Sorry for the radio silence in blog land, we were accepted onto the TrueStart Accelerator Programme in mid-June and have been consumed in a whirlwind of activity ever since. I thought I’d share a quick 6-weeks into the programme review.
TrueStart Application process:
The initial application process for TrueStart was slightly less onerous than some of the other Accelerator Programmes running in London, quite a small number of questions on the form and the chance to submit a pitch deck/business plan. I was expecting that the next stage would be the ubiquitous 15 minute Skype interview (which I will never understand the point of) and was initially delighted to find out that this wasn’t part of the TrueStart application process. My delight was somewhat short lived when I realised that it was replaced with a 4 minute pitch to a panel of judges in what turned out to be an unfitted floor of an office in the amazing ZigZag building in Victoria. The bare concrete floors and loose wiring had me absolutely convinced that Luther was about to jump out and chase a suspect through the office (yes, I know that my obsession with Idris Elba is worrying). Thankfully the adrenalin from my conviction that we were about to be attacked by well dressed gangsters was funnelled into the pitch which went well, and after being asked a few very polite questions we wrapped up and left the session feeling positive and being told that we would hear one way or the other within 24hrs. Fast forward 72hrs later to a Friday evening and I think that Barny and I were probably the most depressed we’ve ever been, as we assumed no news was bad news. I’m fairly certain that we did quite a good job of drowning our sorrows that evening… And then I woke up on Saturday morning to an email saying that we were through to the next, and final, round of the process which was a 3 minute pitch to 300+ retailers and industry leaders at the R:Evolution conference! The conference was fantastic, and the pitch went well, it was just amazing to have that level of exposure to Retailers. It also absolutely convinced us that TrueStart would live up to the hype; it bills itself as being unlike any other Accelerator in Europe due to its connections to the retail sector, and I have to say that these guys are seriously connected … seriously connected. Before the R:Evolution conference I had visions of having to beg for introductions to Retailers, I think by the end of our second week on the programme we had met with at least 10 retailers and had a diary stuffed full of meetings.
As part of the programme you get 4 months of access to the TrueStart office space/innovation hub in Victoria. Barny has declared that this is the nicest office he has ever worked in, and I’m happy as it keeps my record of only ever working in Land Securities Buildings in London intact. Here is a photo of our desks.
The other startups in the hub are incredibly diverse and inspiring; everything from Veg Water from JF Rabbit (http://www.jfrabbit.com/) to sensor driven Smart clothing labels from Appaparel. We have carefully positioned ourselves opposite Casso Cocktails (http://cassococktails.com/) – unlimited access to lovely cocktails that come in glass jars, what more could you want? It is really fantastic to have access to a ready made bunch of Founder Friends who are all going through a similar journey to us and always have time to help, give us advice and chat.
The other major plus of the programme so far is the access to the mentors, and especially the wonderful Entrepreneur in Residence Rich Anson who is definitely one of the friendliest and calmest people I have ever met, and has so far managed to dish out excellent advice in our weekly meetings on topics ranging from setting up Employee Options schemes, to getting a Customer Support function up and running.
Not really! There could be better internet in the hub (it has been a bit inconsistent over the last couple of weeks), and a bigger fridge in the kitchen would be nice….
So are we enjoying it? And is applying to an Accelerator (and the scary pitch) worth the effort?
Yes, and yes. Get your application in for the Winter Collection (but please bring a small team with you, as I’d like to keep my desk after our 4 months are up!).