacturers you have, the more complex it becomes to manage them, but the positive aspect is that if each manufacturer only creates one component of your product, they will have difficulty replicating your whole product.

 

Ryan, Apisen: There are also different types of manufacturers, they can be big, medium, or small and there are pros and cons to consider. The smaller ones are more willing to work with you, but they may not have all the resources. For larger ones, they may have the resources, but not enough time to work on your product. In fact, they have different grades they assign to clients and if you have potential, they will assign you a certain team. So the more potential, the more they’ll assign a higher quality team.

 

What challenges did you face when dealing with manufacturers abroad?

 

Daniel, Revols: The most important thing to keep in mind is to work with reputable manufacturers. Manufacturers have a reputation and it’s in their best interest to preserve your intellectual property. If you were to contact them online from Canada, they always say of course they can do it. They want your business. But you need to speak with them in person. We reached out to 10 manufacturers in China, and we learned how to assess a factory. You could physically see the place, you can also see how their employees are treated. For example, when they give you a tour of the factory, ask them to go to the bathroom midway, not the one for guests, but the one for employees. You can assess their living conditions, such as if they have air conditioning and other aspects that indicate they are treated well.

 

Joanna, OMsignal: We started manufacturing in Montreal initially, then we eventually moved on to a manufacturing partner in Sri Lanka. Part of the team including the co-founder went, which is important, and we opened an office there. The challenge was educating the workers on the floor and how to do sourcing and pricing. Every little detail is important.

 

When dealing with material sciences and textile sciences, it’s a bit different than traditional hardware products. The reason with decided to work with the manufacturer in Sri Lanka was a question of time, we are funded by venture capital and speed is important. For examples, manufacturers may have 30 of the machines we need in Canada, but they could only dedicate two of them for producing our product. The difference in scale is enormous in Sri Lanka. They don’t exploit their workers and have sustainable practices, but the most impressive thing is that there were 3 shifts of workers in a given day. The manufacturer is operational for 24 hours, so it is so much faster. They may be ambitious at the beginning when they say they can deliver what you’re looking for, but once in production, there are many issues that arise. It’s not easy when you’re building a product that is innovative, manufacturers may want to quit along the journey, because it is difficult to produce, so you need to cultivate an ongoing relationship with them.

 

Marios, Wurth Electronik: There’s 90% of factories that are in Asia, because it’s less expensive to produce parts. That is one of the reasons why most companies decide to seek manufacturers in that region.

 

Can you talk about the evolution of the product/concept from the outset to today? What’s changed in the environment around the product, and how has that affected the result?

 

Ryan, Apisen: When you get feedback from customers, you’ll get a whole list of features they would like. Be careful not to become a jack of all trades, it’s expensive. It would cost a fortune for us to make, and it won’t help achieve our goal for the product. So we ended up pivoting back to the original idea because of feature creep. It’s hard to avoid, but we got a couple of wake-up calls, and we realized we needed to push back to core functionality and our key feature. Our secondary features are not the main reasons people are shopping for our product. Start pruning features and focus on the ones that are validated and still address pain point.

 

On the other hand, hardware is more difficult to A/B test. It’s challenge to change stuff in hardware, cost is an issue, and if you change anything, it will change the timeframe, that’s more important than cost. It might take 6 months to a year for certain components, which is much less flexibility than you have in software. Your first prototype, the quality is subpar and five times the price. You don’t want to order large quantities and still be making changes to your product, because you’ll be less agile. Your customers won’t necessarily inspect you for every little patch initially. Customers, however, expect you to get it right with regards core functionality.

 

One thing to keep in mind as well is that a lot of the work you do involves speaking with suppliers, there are specialists for every supplier and they want to be accessible to you. If they can help you, they will order this part specifically. They have a lot of experience in the specific components you require, given that they worked on building so many products for their clients. They tested the specific component. This can eliminate huge amounts of waste of time. They want to help you because if you succeed in building your prototype, you will most likely go to them for production.

