Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Andreas Krohn
During the spring Overview News was part of the first batch of startups that participated in the Think Accelerate program. Honestly, we were very skeptical in the beginning, unsure of what was in it for us and if it was worth our time. We were proven wrong and ended up getting a lot out of Think. Without exaggerating we matured as a company during the three-month program in ways that would otherwise taken us a year or more.
Think Accelerate and Overview News
Think Accelerate offers three-months of training, advice, mentorship and support for startups. It is financed by the city of Helsingborg and has a large international network of advisors and mentors. The first batch of startups included Proposales, a company that makes business proposals more efficient, to IconCrafts, which makes it easy to customize icons. Every week we had Lean Startup presentations as well as presentations from entrepreneurs. We also had workshops and business coaching.
Overview News indexes editorial news. We then make it available to entrepreneurs via our News API. Just before joining Think, we had rebooted the company into a pure API company and Andreas Krohn had joined. We had the technology to index news on a massive scale. What we did not have was a production-ready API, a plan of how to get the word out of what we were doing, and a plan of how to sell the API. The best thing we got from Think was a fantastic lead mentor. We also benefited from pitch training, the negotiation workshop, contacts and free server capacity via Think’s sponsors.
Each startup had a lead mentor that spent an hour with the startup every week to offer advice and guidance. During the first week of Think there was matchmaking between startups and mentors. We went into this process by ahead of time picking a short list of possible mentors to talk to. In the end we wanted Annette Melander Berg from Lightfinder as our lead mentor. She asked us hard questions that we could not answer about our communication plan. Questions we should be able to answer.
Having Annette as our lead mentor was the best thing we got from Think Accelerate. Every week we spent one or two days preparing for the one hour we had with her and the result is an actionable communication plan. We now know how to talk about what we do, how to differentiate from competitors, and how to get the message out. It was expertise that we needed but would not even have known to ask for if it was not for Think.
Every week we had pitch training, where each startup made a five-minute pitch of their company for the rest of the participants. Doing this each week and getting constant feedback was valuable, both to improve the pitch itself and to improve our general messaging. The best workshop was the two-day intense negotiation training with Olivier Aba from France. Going through the process of negotiations and role-playing was instructive. We will for sure use these skills in the future.
Finally, we got introduced to both potential partners and potential investors via Think. These are contacts we would not have gotten on our own. The contacts, as well as the free server capacity (we need a lot of servers to index all the world news), will be a lasting benefit for Overview News.
How Think could improve
The main thing missing from Think was a focus on sales. We all build companies for other reasons than just money (otherwise we would not have the energy to do it). Yet, without making money we could not continue and we would have to take a normal job instead (the horror!). So it would have been great to learn much more about the sales process and get more support in landing the first key customers.
Another thing missing was that the knowledge of the participants was not used as well as it could have been. Among the Think participants there were experts in UX, design, AI, hardware, APIs, programming and more. It would have been great if all these experts would have offered their expertise to the group in a structured way – for example by making presentations or organizing workshops.
We have pointed out both of these things to the Think organizers. They are keen to improve and we are confident that the second batch of Think Accelerate will include these as well as many other improvements.
Advice to Future Think Accelerate Startups
The first piece of advice is to apply to be part of the next batch of Think Accelerate. The deadline is August 19th. It is free and you will get a lot of value out of it.
Once your startup is part of Think we recommend that you make the most of it by:
- Taking real care in finding a fitting lead mentor. As mentioned before, having Annette Melander Berg as our lead mentor was the most valuable thing in we got out of Think. Pick somebody who is an expert in an area you know little about, but should know a lot about. It is a unique chance to grow your company and yourself.
- Get to know what the other startups are doing and help out as best you can. Together you are stronger than you are on our own. We could have had done a better job of this ourselves.
- Step up and ask for what you need and want. Johannes and Jeremie, who are running Think, are there to help. They can either assist you in getting what you need, or at least point you in the right direction.
- Use the free resources the Think sponsors offer. In total it is $250,000 worth of freebies, like software and server resources.
Thank you, Think Accelerate for letting Overview News be a part of the first batch of startups!