Getting feedback on early versions of your prototype is crucial to a startup’s success. You’ll learn more the first day a user tries out your product than the previous 2 months you’ve spent thinking about it.
But, aside from getting user feedback, we really benefited from getting the chance to show Yipit to experienced entrepreneurs and investors.
We would often come back from those meetings and make major changes to our initial prototype plans.
But, it’s hard, especially as a first-time entrepreneur, to get their attention. Their time is their most valuable asset and they can’t meet with everyone.
Plus, even if they do meet with you, it doesn’t mean they will spend real time thinking about your product — the kind of time it usually takes to yield breakthrough product and marketing ideas.
So, how do you get their attention? Well, it seems like one answer is to get into TechStars.
This is my first year helping out with TechStars as a mentor and they have been emphasising that what makes TechStars different from other programs is their impressive list of mentors.
At first, I was definitely sceptical that the list of mentors was just that, a list.
I’ve come to see that the program, spearheaded by David Tisch, does a fantastic job of getting mentors involved.
They organise one-on-one meetings with the various companies in the program and get mentors to pick a specific startup to actively mentor.
I fully realised the power of the program when I get an email from one of the startups asking for feedback on their prototype.
I opened the email and the “to” field blew me away.
When I had sent a similar email about the first version of our prototype, it was to five college friends, my brother and my mum. His “to” field included:
- Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures
- Andy Smith, co-founder of Daily Burn
- Michael Galpert, co-founder of Aviary
- Rachel Sklar, Editor-at-Large, Mediate
- Josh Stylam, co-founder of Reprise Media
- Nate Westheimer, NYTM organiser and formerly head of product at AnyClip
- Eric Friedman of Foursquare and former associate at Union Square Ventures
- Amish Jani, founder and managing directory of FirstMark Capital
- Matt Galligan, co-founder of SimpleGeo
- Jeremie Miller, inventor of Jabber
Seriously?! That’s a ridiculous list of people to send over your initial prototype.
Aside from getting great feedback from them (both on the product and vision), if some of them start using the product in ernest, they could bring many more additional users.
I wish we could have sent Yipit to a list like that.