Lizz Buenaventura from HobbyMash appreciates the time mentors are giving to nurture startups at the bootcamp. Photo: JFDI.Asia
While some startups are still busy hatching their idea and creating their minimum viable products, others are frantically swimming around like tadpoles.
Flocations and Fetch Plus are two startups that were quick off the starting block. Singapore-based Tudor Coman, co-founder of Flocations, an online search-by-price air travel directory, already has a prototype up and running. His team is now working on ‘Project Picasso’, which aims to beautify and improve the user interface.
With any luck, they’ll unveil the new features by March. “We are big lean startup buffs, so we are releasing these cool functions exclusively to members that have been active on the site and getting direct feedback from them on a daily basis,” he said.
Carmen Bernitez, founder of Singapore social media company Fetch Plus, is already meeting with sales teams from multinational corporations throughout Asia and in Australia, in addition to refining her product.
“What’s my start-up not working on? she asked. Several new companies in the United States are already testing out FetchFans, an app that builds highly interactive Facebook Page tabs and Twitter designs.
Whatever the progress of their startups, all the incubatees are learning valuable lessons on attracting investors, building a great product, and listening to customers.
Filipino Jofell Gallardo from Qryo, which is building apps based on QR codes, found the investor’s pitch on day two especially memorable.
“I swore to myself I will never be embarrassed that way again, though then again there is Reid Hoffman’s advice of ’If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late’,” he said.
Malaysian Devan Singaram from referral recruiting app TribeHired chimed in: “It’s like getting into a boxing ring and being on the receiving end of power punches before the bell has rung.”
Like any bootcamp, after the requisite breaking down comes a gradual building up process, courtesy of the ‘Frog Force’ of Hugh Mason, Wong Meng Weng, and a constant stream of guest mentors who readily share their entrepreneurial experience and insights.
While coding a product feverishly is important, Devan has learnt that appreciating the scenery is necessary too. “We need to take the time to think about the problem we face. Are we asking the right questions, and are we solving it in a different way?”
Lizz Buenaventura from Startup Weekend Manila winner HobbyMash, which is building a web community for people with shared interests, said: “The mentors are quite popular and probably wouldn’t give us the time of day if we approached them off the street. So it’s a big deal that they’re here and ready to teach.”
Daniel Simon of Kark Mobile Education, which emerged on top at the Telkomsel Startup Bootcamp in Jakarta, learnt that it’s important not to sprint too fast. “We must get all team member on the right track and set a pace for ourselves so that we will not get ‘worn out’ along this bootcamp.”
Tudor has gleaned from from his mentors about the importance of focus. “Focusing is difficult when you’re being influenced by so many great minds. You want to appease all of them, use their insights, but the rule is to do one thing and do it well,” he said.
Product development has been a mantra among the incubatees so far. But Tudor believes marketing is equally important.
“We’re all engineers, with separate functions. We have the mentality that if you put a great product out, people will buy it — that’s why everyone uses Linux, as Meng says. However, this very far from the truth and we have discovered that our great product needs marketing legs to stand on,” he said.
Ultimately, the bootcamp has been a roller coaster ride for these startups. Carmen has been forced to rethink many elements of her business.
Tudor has felt guilty at times for the privilege of being able to “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
“The mentors pop in and out of JFDI and share quick tidbits of info with you, or sit with you and scrutinize your business in order to force you to realize what you’re actually doing or how you’re doing it, or why,” he said.
“It’s stressful at times and also invigorating.”
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