Priscillia Seelan always knew her calling was in media. She followed that calling and graduated with a BA in Mass Communications from Curtin University of Technology in Perth and subsequently, an MA in Mass Communications from Texas State University in Texas. Her career has consisted mainly of radio production, having produced and hosted programs not only in Malaysia with Hitz.fm and CapitalFM but also in London with LBC 97.3 and in the USA at KTSW in Texas and KCRW in Los Angeles. She is also a host of the online music platform, Balconytv.com. She is currently a content creator producing on various platforms including but not limited to podcasts and YouTube.
About Startup 101
Welcome to Startup 101 with Priscillia Seelan. It seems like almost everyone as an idea for a new media business these days. But not everyone has a business degree. Without the relevant experience, traversing the world of entrepreneurship can be daunting. That’s where the Startup 101 podcast comes in.Every week, she’ll be speaking to an expert in a particular field of entrepreneurship to give you a starting point in navigating your way through this new territory. Startup 101 will feature interviews with advisors in the industry and hopefully, make the start of this new journey of yours, a little easier.
Ep 1. Laying the Groundwork
Alex Farcet is the Founder and Managing Director of Startupbootcamp. Although based in Germany, Startupbootcamp is an accelerator program that attracts participants from all around the world.
In this episode, Alex answers some crucial questions that the new entrepreneur may have and with the benefit of he’s years of experience as a startup guru, he gives some pointers on how to set your startup on the road for success from the get-go! He also helps decipher some of the jargon associated with startups and sheds light on some of the biggest mistakes he has seen startups make.
Music by Audionautix.com
Priscilla : Hi there and welcome to our startup 101 with me, Priscilla Seelan. If you want start a new journey, a new life, this is definitely the podcast for you.
Now Startup 101 feature chats with an expert in the field, answering all the questions you may have but may not quite know how to go about the answers, especially when it comes to taking those first crucial steps and turning a new media idea into a business. Now today we start at a very beginning and to help us answer some critical questions and navigate conjavelent, is the co-founder and the startupbootcamp, Mr Alex Farcet. Thank you so much for joining us, Alex.
Alex : Pleasure to meet you.
Alex : Well, there are born again Christians who discovered God and spent the rest of their lives eventualizing with that and I’m born again enterpreneur. And what I mean by that is I was, I work for startup in San Francisco in early 90s and then I ahh.. What do you called it, ran a corporate career for 12 years working in Europe and Asia. And then in the span of 18 months, my son and I have cancers and we’re both okay. You know, we got through it. But it wasn’t like a lighting strike and you know, I need to read, completely change my life overnight but I were appeared about a year I just started, well I wasn’t going to go back to tie and suit and you know, what do I want to do and how do i want to spend my life and i just discovered this accelerator model and um... I’m super inspired and i think its amazing way to impact other people’s life and still be an entrepreneur. That was the inspiration and I launched the Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen in 2010.
Pricilla : Okay so now you mentioned the word “accelerator” and um.. For those of us who perhaps I started adventuring, to start maybe a _____ and never heard of these terms, what is exactly an accelerator? And an incubator? I thought those terms are... What are exactly are these things? How do they differ?
Alex : An incubator model has been around a bit longer and... And its usually a space, a physical space which gathers entrepreneurs and maybe have some services, like maybe there’s an in-house lawyers, you know... Helping you with your intellectual properties productions. Its actually originally driven as a real estate model, you know. You pay rents, we’ll give you an office. You’ll be in this building and ah... With other people like you and the analogy of an incubator, you know which is this place, its nice and warm or a premature babies and safe, only when you’re ready, till you come out. Well, you know. We think that’s just the wrong picture. An accelerator, I was, you know, used the picture of, like a rocket booster on a shuttle. This big tank of gas that attached, that burns very, very intensely for short period of time and ah... And then it falls off. Well, we’re that rocket booster. But the fuel is where these should go. We have a... Over an hundred men just for the program who were all volunteers. And they gave the acceleration. Basically a sharing their experience and secondly by opening up their networks. So, an acceleration is a 90 day, for 14 weeks boot camp-like program and in the end of which, you graduated with a demo day and then you move on.
