Startup life is notorious for the ups, downs and curveballs. One of the best ways we've been able to remain steadfast throughout is by working with incredible incubators. Over the last two years we've worked with 500 Startups, the IBM Innovation Space, and most recently Creative Destruction Lab.
With the final Super Session at CDL now over, we've successfully completed all three programs. It's a major milestone and we've learned a lot along the way. If you're a startup, here are the top 5 things you should know:
1. You Cannot Do This Alone - Also known as "Relationships Are Key," each program has exposed us to people with incredible experience building companies, funding companies, or being the end user. These people have helped to expand our network not just to support sales, but almost more importantly to find great talent, counsel, and resources.
2. Be Prepared to Be Accountable - Perhaps the most aggressive of the incubator programs, CDL holds its cohort to major milestones and progress throughout its mentorship. If you don't meet your goals, if your business isn't progressing, you are kicked off the island. CDL was tremendously valuable in helping us put rigor into our processes and get focused on growing the business.
3. Don't Forget Your Story - Our team has been around the block in the startup game and we learned directly from storytellers like Mike Serbinis when we worked with him at Kobo. The details are important - but so is how you share them. Once you've nailed down the details - go-to-market, differentiation, customer pipeline - crafting a compelling story is powerful. Check out our story that we created with CDL and its partner Bedrock Affect in this video.
4. Be Smart With Resources - We were very lucky to work with IBM's Innovation Space and the IBM Watson team to connect our dataset into the powerful AI platform. The subsidized space at 185 Spadina, provides a co-working environment which saved us a massive cost in the early days - rent! Being able to invest those dollars into our technology and team was a game-changer and it would have been a harder road to not have those resources.
5. Keep Investors Updated - You'll meet a lot of investors along your incubator journey. But you can go long periods of time between meetings. Since the early days, we've made a point to keep potential investors updated. We share milestones we've achieved, problems we're facing, and we also ask people for help. It's increased the level of engagement and interest as we've gone through the programs, and had the added benefit of people reaching out to help us along the way. Don't underestimate this network, and don't think of them as just a path to equity. They are one of the best networks you can cultivate.
A massive shoutout to all of the mentors, investors, program managers and friends we've met along the way. We can't thank you enough.
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