What happens in the accelerator, doesn’t stay in the accelerator
At the beginning of 2018, we had the chance to take part in the accelerator program run by MKB Fintechlab in Budapest. Until that point, we only had a slight idea about what an acceleration experience means from the many articles we read and just by talking to people. We didn’t, however, really have a clue what it was going to be like. So for all of you wondering what it actually means to be “accelerated”, here’s how it went for ThinkOut:
1. Meet the right people
The first experience (and major gain) we got from taking part in such a program is meeting people. Not interesting, you may think, because there are so many other occasions to meet people. True, but this was a bit different: we connected with like-minded people with similar experiences, focus, and paths. Starting from the accelerator team, whose objective is to help founders develop their startup and who channeled their know-how and energy towards this purpose, to fellow ”startupers” who actually went through the same challenges as us, to mentors and stakeholders who were there to guide us.
Though it sounds like just some more pretty words, trust me that nothing compares to talking to people who are genuinely interested in supporting you and who understand perfectly what you are going through. Knowledge is shared and assimilated differently, in a very useful, applied way.
2. Learn new tools and approaches
One may think that after 2 years of startup life we are all savvy, that we know what to do and how there is little left to be discovered. Wrong. There were still new things to learn regarding UX rules, marketing, pitching, setting objectives and building the product strategy.
The best attitude to enter an acceleration (or incubation) program is with a student mindset. You may have 10 or 20 years experience, you may have built digital products before, but there is always something new to learn, even just to be reminded of. We got a better idea of what growth hacking means (from Gabor Papp) and some practical tools, starting from case studies and examples that we could apply ourselves. We went through the guidelines of the User Experience with Callie Wheeler from Digital Natives, which helped us see new ways to make our customers even happier when using ThinkOut. We also got some great insight into how to pitch the ThinkOut solution to potential investors from Mike Sigal, Partner at 500 FinTech.
One of the first and rather difficult tasks was to set the objectives and metrics for the program. You may think that it should have come naturally; this is how businesses are run, after all – on SMART objectives. This is how it generally goes, of course, but the story is a bit different when it is you, the founder, who sets the objectives and follows them, measures and adjusts. You tend to be, let’s say, more permissive, optimist and even forgetful. Things change when you must answer to someone; then you need to really pay attention to what objectives to set, how high, to estimate as accurate as possible because the pressure is higher.
It got interesting when we discovered how many different metrics we could apply, so we tried to decide which are the most relevant to our startup and product. Mid-term checks were a great incentive to get us going and achieve those goals, especially when our team is busy with tackling a thousand different tasks in the same time (as it happens in most startups). It was a very uncomfortable, yet efficient way to get us focused and we had a lot of help from János Pereczes, Mary Collins, and Támas Léder.
As for how it actually went, here are the main points:
1.We moved to Budapest for 3 months and continued our regular activity from there.
2. We attended various workshops delivered by the Fintechlab mentors.
3. We had frequent meetings with the accelerator team on setting and following objectives.
4. We met with key representatives of the banking industry to talk about its particularities, rules, and compliance procedures.
5. We had the chance to attend different external events around the fintech and startup life (like a series of events in partnership with TransferWise), which was an excellent opportunity to meet potential investors, fellow founders and many interesting, inspiring people related to fintech startups. Getting outside your own bubble is a real eye-opener.
6. At the end of the program, at the closing event – Demo Day – we pitched along with the other 7 startups in front of a jury and 200 guests. This event concluded, with elegance and style, the 3 months of work, planning, learning, envisioning and making things happen. The extraordinary venue facing the Danube, the flawless organization of the event, the energy, the excitement, the talks, the motivation – all this sums up what had happened along the acceleration program.
Apart from the agenda, KPIs, knowledge, contacts, the main takeaways are hard to quantify but have a much deeper, longer-term impact. It is about the feeling we’ve got as a team and startup, about seeing with our own eyes the multitude of opportunities outside our bubble, about getting in touch with people with similar mindsets, fears, and dreams. It is about gaining a larger context, motivation and a stronger support system to help us realize what we were set to create.
If you’d like to learn more about this experience or you are tempted to apply for the next batch in the Fintechlab accelerator program, don’t hesitate to write to me or leave a comment below. We’ll be back with more of what we learned in Budapest.