5 weeks in and we’re already halfway through ubi i/o! After being submerged in the American culture for over a month, our entrepreneurs are almost fully acquainted with how to handle business in the U.S. It’s now time to establish their long term vision and growth strategy to one day establish themselves as leaders in their respective markets. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this past week.
Working Lunch: How to Build Hardware Products Users Love
— ubi i/o (@ubi_io) May 16, 2016
We started our week in the presence of Jayanth Chakravarthy, Product Manager @ Jawbone, to talk about hardware product management. The round table was the perfect opportunity for our hardware startups Famoco, Lima and Sevenhugs to ask specific questions regarding their product development roadmap.
For Jayanth, the main goal of a hardware startup is to define the category in which the product belongs to and own it. The product manager has to work with this goal in mind while driving his team to build the best possible product. Versatility, skills, accountability and the ability to execute should be embedded within your product team’s DNA so as to make sure your product brings tremendous value to the market & gets delivered on time.
One of the workshop’s main topic was about whether to create a new feature or a new product. Jayanth advised our teams to ask themselves the following questions before taking any further.
-Does the market want it?
-How much time will it take?
-Is it expensive to build?
-How much money you can earn with this new feature/product?
According to Jayanth, a simple product can take up to 6 months from the original idea to production & shipping. If the product uses a new technology, it can take up to 18 months before achieving the same steps.
How to Raise Funds: Strategy, Funding and Valuation
— ubi i/o (@ubi_io) May 17, 2016
Another focal point for all our startups is raising funds with American VCs. That’s why we took the time to organize two workshops on how to raise funds in the U.S. One from a VC’s point of view, the other one from an entrepreneur’s perspective.
During Tuesday’s lunch, Kahlil Trocmé, member of the ubi i/o team, invited Ullas Naik, Founder and General Partner of Streamlined Ventures, and Gareth Keane, Investment Manager at Qualcomm Ventures. According to them, every investor should look at three factors before pulling out their checkbook:
-The team: how qualified are they? Why are they trying to solve this specific problem.
-The market: size & potential are crucial factors
-The business model: is it scalable? What’s the long term vision
How to evaluate risk with a company coming from abroad?
For Ullas, “if you want to build massive value and scale fast, your HQ needs to be here in Silicon Valley”. On the other hand, it’s a good idea to keep your technical teams abroad as it will dramatically reduce your operational and R&D costs.
— Frederic Bidot (@bidotf) May 17, 2016
“It always takes longer than you think to raise money”
Raising funds is not easy, even if your startup experiences a steady growth. Our guests speakers mentioned that on average, it’s good to have 24 months of cash reserves between two rounds. It will allow you to plan your next round without fearing going broke. It is especially true with the recent slowdown of venture investments. Startups find themselves having to burn less cash than before. Be careful, “It always takes longer than you think to raise money” added Gareth.
How to connect with investors to pitch your startup?
It can be tough for founders to get connected with the right investors. For Gareth & Ullas, the best way to connect is through a warm introduction from someone they trust. If your personal network doesn’t reach your ideal targets, you can always email them with a clear value proposition and a sharp pitch deck. There’s no secret, your chances to obtain a meeting increase if you find a way to get a personal introduction. Attending meetups & networking at various conferences is also another way to link the dots between your product and investors.
How to Raise Funds (Entrepreneur side)
On Thursday, we explored the other side of the fence with Carlos Diaz, General Partner at The Refiners, and Clément Perrot, Co-founder & CEO at Prynt. The two entrepreneurs shared their insights & experiences dealing with American VCs which was truly fascinating.
If you haven’t done so, you should add this to your to do list right now: build up your network to get introductions to VCs. Building a vast network of middlemen who will get you introductions to the top investors is key. Strive to build a network of other entrepreneurs, angel investors , lawyers or even bankers! In Silicon Valley, these networks intertwined and you’d be surprised to know who knows who. Choose the investors you want to work with wisely as this will be the start of a long-term relationship.
For your first meeting, be prepared to deliver what investors want to hear. The problem you are solving, the product you are striving to bring to market & a clearly defined long term vision coated with ambitious goals. The format of this meeting is up to you, our guest speakers mentioned the fact that they would rather have an informal talk with investors rather than going in with a pitch deck. Regardless of your approach, make sure to conduct the meeting with tact & flair.
“Convince a partner to argue in your favor at the Partner meeting”
Dealing with investors is a lot of work. You can be held up to having a board meeting every month and this is something that needs time & preparation. A board meeting is not the right time to deliver bad news, every board member should always be aware of the newest development of the company before the meetings happens. The purpose of these monthly meetings to to take key decisions upon the latest information & data you may provide your board with.
Our guest speakers advised to send regular updates to all investors so that they are always kept in the loop. Remember this long lasting relationship? Yup, that’s definitely a part of what will keep you in good terms with your investors. For example, Clément sends a regular newsletter to his board to share good news, press mentions, a series of questions he may have and thank all partners. He doesn’t hesitate to call his board members to talk when there’s a bump on the road or something goes wrong internally.
Time to relax with ubi i/o alumni
While hard work is always the motto for entrepreneurs, it’s sometimes necessary to relax. On Wednesday, we organized a casual meetup between ubi i/o alumni and the class of 2016. An opportunity to chat about their experiences and share ideas & strategies around a few cocktails.
— ubi i/o (@ubi_io) May 19, 2016
Good customer service is always a must for growing businesses. We felt the need to explore this topic in depth so we therefore organized a dedicated workshop titled: “Setting up your U.S. Customer Service”.
Noémie Goubin member of the ubi i/o team invited over Donna Peeples and Zacharie Bouzan-Kaloustian to understand how to set up an unforgettable customer service experience and the importance of it all.
As a recognized Customer Experience leader and a frequent speaker at the most respected Customer Experience forums across the world, Donna Peeples was the first Chief Customer Experience Officer at AIG and is currently the Chief Customer Officer at a startup called Pypestream.
On his end, Zac went from Foursquare’s Business Development Team to Fab.com where he helped scale the customer support team from 12 people operating solely in New York, to an international team of 88 people operating overseas in Berlin. He is currently the Director of Support for Digital Ocean, leading a team of 50 of which 90% are working remotely.
“Cross channel strategies are crucial for your customer support”
Our two guest speakers explained to our entrepreneurs how they implemented their different strategies in terms of customer Experience and Customer Support.
One very practical advice was to “start thinking about customer experience from the beginning, and continue to implement best practices at each step throughout the customer’s journey”. We also talked about the channels you can use for your customer support. According to Zac, “cross channels strategy is very important for your customer support. At Digital ocean, we are using a ticketing system, emails, tweets, even Facebook messages”.
How to measure your client’s satisfaction? The Net Promoter Score is an easy solution to track the impact of your customer support. You should always focus on that kind of KPIs to see whether your customers are satisfied or not. It will be a good indicator to measure the value & efficiency of your support team.
Fifth week: mid-term pitch!
Once again, ubi i/o startups found themselves front row pitching in the Big Apple. On Thursday, we attended Flashpitch where entrepreneurs from 8 differents startups had the opportunity to present their companies in front of top tier investors. The 2 minute pitch were followed by Q&A sessions and honest feedback.
Thanks to our endless training sessions & amazing technologies, Grant Gudgel from Vidcoin won the judge’s prize & received one free month in the NYC incubator!