 

Daniel, Revols: Initially, we wrote all the features we wanted to have in our product. We had a wish list, but you have to get your MVP out there, which is the fastest way to test whether a market exists. You can always add features later on, but you need to stick to your core feature. We also had one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Canada, raising over 2.5M. It becomes challenging to satisfy all your customers.

 

Joanna, OMsignal: We started out with a much bigger vision, by creating all kinds of apparel and apps that would address many aspects of health and wellness. It was a difficult process once we raised series A, because it brought on venture capital culture. We had to focus on early adopters, mainly individuals that are into sports. Consequently, we had to change the way we thought about the product, the look and feel, the marketing, and the app.

 

We hope you enjoyed the third post of this three-part series!

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

At District 3, we have a Design Lab, a place to test, develop and prototype your ideas into concrete projects that could potentially become a viable business model. Open to the community; it is also a place to learn about new technologies, how to use them and think about design decisions through the development of your project. 

Building a Hardware Startup: Lessons Learned with Revols, OMsignal, Apisen, and Wurth Electronik (Part 2 of 3)


hardware-and-manufacturing-fb-2

Panel Moderator: Noah Saber-Freedman

Author: Khalil G. Haddad, Marketing & Communications Manager

This is the second of a three-part series on the challenges you’ll face building a hardware startup. In this second blog post, we’ll talk about the product: how do you decide which product to produce and what aspects of the product do you focus on? You can read part 1 here

When we think of startups, we often think of people making software or processes. We had the opportunity to host a Q&A panel with the founders of some of our most successful hardware startup. We are joined by panelists whose work touches hardware development in multiple ways, from established large-scale manufacturing operations to startups breaking into the hardware space with innovative designs, to research out on the edge of hardware applications.

Noah Saber-Freedman, our Makerspace technician and team management coordinator, was the moderator for the panel. Our speakers include:

– Ryan Desgroseilliers, Co-founder of Apisen, a startup producing specialized equipment for emergency responders and situations requiring forced entries.

– Daniel Blumer, Co-founder of Revols, a wearable technology startup that is creating the world’s first custom-fit earphones. Revols raised one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of over 2.5 million dollars.

– Joanna Berzowska, Chair of Concordia’s Design and Computational Arts and Head of Electronic Textiles at OMSignal–a startup that seamlessly weaves technology into life by designing beautiful and functional smart apparel to help people live active, fit and healthy lives.

– Marios Lteif, Area Sales Manager at Wurth Electronik, one of the leading manufacturers of electronic and electromechanical components, printed circuit boards and PCB-based intelligent power & control systems.

PRODUCT

How did you come to make the choice of what product to produce?

Ryan, Apisen: The team didn’t expect to launch a startup, it started as a research project while completing our studies at Concordia University. We quickly realised that our project had the potential to have an impact and solve a real problem for emergency responders and situations requiring forced entries.

Daniel, Revols: I had a business background and always wanted to build a business with my close friend Navi Cohen. Navi had studied mechanical engineering and was working in the field, while I was working in the financial sector. We both recognized the opportunity and decided to take the leap.

Joanna, OMsignal: I was always fascinated by textile and garments, people automatically assume because of my gender that it’s because of an interest in fashion, but it had more to do with the technical nature of building textile and garments. I was very much interested in materiality and experiences in the physical world.

Marios, Wurth Electronik: I was always fascinated by how things were built, and having the opportunity to work in manufacturing was a nice way to feel like a kid again. It’s always a pleasure to troubleshoot with entrepreneurs and engineers and see how we can help them build their hardware product.

What aspects of the product do you focus on when you’re looking to do marketing?

Ryan, Apisen:  In many cases—unless you have a unicorn idea that nobody has built in the past—the product you’re building will have a derivative of it in the market, so you need to differentiate yourself from others. When it comes to hardware, you need to build a product that satisfies the specific situations the customer has problems with. You don’t want to be a jack of all trades. The best situation is to have potential customers identify the problem or pain point themselves as opposed to you convincing them of it.

Daniel, Revols: Whatever you’re building, communication is crucial. You need to speak in a language that resonates with your customers. When Revols speaks about uncomfortable earphones, people immediately identify with that issue.