Pricilla : How would one approach an accelerator program? Say I have a new media start up and I’m looking for this mentor-ship. Where would I go about finding these programs? Is yours the only programs out there or they are different programs, as well?
Alex : No, there are hundreds of programs, there is an explosion of programs, its incredible. Some of them are run by big corporations, Disney made an accelerator. New York has an accelerator. There are all kind of companies creating and basically, they’re saying, we’re open for innovational (?) and we want to work with start up private and semi-private program, you know a simple google search, you can see summarized things. I think the best source, you know, figuring out where to go, is to the top of the long line. Talk to a lot of people, be on a specific program you’re interested in and just get their experiences. Well, no program is perfect but some have definitely a better track record of a long line rating than others. So I would do my homework, you know. Its like a school, considering a university, some have ivy league type reputation. Others are great, maybe more local, you got to do your homework.
Priscilla : What stage should I consider to approaching or joining accelerator program? Is it enough to I just have a brilliant business idea and I haven’t actually quite put together a prototype or anything? Say for example, I have a brilliant mobile application idea and I haven’t really put it all together. Is that a good time to approach an accelerator program? Or I already have something started up and running? What stage should I approaching or joining accelerator program?
Alex : Well, I think you can certainly do that. Certainly for the elite program, you got to realize, you got to be doubt, you know. Hundreds have already started their ideas. If your ideas are absolutely brilliant and you have a great team, you certainly have a shot. If you have a prototype and some real customers, we can see that ‘this is gonna take off’. Of course you are increasing your chances, but other accelerator would not scared of ideas, we’re not scared of people coming in with ideas. What we do select on, is the caliber of the team. Can they execute of the idea? Do they have a skill set? You know, or it just two people who kept build that app mentioned, can actually code it, how do they want to get it done? We’re looking for a rounded, caliber team. Whether their ideas are beyond, its mportant, but not as important as a team.
Priscilla : Now you’re mentioned that you’re look for certain quality, basically, when it comes to a team that you want to include in your program. So since you mentioned there are a lot of business people, there are a lot of mentors who give advice, basically, they are volunteers. So hows the program is like? Is it something that I get selected for? Do I have a fee to join an accelerator program? How does it work exactly?
Alex : Well, I think that’s the part of the homework you need to do when you’re looking for the accelerator, especially if its one of the elite one, what is the deal they’re making. So typically, you will get some sort of micro-funding. So you certainly shouldn’t have to pay. We’re not a big fan of people who make entrepreneurs pay for stuffs. Have you seen a program where you get money, and then you get an invoice for your desk, and also on terms, which is silly. In shouldn’t be in my pocket. You.ll get some sort of micro-funding anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 for your whole team. And basically, we called out our pocket money because most of our teams are international, and we want to make the cost neutral for them to come to the program. And then, typically they get a period and free office space and maybe some other goodies, and in exchange per which, you give out some sort of equity, some sort of incentive ownership of your company. Normally, you’ll have probably 6 to 8 percent. If somebody gives you $10,000 and he’s taking 30 percent of your company, you haven’t done a homework, because that’s not a good deal. But if you give up equity, not for the money, you give up equity for the brand, the selectivity, and what it means for the future industrial, for the access to the main of network, further know how.
Priscilla :Basically, one word applied to join the network, the accelerator program, and in exchange, you give up some equity.
Alex : Oh yeah, we don’t call it seed money, we just call it pocket money because its not enough, you know, maybe you can recruit an intern or two, but its not what we’re called an angel, an investment or a seed investment. Its just a, let you get on the program, without worrying about rents, and food, and maybe to get am extra PC or something. That’s why you get selected if you make the cut, then you know, you join the cohort- typically 10, maybe 20 accelerator take, many many more, and then you’re in that batch, go through the program and you’ll come out and you start demo day, hopefully go on to big things.
Priscilla : Okay, let’s just say i have a fantastic new media, a new project mini idea. Just going back to the very, very early beginning. What is would your advice be for me to do first?
Alex : So, you’re an individual and you have an idea?
Priscilla : Yeah, lets say I’m an individual, maybe a couple of friends,we have a mobile application that we feel it could change the world. What is the first thing I need to do, from on your experience?
