Techstars Amsterdam: 1st Month Reflections

As a team with experienced founders, some minor previous funding and exits, we were not entirely certain how much our participation in Techstars would change our trajectory. Techstars is the real deal and if the remaining 2 months are like the first, the equity Techstars takes in return for the 3 months of acceleration is worth it, even for experienced founders.

I will highlight three early takeaways for us at iomob.net 1) accountability, 2) humility and 3) just getting shit done.

Accountability
As most startups in relatively early stages we have spent the last year plus trying to validate product market fit and engaging with different stakeholders in the urban mobility ecosystem. I am very confident that we have done a good job of listening to them and finding the path of least resistance to a replicable, scalable business model. We have also made great progress on building our core tech stack in the process and gained signficant early commitments including our pilot with Ford Motors in the US and our pilot with Renfe. We even have our first commercial proposal under review.

BUT, Techstars has taught us we have not been disciplined enough with ourselves as founders and our team to ensure that everyone knows what their priorities are and is tracking their progress on a weekly basis. For example, at Techstars in Amsterdam, each founding team must report their weekly progress on KPIs with metrics that matter. Every week the teams present last week and next weeks targets and the expectation is that there is progress every week. Our CTO, Josep Sanjuas and I have decided after going through this process the past few weeks that we are going to do a similar exercise every week with our own team. This will instill accountability and help ensure everyone is on the same page

Humility
After several weeks in the program I must confess that despite my 2 decades working in the field of entrepreneurship (as an entrepreneur and an academic), I still have plenty to learn. Techstars forces you to open your mind and be willing to take constructive feedback from a range of people who have only the best of intentions. For example, the first 3 weeks are referred to as the Mentor Madness phase where founding teams literally meet one on one with 90, yes nine zero, mentors in 17 minute increments. As they come from a range of sectors and roles in the global and local innovation ecosystem, if founders keep an open mind, they can gain minor tips to improve their business or even be encouraged to embrace larger pivots to their business model.

But it is not just the mentors. There are the Techstars staff starting with the Managing Director, which in our case is Dave Mendez, a VC for the past several years, and the world class program manager, Kelly Adam, and even the younger staff who work to support the 10 startups througout the program. They each come with areas of expertise which are afforded to the startups. And of course the founders themselves become a great source for bouncing off ideas and providing feedback, if you keep an open mind.

Getting Sh*t Done
This is an over-riding mantra for Techstars and while I think startups tend to be uniquely adept at this compared to established companies we can all improve on this. And at Iomob, Josep and I have thought a lot about how we can get more done faster. After all we are in a race and if one of the competitive advantages we have is being nimble, then we need to learn to instill that discipline in our culture from the beginning. We are building something at Iomob that has some complexity to it. Our deep tech team has been building world class multimodal routing algorithms and visualizations.

Visualizations from our algorithms team demonstrating a heat map of travel time from a point on the map in Barcelona combining multiple modes of mobility services.

Yet the app layer is behind schedule and not yet in users hands. We will rectify this soon as we have made great progress on it but Dave Mendez and others inside and outside of Techstars have helped us realize that we need to get the app layer in users hands NOW and not delay.

Josep and I have now started meeting with different tech and operations staff in Iomob to start moving towards instilling the accountability of weekly KPI reporting and embracing the culture of getting sh*t done. And we both are opening our minds to receiving constructive feedback from as many people as possible in order to achieve our global ambitions.

So far, Techstars has exceeded our expectations and I see no reason why that won’t continue!

About us:
Iomob is working to decentralize and build the Internet of Mobility, by incentivizing and facilitating the use of alternative transport. By using the blockchain, iomob plans to minimize fees and allow mobility providers and end-users alike to connect on a peer-to-peer basis. In their own words: Iomob is “a system which produces a useful output at the lowest possible marginal cost.”

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