It was only last week when entrepreneur in residence Ran Heimann reminded us that we were now a third of the way through the UQ ilab Germinate PLUS program and I (Nathaniel Simpson – founder of Beome) wanted to share the key insight from what we have learnt so far. That is, place importance on 2 critical factors,
- The founder(s) and the team
- A validated product-market fit (i.e. growth of paying customers)
The Founder(s) and the Team
We believe the team, customer and investor base, should all be built from the same foundations; trust between the founder(s) and the team and belief in the vision and purpose of the company.
At Beome our purpose is to improve life for individuals (specifically landlords and tenants) and our vision is to build a scalable search and management system which allows individuals to “find each other and rent together” as a major player within the Australian property sector.
I have complete trust in Beome team members (Thomas and Tristan) and spent a long time finding the right people who share complimentary personality, skills, experiences and drive change within the existing business landscape.
Thomas Turner and I studied at The University of Queensland (UQ) together, during which time we looked for reasons to work as a team even requesting to a lecturer if we could apply operational theory towards our innovative new property focussed business model (producing an assignment which resulted in a perfect grade of 100%).
Thomas is also a co-founder of Odoo Melbourne-based agency OdooLabs, which specialises in Odoo, an open source ERP system, that allows small-medium businesses to efficiently scale and pursue growth opportunities.
Tristan Mitterstoger and I have been friends since birth (hustling and selling Pokémon cards as young children at Sunday markets). Tristan has natural business acumen and is also completing a UQ degree, to compliment his practical work experience.
Tristan has had a long history of running companies from the young age of 19. Tristan is currently the Managing Partner of the digital marketing Brisbane-based agency Kymodo, which specialise in SEO, Adwords, Social Media Marketing and Web design.
From talking with investors and other founders, I believe it is important to demonstrate how the team works cohesively together and can also adapt (and innovate) when presented with various obstacles. The ability of the business to evolve over time is a good measure of how agile you are to meet ever-changing market needs.
Early into the ilab Germinate program (week 1) we established a team agreement, which was important in establishing expectations surrounding equity, and contribution commitments. This agreement has been key for having all team members on the same page and working towards a common goal, in addition to having in place an established process in the event a team member exits. Don`t hesitate in getting your agreements in place!
A Validated Product-Market Fit
I have often heard that during an accelerator program, you should be doing two things – 1. talking to customers and 2. building product. The reason for this is that you want to prove your market-product fit (through paying customers).
At Beome we have decided to take the approach to swing heavy to the market side of the product-market pendulum, building up a prospective customer base first, then building a product that people want. Every day we 1. Talk to customers and 2. Build our market base.
It is very easy to personally fall in love with your idea and spend the majority of time building a product. Once you have a good enough product, you think, then you can market to customers. Unfortunately, the age-old belief that “build it and they will come” does not have a great track record when it comes to successful startups. I would love nothing more than to sit down and build product all day, but in reality, I can’t. Without customers, there is no business.
A few weeks ago, founder and investor Ian Gardiner (Jelix VC and previously AWS Australia’s Startup lead) came to talk with us at ilab during one of our Founder dinners. Afterwards, when I had a chance to talk with him (elevator pitch), I quickly gauged by his reactions that he was more interested in the growth of a simple organic Facebook group we had created, over any technical details or any wireframes that we had mocked up for a digital platform. My take home was, that early stage investors are more interested in customer engagement and growth vs playing with the product!
Growth can take time, however, so the team at Beome, every day are investing a significant portion of effort, time and energy in order to build our customer relationships early, frequently engaging and interacting with them to eventually build an end product that users love.
With one-third of the current UQ ilab Germinate PLUS now behind us, it will be interesting to see how our strategic market approach unfolds by the end of the accelerator program.
If you would like to learn more of my journey, then feel free email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more of UQ’s entrepreneurship programs including ilab, then check out the new UQ Ventures website.