This week, I took the opportunity to catch up with AppInstruct Alumni and Foogi CEO, Amit Jaiswal, whose team is now nearly 3 months into its participation in the Startmate accelerator program. Startmate is a Sydney based accelerator program, that was recently referenced by the Economist in the same breath as Y-Combinator and TechStars as one of the leading accelerators in the world.
For those of you unfamiliar with what an accelerator program is, it’s an intense period of work and mentoring that pushes a team and it’s idea to build a company and validate a business model, with the aim of raising investor funding at the demo day at the program’s end. The concept was pioneered by Paul Graham and his Y-Combinator program in 2008 – a couple of the products you may use that have come through that program – Dropbox and Airbnb – businesses today valued at around $20billion.
In the following interview, we’ve identified my asking question in bold and Amit answering in normal text below:
What prompted you to apply for Startmate?
There were two factors for applying to Startmate. One was the fantastic mentors that Startmate provides and the network that comes with them. The second reason was that I wanted my co-founder to leave his job and join me in working on Foogi full time. We were able to use the Startmate investment ($50,000) to pay him a salary.
Can you briefly describe the product you pitched?
Foogi is a smartphone app that lets you schedule in seconds by instantly matching availabilities with anybody from any company. It connects with any calendar type (Outlook, google calendar, yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) with a few taps.
Yes, it’s a simple solution to a very real problem. At what stage of development was the product when the pitched?
We had an alpha of the Android app in the Play Store, whilst the iPhone app was under development.
How did the AppInstruct Course assist you in that application?
The Course helped us understand the value of marketing and customer development instead of just focusing on a product. This understanding and responsibility split was communicated in the Startmate application.
Cheeky plug here, but for anyone who hasn’t already – you can sign up and receive the first tutorial today for free.
Any thoughts on what helped you be selected for the short list?
A number of factors. Startmate favours teams, not individuals and prefers teams that are heavier in tech than just business. It appeared that they liked the fact that the team suffered from the problem we were solving, that it was a global problem which has a scalable tech solution. But most importantly it was the mentors connecting with and liking the team.
Can you describe the interview process?
It was a round robin interview with around 20 teams and 20 mentors. We had 10 minutes with each mentor where we pitched to them and then answered their questions.
Any tips from participating in the interview process that you can share?
You need to demonstrate that you are building a business, not just a product and the only way of doing this is knowing your subject matter and your growth strategy inside out.
What impact on your start-up has the accelerator had so far?
The accelerator gave the idea credibility which translated to our team growing to four full-time founders.
What aspects have been the most useful?
The most useful aspects have been 1) being able to bounce ideas off the other Startmate teams 2) Learning from the Startmate alumni 3) getting honest critical feedback from the mentors.
Any tips you can share with other entrepreneurs who may be considering applying in the future?
1) Build a solid team. It’s unusual for Startmate to invest in single founders. This is a tough job but it demonstrates a lot: if you can’t sell your vision to another person, you’re going to have a tough time getting people to invest in you.
2) Connect with the startmate mentors a long time before the startmate applications open. The Sydney Startup community is helpful and the mentors will give you their time as long as you actually listen to their advice. The way I connected with mentors was by going to local events and hackathons and investing my time in getting to know them.
How’s progress been since your applied?
Foogi has gone from two founders to four. We have launched on iPhone as well as Android and learnt a hell of a lot about growing a successful business. It’s all about metrics! You can’t fix what you’re doing wrong till you find out where you’re going wrong.
What are the next steps in the program?
The Startmate teams will be demoing in Melbourne next Monday, and then doing two demo days in Sydney next Wednesday and Thursday. This will be followed by 2 weeks of demo days and pitch days in Silicon Valley.
Thanks Amit, good luck with the pitching and enjoy Silicon Valley, although we hope you return – readers, please show your support for Foogi by downloading and trying it today – as Amit said above it’s available in the App Store and Google Play.