As the closing date looms for Startup Next Ireland, it seemed an apt time to look back on the program. First of all, an introduction. Startup Next is the number 1 pre-accelerator in the world, sponsored by Techstars, Google for Entrepreneurs and, in Ireland, Bank of Ireland. The program runs for an evening a week, over 6 weeks, and effy was fortunate enough to participate in the second cohort of Startup Next Ireland.
The first week Owen and I made the leap to work full time on effy was the week we applied for Startup Next. We had heard some great things about the program from a friend, Nubi Kay, who is one of the organisers of the program, and the more we looked at program, the mentors, the alumni, the more we were excited about the possibility of participating. Fortunately, we were accepted on the program, along with 5 other startups: Buymie, Courtsdesk, FriendshipIt, LiveDuel and Squelo.
And so, on a dark evening in October last year, we all arrived in the Google offices, to be greeted by friendly faces, a packed agenda and the smell of fresh pizza. Over 7 weeks, we met every Wednesday, with specials speakers each week covering topics from Customer Development, to Funding. The level of quality of the speakers and mentors was excellent. After the lecture, it was time for each startup to stand up for a pitch and Q&A. While the lecture part of the evening was always great, what set this program apart from others we have participated in was the interactive portion of the evening. Between the Q&A and 1-on-1 with mentors is what forced us to grow as a company.
There was one evening in particular where Owen and I left Startup Next frustrated. We were frustrated that people were not as excited about effy (which was a basic scheduler at the time) as we were. The program forced us to really consider why we were so frustrated, and the answer was that we had actually lost enthusiasm in our own product, it was not special. So we took some our learnings and dug deeper into what our customers’ pain points were, and how they could be solved using new technology. We looked at where the customers’ were looking for innovation. We looked at where there was a gap between the benefits promised by innovation, and the ability to actually deliver those benefits. And then (buzzword alert) we pivoted. We became a smart scheduler. We saw and heard that there was huge data available to retailers to improve their operational efficiency, yet there were not actionable insights to enable it to be used on the ground. And when staffing costs are one of the biggest operational costs, smarter staff scheduling will have major implications for the bottom line of the business.
We came back the next week with a new fire in our belly that has only grown in the past few months as we do more research, validation and development of the smart scheduler. Startup Next is the type of program that will try to break you down, to make you question basic assumptions, to push you to be better, and this is exactly what a pre-accelerator needs to be. It needs to, for want of a better word, break you in order for you to emerge as a stronger business when you ‘graduate’ on demo day. But in addition to finding your weak points and continuously poking them until you reinforce/remove them, the mentors will also give you all advice and open any door they can to help.
Yet the help of the Startup Next family does not end once the program finishes. Not only do we still get advice from many of the mentors from Startup Next Ireland and are still in contact with many of the startups on the program. But we also have access to the wider Startup Next, Techstars and Google for Entrepreneurs networks. The benefits of the program can be felt much further than the 6 weeks in Google. So we must say a huge thanks to Gene Murphy and all the Startup Next family for adopting team effy!
So in short, we highly recommend Startup Next Ireland for any startups who are at pre-accelerator stage. As always, we are more than happy to have a chat if anyone has any questions.
P.S. You can register for Startup Next here.