Joanna, OMsignal: Part of the marketing for OMsignal is about enhancing people’s fitness. When it comes to garments, many customizable clothes fail because it requires people to think too much about the purchasing decision. It’s an interesting challenge to appeal to people’s desires when they make these purchasing decisions, because it’s inherently instinctive more than it is cerebral.

Marios, Wurth Electronik: From a supplier or manufacturer perspective, a lot of the emphasis is on brand awareness, if they can provide an initial solution to their customers while they are at the prototyping stage, then they would be able to get them as a client for future opportunities as they expand their startup.

We hope you enjoyed the second post of this series!

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

At District 3, we have a Design Lab, a place to test, develop and prototype your ideas into concrete projects that could potentially become a viable business model. Open to the community; it is also a place to learn about new technologies, how to use them and think about design decisions through the development of your project.

 

Building a Hardware Startup: Lessons Learned with Revols, OMsignal, Apisen, and Wurth Electronik (PART 1 of 3)


hardware-and-manufacturing-fb-2

This is the first of a three-part series on the challenges you’ll face building a hardware startup. In this first blog post, we’ll talk about the people behind the products: what led them to work in the hardware space, what are the qualities necessary to succeed, and recommendations on what to keep in mind when building a hardware startup. 

You can find Part 2 and Part 3 here! 

When we think of startups, we often think of people making software or processes. We had the opportunity to host a Q&A panel with the founders of some of our most successful hardware startup. We are joined by panelists whose work touches hardware development in multiple ways, from established large-scale manufacturing operations to startups breaking into the hardware space with innovative designs, to research out on the edge of hardware applications.

Noah Saber-Freedman, our Makerspace technician and team management coordinator, was the moderator for the panel. Our speakers include:

– Ryan Desgroseilliers, Co-founder of Apisen, a startup producing specialized equipment for emergency responders and situations requiring forced entries.

– Daniel Blumer, Co-founder of  Revols, a wearable technology startup that is creating the world’s first custom-fit earphones. Revols raised one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of over 2.5 million dollars.

– Joanna Berzowska, Chair of Concordia’s Design and Computational Arts and Head of Electronic Textiles at OMSignal–a startup that seamlessly weaves technology into life by designing beautiful and functional smart apparel to help people live active, fit and healthy lives.

– Marios Lteif, Area Sales Manager at Wurth Electronik, one of the leading manufacturers of electronic and electromechanical components, printed circuit boards and PCB-based intelligent power & control systems.

PEOPLE

Why even work in hardware in the first place?

Ryan, Apisen: Having something you made in your hands, seeing a physical product develop over time, you get a sense of intrinsic reward that you don’t get from software. Your first version is clunky, ugly, you’re ashamed of it, but then you see the evolution. By the end of it, your reaction is “holy crap! How did we build this?” You get to level where your product has the same level of quality and polish that you see in products by Samsung, Toyota, Apple, or any professional product. Wow. There’s an incredible pride once you get to the production. If you realize the horror that a phone went through its design process, until it gets to the final product, you have tremendous respect for the people that built it.

Daniel, Revols: This is by far the hardest experience of my life. It’s extremely stressful, and it takes so much longer than expected. This is the best time of my life; you see progress, and that’s the coolest part of it. To everyone else, it doesn’t mean much, but to you, it means something. This is the first time this past week that a user went through the whole customization process without any issues. That means a lot; we’re not there yet, there are tremendous hurdles to overcome, and whenever you think you’re done, you’re not.

What are the attributes that make someone a good maker/designer/artist/entrepreneur? What do you need to be successful in hardware?

Joanna, OMsignal: As a founder of a hardware startup, you must be a lateral thinker and a renaissance person. You’re more of a generalist that brings specialist within your team. The founders were amazing in building highly diverse and multi-disciplinary teams, as well as establishing good communication between teams. OMsignal has multi-faceted products, and we have teams in hardware, software, textiles, and even experts and researchers in physiology because there are very specific biomechanical issues we had to deal with when it comes to bras and signal quality for example. Hardware is not just electronics; there is an element in ergonomics and many other facets.

