Startup accelerator/incubator programs are fueled by passionate mentors who share their expertise, insights and experience with the founding teams in the program. Access to these networks of mentor relationships– and the opportunity to learn from their experiences – is frankly, a huge startup advantage. As only a select number of startups are admitted into accelerator programs and enjoy the benefits of this unique access, here’s your opportunity to grab some mentor insights.
What’s the worst mistake a founder can make?
The worst mistake a founder can make is not talking to customers early and often!
What’s the most common Startup error?
One of the most common Startup errors is not testing assumptions rigorously, right from the start. It’s helpful if you take the core assumptions on which the success of your product rests and try to prove yourself wrong, instead of assuming you’re correct and trying to prove yourself right.
What does “fail fast” mean to you?
“Fail Fast” means get your minimum viable product out in front of customers early and observe, run tests and get lots of feedback. That way, if you’re heading in the wrong direction, you’ll learn about it early and won’t have to waste lots of time and money building something that no one wants.
If you could fix one thing in the startup eco-system right now, what would it be?
If I could fix one thing about the startup eco-system right now, there would be just as many woman founders as men.
What should startups be focusing on in 2013?
In 2013, startups should get excited about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, 3D Printing, Gestural Interfaces, Near Field Communications, Mobile Payments, the Singularity and more!
When’s the right time to seek funding?
The right time to seek funding is once you’ve validated your core assumptions, achieved product market fit and have a strong minimum viable product or prototype.
Thoughts on crowd-funding?
Crowd-funding is great, but it’s a “crowded” marketplace, so you might have to work hard to get noticed and raise the funds you need. A lot of thought and work needs to go into marketing your campaign.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice I’ve gotten recently is “Focus on revenue.” from Darrell Hammond, founder of KaBoom! This was particularly surprising advice, considering that it came from the founder of a non-profit, but keep in mind that KaBoom! is probably one of the most successful non-profits I’ve ever encountered and relies on innovative business models rather than just traditional fundraising.
Guess who’s coming for dinner…who would be your dream dinner guest(s) and why?
I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I wish I had met Steve Jobs and had an opportunity to get to know him.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Make sure you read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries if you haven’t yet. Also feel free to check out this recent blog post for some other reading list ideas for startups.
About WIM Mentor Elisa Miller-Out:
Elisa is CEO of Singlebrook, a web and mobile app development company based in Ithaca, NY. Singlebrook’s services include custom web application development, mobile apps, integration, databases, content management systems and design. The company also runs a startup product lab, whose first release is a mobile donations platform for non-profits called WhatCanI.Do. Singlebrook is a certified B Corp and NYS Benefit Corp and has a strong emphasis on social and environmental responsibility and a mission of “Technology for Change”. Clients include the Environmental Defense Fund, the American Chiropractic Association, Peeled Snacks, RSF Social Finance, Earthcolor, CSRwire, the Social Venture Network and Cornell University. Elisa is the winner of the 2011 B Corp Supply Chain Award, the 2010 B Corp Policy Champion Award and the 2011 NYSAE New Star Synergy Award. She has been featured in articles in the New York Times, Forbes, Mashable, The Washington Post, USA Today and many other publications. She’s spoken about social entrepreneurship and technology at several events including TechWeek, BALLE, the Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute, and the NYSAE Technology Institute and has served as guest lecturer at Cornell. She serves as a mentor to several accelerator programs including StartFast, Women Innovate Mobile, Cornell 3Day Startup, Startup Weekend and the Media Ideation Fellowship. Prior to founding Singlebrook, Elisa founded two other companies and worked in a variety of industries in New York City, including invention & product development, theater, film & commercial production, event planning, pharmaceuticals and finance. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College of Columbia University. When she’s not working at Singlebrook, Elisa enjoys cooking with local foods, fitness, swimming in waterfalls, reading and playing Suzuki cello with her two daughters. She also volunteers as a technology sponsor for her BALLE chapter: Local First Ithaca, as President of the Barnard Club of the Finger Lakes, and as a Co-Founder of the Ithaca Venture Community. Elisa serves on the Council of Innovation Advisors for ConvergeUS and is a Strategic Advisor for CSRwire.