October was a really busy month. We graduated from the MEL20 cohort of Startmate and with a new cohort kicking off in January, as new alumni, we thought we’d share some learnings and answer a few questions for those thinking of applying.
What is Startmate?
The Startmate accelerator is a mentor-driven community – where mentors actually invest their own $ – underpinned by an intensive 12-week program to unleash the ambition of Australia and New Zealand’s founders and propel them toward their goals.
Companies receive $120k and join a network for life, which boasts some of the region’s best founders and operators.
- We are not a course in entrepreneurship.
- We don’t tell you what to do.
- We are flexible and provide what you need, but most of your time will be spent on building your business.
The program has been running since 2011 and demo day for our cohort coincided with Startmate’s 10th birthday. Over 110 companies have come through the program and are now collectively worth over $1B, including, Bugcrowd, Edrolo, Elevio, Flirtey, HappyCo, Propeller, Upguard, Vero and Workyard.
The program runs twice per year, in Summer (Jan-Apr) and Winter (Jul-Oct). In light of COVID-19, cohorts will be running remotely for the foreseeable future.
Where were we when we started?
This is a screenshot from our initial application. We knew from customer conversations there was a huge opportunity and looked at how we would fund development of a Slack app. We threw three balls in the air: angel investment, government grant and this thing we had heard of, Startmate. Thankfully they landed.
Are you too advanced for Startmate?
It doesn’t matter if you have $1M in ARR or haven’t even got a product, as long as you are wildly ambitious, pre-Series A, and tech-enabled – Startmate can help you.
We had a product in market and are moving from startup, to scaleup. That only saw us situated about mid-field for this cohort. There were solo founders developing their first product, through to a company that had already raised over $6M.
As part of the program we had senior product people from companies like Atlassian and Culture Amp helping us with product testing and advice, which would be valuable at any stage.
We could also reach out to almost to anyone in the broader network and they would happily set up some time to go through what we were building – it really is founders helping founders.
Will Startmate match my latest valuation?
The short answer is yes. We had previously raised an angel round and Startmate matched that valuation.
For new companies that haven’t raised, Startmate invests $120k at a $1.5M valuation.
What happened during the program?
Week 0 started with 11 AU and five NZ companies being firmly told to raise our ambition and not be afraid to ask for what we wanted. It really reminded me of Steve Jobs on Failure, where some of Steve’s late advice has really stuck with me, around: most people don’t get those experiences, because they never asked.
With that in mind, we defined three key goals for the program:
- Build and release a full feature Slack app for closed (organisation privacy) + open organisations (shared workspaces, e.g. Startmate) DONE
- Transition to a product-led growth strategy DONE
- Sign 12 new customers (one per week) PARTIAL 10/12
- As a bonus, we challenged ourselves internally to increase the thnx sent count (North Star metric) by 10% WoW DONE
We’ve been servicing our web platform for four years. Based on customer feedback, we set out to take our platform and introduce the first part of our channel strategy, building a full-feature Slack app.
We treated Startmate as a development cycle and built the app in nine weeks, which was a huge achievement and we are so proud of our small team for delivering on time. After testing and giving teams very much MVP versions of the product, we deployed with new customers on a closed basis, then open, across the Operator Network + Startmate shared work spaces.
We pushed really hard to ensure the product release coincided with demo day, where we had also realised a Day 1 company goal of distributing $1M to charity. Easy Agile, a fellow Pledge 1% member company, put the millionth dollar through the system, with Nick Muldoon (Co-CEO) saying the company was using Good Thnx to simultaneously engage their workforce and reinforce company values, which include Give back. “Using donation as a reward type, selected by an employee, is a powerful motivator,“ Nick said.
The release was picked up by Smart Company in a really great demo day wrap up story and we got to see our hard work recognised with the APAC head of Slack reaching out to see how they could assist moving forward.
Product-led growth (DONE)
Strategy, then realisation.
PLG is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. We started the program exploring best practice and settled on four points:
- DIY software (easy to try & deploy yourself)
- Fits any budget
- Predictable pricing
- Bottom up
A major component was rapidly updating our pricing model and improving user flow for both the Good Thnx platform and how the Slack interactions behave to enhance the thnx virality within a team to a broader workspace.
We set ourselves the goal of signing 12 new customers (one per week) during the program. We signed 10 new customers, but since demo day we’ve been receiving, on average, a new inbound lead every two days.
One of our new customers is a really big one, which will double our partner count from 200 to 400 charities and they’re bullish they will grow their use case to $10M in donations p/a.
Where to Next?
1-100. Lots of people talk about going from zero to one. It was bumpy, it took a while, but now we’re working on how to grow from $1M to $100M, or from $1M to $1B, in a much quicker time frame.
Sincerest thnx to our Startmate squad, fellow cohort founders and everyone from the community that reached out and rolled up their sleeves during the program.
We embraced the asynchronous nature of 2020 and achieved a lot. We really enjoyed the rigorous feedback and responsiveness from everyone – an amazing group that really does live the founders helping founders mantra. Much love!
Finally, to future founders considering whether to take the plunge – just do it!