JFDI.Asia Accelerator: Bootcamp Practicalities
by Meng Weng Wong, co-founder and social engineer at JFDI Asia
You’re supposed to demo the business, not just the product.
The investors who come to Demo Day might nod politely when you talk about the features of your product. But they’ll sit up and pay attention when you talk about the customers and revenues of the business.
You’re in dialogue with the marketplace. Listen to what it tells you.
During the course of the bootcamp you will be expect not just to build the product, but launch it, and keep iterating it in response to market feedback, in whatever direction maximizes growth.
If you are not prepared to do this, and think that you know better than the customer, or that you just want to build it a certain way and damn the feedback, then you’re not going to have much of a business to show on Demo Day!
JFDI is a mentorship-driven accelerator.
We will open our network of successful entrepreneurs and investors to offer invaluable experiences to you. You will learn to get to know them and present your idea to them in the most efficient manner. They will give you advice, and you will learn to listen and distill the (sometimes conflicting) information to best serve your business.
Mentor whiplash happens. As a meta-lesson you will learn how to choose from multiple angles of advice.
Many of our mentors are entrepreneurs who have built, from scratch, a successful business.
“Hero mentors” have exited their businesses through a trade sale or IPO, sometimes multiple times; they offer inspiration to your team and coaching on strategy and tactics. When you least expect it, they may offer to invest.
“Role models” haven’t made it quite as far the heroes, but as practising entrepreneurs they are fully up-to-date with the on-the-ground realities of fundraising, hiring, and interfacing with government.
“Specialists” have deep experience in some area of startup practice, like law, bookkeeping, growth hacking, or platform strategy.
We will teach you how to raise funds.
Fundraising isn’t easy. Building a deck, rehearsing a pitch, spreadsheeting financials – if that sounds like work to you, you might not be ready to change gears.
You will experience challenges. You will ask yourself if this is really worth it.
You have to be prepared for the grueling rigors of fundraising and repeated rejections, and difficult negotiations over valuation.
If this sounds too painful, then maybe the business that you want to build isn’t that compelling; maybe the people who will benefit from your innovation actually don’t exist; maybe the right thing to do is scale back and build your prototype on a hobby basis – but don’t quit the day job. There is no shame in this. Better to decide now that you would rather pursue a career path in engineering than in entrepreneurship. Either profession is worthy.
The former pays better.
JFDI is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
In the US, seed accelerators offer more than $100,000 to startups. We don’t. Why? Because we’ve learned the hard way that $100,000, which is six months of runway in Silicon Valley, is a retirement jackpot in half of Southeast Asia. Offering that much money attracts scammers. They just want to take the money and run. We can’t deal with that.
Universities have a problem: they want students who are good at learning, but they get students who are good at taking tests. Most good students are good at tests, but not everybody who is good at tests is a good student.
Being accepted to JFDI is the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, not some kind of goal. Some entrepreneurs come from a history of winning business plan competitions. Sometimes they come to JFDI with a miscalibrated sense of competitiveness. You’re not competing with other teams to get in to JFDI. You’re not competing with your classmates in JFDI. You’re competing with actual businesses, other startups who you’ve probably never met, to reach millions of customers and become a billion-dollar company. That’s the competition. Welcome to the real world.
It’s up to you to find housing in Singapore. Some founders stay at hostels. Some rent rooms through Airbnb. 100 days is an awkward period of time to be in Singapore. We suggest you take a 6 month lease if you can find one.
We’ll send you specific recommendations when we’re farther along the process.
Locals don’t need a visa and can skip this section.
You will probably be here on a tourist visa. It doesn’t make sense to get an employment pass at this stage: you should expect to get funded after JFDI, then get yourself an employment pass then.
We’ll work with you on this. We have a special relationship with certain government agencies which helps to get your tourist visas renewed with fewer trips to the government office.
Demo Day is an invitation-only event. Unfortunately, space is limited, and even the air conditioners tend to get overloaded, so we can’t open our doors to everyone. We spend tremendous energy recruiting between 100 and 200 angels and seed-stage investors who may invest in your business. They have first priority.
Each founder who owns shares in the startup and has attended JFDI will be invited.
Each startup in which JFDI has invested, and which makes it through the program, will be invited to pitch at Demo Day. Each founder who is part of the team and has attended JFDI will be expected to be there to man your startup’s booth. If your startup is struggling to show traction we may ask you to defer your Demo Day pitch to the following batch 3 months later.
If your startup quits the program, then it will not be invited to attend Demo Day.
After Demo Day, we will help you find co-working space that’s right for you. JFDI offers co-working too so if you want to stay on campus, you can. It’s a good place to hold investor meetings.
Your job during the Bootcamp.
We use a red/green chart to measure startup readiness for Demo Day. Each column represents a startup. Each row represents a test. If you’re familiar with Test Driven Development, you know this chart.
Your job is to turn your column as green as possible before Demo Day – and beyond. We share it with mentors. We don’t share it with investors.
You may already be well on your way down the path. Wherever you’re stuck is where JFDI will focus its attention. We’ll help you with the next hurdle, and the next, and the next.
These are the questions we use to test the business:
1. Do we UNDERSTAND the problem domain as well as most experts?
2. Have we identified a specific first CUSTOMER?
3. Do we bring new INSIGHT or DESIGN to the field?
4. Have we confirmed a SPECIFIC user problem or opportunity through interviews?
5. Have we built a SOLUTION that matches that problem? (MVP)
6. Does the solution DIFFERENTIATE from current competitors through a UVP?
7. Have we confirmed a CHANNEL to reach our market?
8. Do we understand the conversion mechanics of our sales FUNNEL?
9. Can we confirm PRODUCT / MARKET FIT in the form of:
i. TRACTION and GROWTH?
10. Do we have a REPEATABLE SALES process whose LTV > CAC?
11. (B2B) Is that sales process implemented in a SALES ORGANIZATION which does not require much founder time?
12. (B2C) Is there a PRE-SALES promotion activity driving the top of the funnel?
13. Do we have an action plan to SELL TO EVERYONE in our target market?
14. Can we articulate the Big Vision?
The greener your column, the higher the chances you’ll raise funds.
Meng Weng Wong is co-founder and social engineer at JFDI Asia, which he helped started in 2010 to bring the TechStars model of startup incubation to Southeast Asia. he also co-founded Hackerspace.SG, a place for geeks, in 2009.
This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.