I’m amazed! So many articles and sources across the internet discuss the ups and downs of startups from the perspective of CEO’s and Founders that may have the vision, but its pretty rare we hear from the person that brings it into fruition. The person that becomes excited by the little perfections that they’ve brought to a solution or the almost OCD state that is felt from not getting something just right.
Of course, its the developer!
With over five years development experience, I was drawn into the startup life as the Lead Developer for Mashay with the appeal of breaking free from the traditional 9 to 5 grind (that we’re all so familiar with) and replacing it with something I could be proud of. But sadly, it’s not that simple. With 90% of startups on average and 75% with investment failing, it’s difficult not to drown amongst so many others. Maybe sometimes we need help!
We all need help and guidance
Looking back, I was apprehensive about the daunting prospect of joining an accelerator. I remember thinking, “are the business conclusions and work going to be questioned? And how will this translate into development sprints?”. Mashay was definitely questioned but in the most positive way! The accelerator program that we joined was UTS Hatchery Accelerate. A cohort of ten businesses were invited into a purpose-built co-working space where for the next 12 weeks, we would run alongside other businesses that were at varying stages. But what did the accelerator bring to the table?
#1 Standup and be heard!
Two heads are better than one
Once per week, each business would come together, stand up and state their goals, limitations and achievements. In my eyes, this was like a SCRUM standup. Listening to other businesses became relatable, interesting and allowed individual businesses to help each other with previous experience or contacts. Voicing an issue and welcoming different perspectives. Perhaps something that hadn’t been thought of.
As a developer, the general stereotype is that we’re not expected to have the social skills to leave our ‘cupboards’. Luckily, things are changing. In this very open environment, my opinion was appreciated by non-technical founders, from helping find developers to how best approach a technical problem.
#2 Testing the water
I’ve come across a number of startups that have the following belief:
Build it and they will come
When building a solution to a problem, the founder normally has a theory which they strongly believe could work. But the founder is normally the visionary. This theory, of theirs, is literally a small part of the dart board. We don’t know whether it’s the bullseye, unless we test if it’s true and above all, works for our target market. At Hatchery Accelerate, I was soon convinced that we could test quickly with the question, “what is the smallest amount I can do to find if this will work?”. Even for a non-technical person this could be creating a WordPress page, basic analytics with a simple sign-up form and small Google AdWord campaign. From this, the amount of interest to the page/idea can be monitored with filled in forms providing leads. This would validate the idea and provide proof towards a Minimum Viable Product. Suddenly, an idea wouldn’t seem like a shot in the dark!
For Mashay, we were starting to become aware of a potential pivot from consumers buying experiences to teams and clients within businesses. Within a few of days I was able to alter the website from aiming purely from one to another. Within a few more days, the answer to this idea began to take shape.
Hatchery Accelerate brought with it, a long list of mentors that came from a variety of successful business backgrounds. There were countless opportunities to make appointments with a mentor that might have a particular field, that could help in guiding and advising. It allowed a business to build a good rapport with experts that might not be accessible normally.
Each week, the cohort would receive mentoring from the Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Ben Wirtz. A skilled and highly experienced individual with many years of coaching and advising of young startups. I was always intrigued to hear the feedback. The type of questioning was always useful and sometimes new and exciting ideas would be considered.
Demo Day: End of the program
After 12 weeks of hard work and learning from an endless supply of knowledge on offer, Mashay entered into Demo Day. A chance to pitch the startup to potential investors, experts, entrepreneurs and stand alongside other businesses that had taken part in the program.
From my perspective, my work was done. I had spent the last three months improving Mashay through multiple iterations. After the last long night with Hatchery Accelerate, getting the product to the finish line, it was up to the CEO (Rob Price) to give the pitch.
Mashay received the ‘People’s Choice Award’!
The Hatchery Accelerate program proved to be invaluable! Mashay learned many lessons as a team along the way and managed to adapt quickly. Personally, I grew as a developer far quicker than I had in any other business. The requirement to learn and adapt was so essential. This caused each day to be different. And at the end of it, I strongly feel that Mashay is something that I can be proud of. Mashay today helps organise engaging events for teams and clients along with providing a social app to consumers. This journey wouldn’t have been possible without Hatchery Accelerate!
Disclaimer: I have no professional or personal relationship with Hatchery Accelerate except for going through the program. I have written this article because I truly believe in the great work that it does and in reflection!