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You're Ready To Be An Entrepreneur, Are You? [Part 6] - Y-Combinator Startup School Graduation

Submitted by Bernard Dreyer

By Pamela Cook Dreyer

Here is the sixth in a series of posts I'm writing to reflect what really happens when people decide to become entrepreneurs. The process is at best a curved line, probably more accurately described as a jagged line. It's definitely NOT a straight line.

The previous Post discusses how life delayed some of the work on our projects along with other technical changes we made with our websites and email processing. I ended that post with discussing our enrollment in Startup School, a 10-week one-on-one mentoring program for startup founders created by Y-Combinator. This post will focus on this wonderful educational journey.

We are not located in Silicon Valley or any of the hot entrepreneurial hubs. We do our best to keep up with what's going on but with working on our business projects we're bound to miss something. A few years ago I joined a Facebook group of tech women from underrepresented groups (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American). In early March 2017 I saw the creator of that group post a link that talked about Startup School. I said to my husband Bernard that I was going to submit an application for the program and focus on ibraini, a family of 2D and 3D puzzles and games created to help people suffering with a cognitive impairment to recover quicker just by playing them. To our delight we were notified 1-2 weeks later that we were one of 2,820 startups selected out of 13,321 startups that applied from around the word. We had to wait another two weeks before the classes started the first week in April.

Startup School is a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) which is a scaled down version of the full Y-Combinator incubator program which normally lasts three months. A MOOC made it convenient for all of us to take advantage of the knowledge of Y-Combinator graduates with one-on-one access without having to move to the Bay area. We met in groups of 30 companies weekly to give our updates of what we were doing, problems we ran into and other business related issues. We also watched two videos a week taught as a special guest lecture series from Stanford University. This link includes an ordered descending list of the videos we watched with links to attached resources. The videos are also available on the Stanford Online YouTube channel along with many other interesting videos.

We have a wonderful Y-Combinator mentor Michael Rubin, a co-founder and CFO of Magic. One thing we learned during this process was that we needed to be even more aggressive than we were in getting our products to market. We felt that we had to have the perfect or almost perfect product ready. They taught that companies do better when they were able to get people to use their products and receive feedback, paid or free. You started to promote your minimum viable product (MVP). Getting the feedback from users is critical, especially negative feedback. Through this process you can quickly find out if your product is something people will want as is, with changes or a complete waste of your time.

Some of the startup founders during the program decided to change their product altogether and do something else. This is referred to as a pivot. Don't be too proud to admit that your product is just not what people want. Keep working until one fits a market group. Many successful companies have gone through this process. Think about how many times Facebook has tried different functions (products) then got rid of them. This is not unusual.

We have already made several changes with our business projects and will probably continue to along the way. I mentioned in previous posts about the project WorkPool Online we were working on. When I started looking at the second use case for that project we began to hear about Angie's List which was fairly new at the time and decided to abandon the WorkPool Online project. We decided to focus more on our 3D Dimensional Geometry based digital apps instead.

Our initial digital apps included 3D puzzles. We initially planned to focus on getting our products to occupational and speech therapists that work a lot with patients with cognitive impairment. We were able to do a presentation at a local hospital. While going through the program we decided to present what we had. We did a presentation to speech therapists at a local hospital. From their invaluable input we saw that what we had could work for those with very mild impairment or no impairment but would be way too difficult for those with more several cognitive impairment. We decided to create new 2D puzzles. We're also working with a neuroscientist, Dr. Amy Price, who has done a lot of research at Oxford University. At her suggestion we added apps with different types of 3D games. We also decided to reach out to educational institutions, particularly to schools doing research along with public and private schools with special education programs. These puzzles and games are also a lot of fun to play for anyone that likes a challenge.

We were able to seriously network with startup founders from around the world with varying skills and backgrounds. This has been invaluable for us. We were not sure what would happen when the course ended. Thankfully we will have access to the entire network because Y-Combinator decided to keep their chat channel up forever. We are also grateful that Michael Rubin has agreed to continue to be our mentor in the days to come. We will definitely find him when we need to get set up for funding to facilitate our business growth. This startup is currently fully owned by LightBe Corp, our umbrella corporation. However if we start getting funding it will be spun off into a separate corporation which he can help us with as well. We may also consider applying for the full 3-month Y-Combinator accelerator program at that time.

There's a lot more I can say about this wonderful experience but I don't want this post to be too long. We completed Startup School on June 16, 2017. 1,584 of the 2,820 companies completed the Startup School Founders Track. The last task we did was to create a presentation of our startup to be used in a directory where people familiar with Y-Combinator can search by vertical / category. We are listed as a healthcare startup. Here is our Y-Combinator presentation. We expect many great days ahead!

Until next time..........

Categories: Entrepreneurship

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