Alex : So products failed because of 2 reasons, simply one is the team doesn’t make it, and the other one is there’s no market for you. you tried to do. So this entire movement on the second part, the market called the lean startup movement and you can google that. Its been some great books written. One is by Steve Blank of ‘4 Steps Towards Epiphany’, which basically a methodology to discover if there’s a market for something before you build it. Because the old ways of doing things, instead in the garage, locked yourself up, build a product for a year, have a big launch, bog marketing campaign, PR and et cetera, and discovered that nobody wants it. Because you didn’t really go out, and tap into market needs for this. So the first thing is you got the idea, go talk to people and ‘Hey, I built this app. I can see you have the problem I’m solving. How do you solve that problem today? You paid people to solve that problem or you doing it yourself. What would you pay me for this? And this whole methodology on how to do that because you had that discovery. So get out from the house, you know, the ideas are fine and people still scared to sharing their ideas. And I think its the mistake. A very few people and people steal ideas and execute it well. The issue is haven’t spoke to enough people.
Priscilla : In your experience, what is the biggest challenge that they rarely anticipate?
Alex : Ah that’s the hardest one. There are so many of it. You know, the start up a roller coaster is the permanent tension between the resources you have and what you want to get done. So, stretching that dollar another day, another week. And you constantly doing things that you never done before. So what do we good at? And there’s a million things that you got to do, that you never done before, and you have to do well. But I think, you know, number 1 thing you can do other than check up your idea has the market is, surround yourself and work with a very, very people and do not ever compromise. One of the question we asked to teams who applied to the program is- Had you ever had a crisis? Have you ever had a fight? Have you been through something? And they said, ‘no, we love each other. We could never had- well, no issues’. We have long known that, means that you actually haven’t been through one of these roller coaster rides. And teams that came out from those are super strong. So who you work with makes such a huge difference. So if that co-founder or your employees doesn’t fit you quite right, don’t compromise. You’ll go slower for another month, but when you do find out whats right makes all the difference.
Priscilla : Can I have an idea, a start up idea? A lot of people do it part time, its usually born out of a passion, they do it part time, they think around a little bit. When do you know when to go full time with an idea? That’s kind of big risk to give up you career and go full time on the start up. From your experience, is there a point that you’ll know?
Alex : I think so. If you paying attention to your customers and you know, you’re not only just building from that idea, but you are going through the steps. When the market tells you, you know, you can just feel that. The nights and weekends are no longer enough time for me to deliver what I need to do for my customers. You know, if there’s enough the men there, if I have another employee, and I could go on this full time, it feels right. That I could deliver more and growing the company. But there’s the different school of thoughts that we certainly like teams that would jump off the cliff and committed to it. Even at their ideas like they are really in the risk. And there’s no part time. But I do understand the other one part where some people have to pay the rent, feed their families and began something at a side. And they began to grows and suddenly, it feels right. But you know, there is essentially that, if you’re not coping with the capacity, you can feel that ‘I could serve two more customers if I have another day’, then the probably the right time.
Priscilla : What is the biggest and most common mistakes you seen in teams start up made?
Alex : Ah... I think it goes back to the most common mistakes across all startups, is not spending enough time talking to potential customers and the keyword is ‘potential. People fall in love with their products like ‘This apps I’m building is so amazing, you know, its features, its cool, I knew it. Everybody needs it’. But when you put it out, nobody cares. So you can never ever spend too much time engaging on perspective customers and making sure you going what they need. You don’t have to build anything, that the other part of lean start up movement is minimum, buy-able product concept which is build something that does strict minimum, and take it from there. You don’t have to build all the thousand whistles and sell off what they want.
Priscilla : Okay, so parting advice for people, thinking about adventuring into starter plan.
Alex : Only work with very,very best people and never ever compromise on who you work with. And if there’s a doubt about somebody, there’s no doubt. And start with the customers.
Priscilla : Thank you so much, Alex. We really do appreciate it. I know you are a busy man. Be sure to join me next week, because I’m going to speaking to a lawyer, about all the legalities of setting up a new media start up. I’ll see you then, for now this is Priscilla, signing off Startup 101.