Microsoft Accelerator – Week Six

IMG_7081The observant amongst you will have noticed that weeks four and five are missing. This is because that I have been away on holiday¬†and so haven’t been around to do an update but I am back now and straight back into it.

Of course the accelerator doesn’t stop while I have been away sunning myself so there was some catching up to do along with all the emails and business as usual stuff I would have normally had to do.

Just before I went away we were assigned our mentors. You may remember that early on we had a mentor matching evening, a bit like speed dating for mentors, to match us up. We submitted a shortlist and from which the organisers allocated as best they could given that there was bound to be some overlap between the teams.

I have to say that Microsoft have done a great job at find some stella people to act as mentors – remember that these people are giving up their time to help the start-ups. We have been lucky enough to bag four people with experience in different business areas: marketing, finance, sales and partnering.

We have the founder and lead partner of a large digital marketing agency with some real blue chip clients, someone from a VC with a wealth of experience of pitching and raising finance. For sales someone that has led the growth of two well know names in the IT sector and last but not least, someone from Yammer (a Microsoft company) who has bags of experience in the corporate space we operate. You can’t normally just walk up to these people and get their time and advice so I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to do so.

Incidentally, if you are wondering why I haven’t named any names that’s simply because I don’t have the individuals permission to do so and while I am sure that they would have no problem with me naming them I am erring on the safe side.

So this week I had the first of my meetings with the marketing mentor. Tim, my co-founder, had already had some meet-ups while I was away. It’s a distinctly odd feeling turning up at these uber cool offices in London’s Soho and walking into the office of the MD to chat about marketing strategy for SpeakInConfidence. We spent an hour or so chatting about the system and how we might get it in front of the right people, our social media strategy and what was the positioning statement that should underpin all our marketing efforts. This has given us plenty to consider, particularly the last point where he wants to see some compelling reason given straight away on the website as to why people should use us. We have some work todo before our next meeting.

Like so many accelerators this one too culminates in a pitch day at the end and in readiness for that we had this week what was called the “VC early look evening” pitching to five VCs. Tim and I spent the afternoon honing the pitch while walking round the grounds of a local church – what the other people sitting on the park benches thought as we wandered by again and again! Anyway, it was well worth the odd looks as we arrived with a much better pitch and had some interesting conversations. Time will tell if these lead anywhere.

The main pitching event is in front of 50 VCs so we need to continue to hone our pitch and get that humming. Fortunately we can tap into our mentors to help with that over the next few weeks.

The final thing of note this week was the session with the UX (User eXperience) expert. Unfortunately I had missed the main sessions run on this as I had been away at a sales meeting but this was an opportunity to go through the system on a 1:1 basis. We want people to get the most from the system and so this means increasing user engagement. While we do have to work with our customers to achieve this there were a number of things that came out of the session that we can implement to help and make it more viral – which is what everyone is looking for these days. Development schedules being what they are it will be a while before we can do this but I hope that we will have been able to add some of the ideas before the end of the year.

One theme that has come out time and time again this week is to focus and this applies not only to where we put our time but also to the products themselves. In the second week of the accelerator we launched into beta our second product, ReferenceInConfidence, and the message is that we should focus on one or the other or even merge the too. I’m not sure that the latter is possible but we have a hard choice to make and it means we are likely to shelve our ambitions for ReferenceInConfidence at least until the new year.