Microsoft Accelerator – Week Two

Shoreditch GrindSo week two is over already, a week when the focus was very much on getting the message across to your audience. This was a series of session facilitated by Rob Fitzpatrick author of The Mom Test which, kudos to him, he didn’t push at all.

Here’s the interesting thing you are almost positively encouraged to pitch your idea to anyone that will listen. Family and friends will give you positive feedback because they want you to succeed and others you will want to tell because you think your idea is a great idea. No here’s the funny thing. You learn next to nothing from these conversations because you are in “pitch mode” which tends to illicit a more positive response and provides no real value or information.

Thinking about this in a classroom environment I realise that Rob is absolutely right and I can hear myself falling into this trap all the time. I think that The Chubby Challenge is a brilliant idea but my pitching it to others has tended to reinforce that belief because people aren’t being given the opportunity to respond to someone who clearly wants their ideas validated.

Rob’s approach is to step back and not to pitch but to listen. Ask questions about the individual and their work and find a way of asking questions that might give you an insight into the area that you are interested in. This is hugely simplifying it and Rob makes it seem terribly easy but after too many years of working the other way it is difficult to stop yourself entering pitch mode. It has become too natural like riding a bike or tying your shoelaces. This needs some practice.

Another area that we looked at with Rob was the Business Model Canvas, a neat way of visualising your business exploring what you offer and where you might be deficient all on a single piece of paper. Even better though is this online implementation of the canvas at LeanStack which works really well and offers the same advantages but allows collaboration too.

At one point during one of the sessions Rob asked whether we knew what was the saddest day of the year and it turned out that it was 21st January (although it seems that it can change year on year). Anyway, one guy in the room looked at him in disbelief and said “really?”. In a nice bit of serendipity it transpired that January 21st was his birthday and he never felt sad then!

So outside of these sessions I also had a meeting at the Shoreditch Grind, an uber cool coffee shop situated right on the Silicon Roundabout. While tiny it was crammed full of  digital nomads working on their Macs and meeting like-minded others. I liked the old fashioned cinema sign above the doors with a cheeky line beneath the name.  I was there to meet a recruiter that is taking an interesting approach to recruitment in the start-up space and gathering feedback for our newest product ReferenceInConfidence.

As I said last week one of the great things about the accelerator programme is variety of people that you get to meet and what they can bring. This week Richard from one of the two gaming teams brought in his Oculus Rift a virtual reality headset which was just amazing. I have never had an opportunity to try anything like that out before and it just blew me away.

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