Ryan, Apisen: You need to be proactive and always anticipate what’s ahead. On the design side, you need to see what’s going to happen in two weeks. You don’t see as much of that mindset in software, because as soon as there is a bug you can build a patch right away. With hardware, it’s essential that you plan ahead and have contingency plans, given the time it takes to implement any changes to your product and any mistake you make can be very costly.

Daniel, Revols: You need persistence, determination, and patience. People will challenge you in hardware; people will often say that it’s too hard and that there is no point of building it because people will copy you. Why even bother? If you listen to them, you will never get anywhere. Moreover, communication in the team is key and critical to the success of your startup.

What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the space?

Ryan, Apisen: Everything that you plan, expect it to take way longer than you think. There’s always something that you don’t anticipate. It takes a while to get used to being honest with yourself on how long it would take. Be very conservative in your timeline and budget. Sometimes it has nothing to do with your design, you may have a machine that cures cancer, but just because it has a plug, it will have to get it certified, and that takes a long time to go through that process. However, building a hardware startup is Incredibly satisfying, there are all sorts of markets you can go after. The barrier to entry is much harder than software. Consequently, you will have less competition.

We hope you enjoyed the first post of this series!

Are you ready to take your hardware startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

At District 3, we have a Makerspace, a place to test, develop and prototype your ideas into concrete projects that could potentially become a viable business model. Open to the community; it is also a place to learn about new technologies, how to use them and think about design decisions through the development of your project.

Get Out of the Building! How to get Customer Interviews


outta-da-building

By Sofia Carbone,  Communications Coordinator

Customer interviews are the first, most important step in starting your business. This is where you discover if your idea can generate a profit, and if it is solving the pain point you’ve identified. It’s a crucial step you need to take before building your minimal viable product.

Let’s be clear; a customer isn’t a friend or a family member, they are people with whom you have little to no personal relationship with. How do you get in contact with them, and, more importantly, what do you do when you do meet them?

Here are a few tips our Validation Coach, Noor El Bawab, has for those looking to tackle customer interviews.

Get out of the building!

Unless your customers are walls, you need to go out and talk to people! You need to be as curious as possible to find the solution(s) to the problem you’re trying to solve. At this stage, you can start creating your buyer persona, which is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. This exercise will help identify and narrow down who you customers are.

Pro tip: Don’t interview your friends or family. Why? Chances are they will tell you that your idea is the best. Not saying it’s not, but if you want honest feedback you need to talk with people who don’t have a personal relationship with you and are consequently more critical of your idea.

Gather Intelligence

Once you’ve identified what your customer segment is, you need to interview them now! This is where friends and family can help you. Ask them if they know people, and if they can connect you with them.

Research plays a key role here. LinkedIn is a great tool to grow your network; you can connect with individuals in the industry. Find out what role they play in their given company or organization, and who they are. What are their interests? What is important to them? How do they fit within the organization? What challenges are they facing? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself in your research. Once you collect their contact information and have a clear idea of who they are, it’s now time to contact them.

Pro tip: Having an emotional connection with them is just as important. The best way to create an emotional connection is to be authentic and genuine. People sense when you are being unnatural, so you need to find commonalities that will arise naturally in your conversation. An often underestimated tool is to genuinely listen to the other person and be curious about who they are and the insights they are providing you with. This is not the time to sell your solution, the spotlight is on understanding them.

Get them to say Yes three times

The best way to get a live in-person meeting is by cold calling. I know it may seem archaic, but it works. The trick is to get them to say ‘yes’ three times. Why? Because if they say ‘yes’ three times, then they’ll be more likely to stay on the phone with you and say yes to a meeting.

You can try and follow this basic template:

You: Hi, is this Person X?

Person X: Yes

You: Do you work at Company Y in this department?

Person X: Yes

You: Do you have a few minutes to talk with me about Z?

Person X: Yes

Pro Tip: Practice makes perfect! Practice with friends, the first few times you will botch the phone calls, and that’s ok. That is why you practice.Once you get them to agree to an in-person meeting, follow up with email and propose two dates. Be sure to send a calendar invite.

