And..here…we…go. Startup Discovery School is now live.
If I’m honest, it feels like a long time coming. I’ve spent the best part of the last decade working across the Startup Ecosystem both directly and indirectly.
Between 2009–13, which feels like a different life, I focused on supporting young people as they launched their first side-hustles (we didn’t use that term at the time). I then worked with a number of early-stage businesses 2013–16 including a Social Network, combined with a stint in Ghana, before moving into Business Accelerators in 2017…
After all this experience, why now?
1.Right Moment 💻👨🏿
A few weeks ago I put out a video musing on the upcoming changes to Startup Ecosystem post-Covid19. Things would be different, for all of us. Much support would still be needed (in the same way Incubators exploded post-2012 as old certainties gave way).
After much thought, my Co-Founder and I gave it a collective ‘F*** it ‘and got started. We’ve based our careers on ‘getting in the room’ and creating platforms for founders to succeed. Startup Discovery plans to do just that combined with all our experience from previous ventures.
2. See Hidden Talent Shining 🌟
Over the last decade, it feels like I’ve met every type of entrepreneur. From the enthusiastic school leaver with dreams of world domination (seriously) to the well-heeled, slick-pitching YCombinator graduates with dreams of powering the world with clean energy (again, seriously)
So many faces, so many stories. These experiences have convinced me that talent and its recognition depends on how you measure it and what you value. During our first cohort at Startup Discovery School we worked with individuals with undoubted potential and some great ideas. It’s just that you’d never ‘see’ them at Startup Grind, Web Summit, or London Tech Week. They wouldn’t be the ‘loudest voices’ and often lacked any serious social media presence.
For an industry so focused on uncovering outliers, how could these entrepreneurs (some of whom who’d been running their businesses for some time) be totally overlooked by the wider ecosystem and by extension Investors? Even more so when considering the lack of Black Founders, Women, and People of Colour.
3. Going Beyond Early Success 🔑
Having worked with a number of Accelerators I understand why early success is vital. Even more so, I understand why that success needs to be visible. It can provide founders an indication that something is working, as well as succeed in securing early recognition, which can result in awards and inclusion on ‘Top 100 to watch’ lists etc
However, these awards indicate very little about the true potential of any business. It's of my view that, in some cases, they only succeed in distracting founders from key business fundamentals.
I wanted to build a programme that seeks to support startups ‘after the credits roll’ and when they ride off into the sunset. A programme which focuses attention and focuses on building
4. Let’s Talk About Product Market Fit, Baby…🏗️
In a previous life, I worked for an organisation seeking to tackle big issues such as chronic unemployment through the design and the prototyping of new services. The battle to establish product-market fit, at speed, was daily. It led us to Job Centres, Healthcentres and Universities.
It’s this urgency and focus we want to bring to life with Startup Discovery School. As mentioned, early success is ultimately a positive thing. However, there is an undeniable fact that without an identifiable, serviceable group of customers there is no chance of a sustainable business.
Between 2017–19 I had the pleasure of working on an Accelerator focused on entrepreneurs in the energy and renewables sector. Name the energy innovation, there’s a good chance that I’ve come across it during a pitch. In a space where everyone has Ph.D.’s in advanced electronic engineering, adapting to the real-life needs of customers (often operating under stringent regulatory limits) could often be forgotten.
Startup Discovery School intends to balance the need for top-class product development whilst ensuring those we work with are, at all times, customer-focused.
Here’s to the journey ahead…