Ask for Stories

Some say not to prep interview questions; you want the conversation to be natural. The goal is to understand the problem from their perspective. You want to ask as many open-ended questions as possible. Get them to open up about their problems and understand if this is something you can solve.

Pro Tip: It’s never about you; it is always about the customer! You can have a couple of questions prepared to start the conversation if you are nervous. This is a skill that you can easily acquire through practice. After a couple of interviews, you’ll be more comfortable and better able to ask questions.

Interview in Teams of Two

Why teams of two?

You want one person to ask the questions, and the second one to be taking notes and reading their body language. We communicate a lot with non-verbal cues and it can make all the difference. The second person needs to be paying attention to all the minutiae details of the interviewee, while the interview asks the questions.

And there you have it. Now go out there and interview people!

These are few of the many tactics to help you do customer interviews. To truly validate your idea you need to interview a minimum of 100 potential customers. This is where District 3’s Customer Discovery program can help. Going through this program, you’ll have validated your idea in 12-weeks and have spoken to over 100 potential customers! Our experienced coaches will be able to guide you through this process.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

6 Tips on How to Get into Our Programs.


6 Tips on How to Get into our Programs

By Khalil G. Haddad, Marketing and Communications Manager

So you’re ready to kickstart your startup at District 3? Here are a few tips to stand out from the competition and increase your chances of getting admitted into our programs.

Have a Co-Founder

Having a co-founder is crucial to building your startup. Finding co-founders or key team members is challenging and can take time, but it’s the first step you need to set yourself up for success. Consider it as your first challenge, if you can’t recruit a co-founder, how will you be able to persuade your potential customers?

Our programs are demanding, and we rarely see solo founders succeed. Building a startup is hard for one person and it’s rare to find someone who possesses all the skills required to build their startup. Having a co-founder or team member with complementary skills and who is willing to put in the time, energy and resources will double your productivity and ability to get things done. It will also increase accountability and morale during the inevitable challenges you will face throughout your entrepreneurial journey.

On the other hand, we value co-founders who have known each other for a long time and have worked on a project together. Selecting your co-founder(s) is critical to the success of your startup.

Commit to One Idea

You may have many ideas, but focus is crucial. You need to be willing to commit to one idea. While completing our programs, your idea will inevitably pivot based on the insights you’ll get by talking with potential customers. You have a limited amount of time and resources, so focus on one idea. You’ll have the opportunity to test your value proposition and customer segment through customer development during our program.

Keep Your Answers & Video Pitch Succinct

We go through hundreds of applications, so it’s important to keep your answers succinct. You want to use simple language and avoid jargon. Take the time to answer questions in the application form and make sure to have at least a friend or a colleague review your answers to see if they understand what you’re trying to convey.

Keep your pitch video simple, we don’t want you to have a video with fancy music and editing, just the basic information we need to assess your application. The application form and video pitch are the first steps towards getting invited for a live pitch, so make sure to give ample time to prepare.

Demonstrate Some Traction

If you have an initial idea, we highly recommend you validate your business model first before building a prototype, that’s why we have our business model validation program. For those of you at later stages, you can significantly increase your chances by showing some traction. It could be through users or money or both.

Be Open to Feedback

If you’re selected for a live pitch, one of the main qualities we look for is your ability to receive feedback. During the live pitch, if you don’t have the answers to our questions, be honest. Attempt to answer our questions by explaining your reasoning and assumptions that led you towards your conclusion. It’s more important for coaches to see how you arrived to your answer, as opposed to the answer itself.

During the program, you will be challenged by mentors, experts and coaches, which will give you a wider and more critical perspective on your business. Our coaches’ time is precious and they want to work with someone who is ready to be challenged and can take in constructive feedback.

 Apply

It goes without saying, but If you don’t apply, then you can be confident that there is a 0% chance of you getting admitted. We don’t expect you to have all the answers, being an entrepreneur is being able to leverage what you have in order to build a product or service people love. Give it your best shot!

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

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