Western Mass Demo Day! Wha who!

Western Mass Demo Day Connects Local Startups to Investors.

This is an invite-only event for active & accredited investors to hear pitches from startups with a connection to Western Massachusetts. Startups get an optimized way to meet a room full of different investors, many with a strong interest in companies connected to the region. Investors get a first look at the startups, meet the founders, and network with other investors.

This event is organized by a coalition of the region’s startup investors including: Launch413, River Valley Investors, Springfield Venture Fund, Milltown Capital, Alchemy Fund, Golden Seeds, the Maroon Fund, and the event is hosted by our friends at Valley Venture Mentors. For regulatory compliance reasons, representatives of other investment groups & funds who wish to attend need simply request an invitation. Members of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem who wish to observe may also request an invitation.

Value Proposition for Startups

If you want to raise money now or in the near future, Western MA Demo Day puts you in a room full of people with money, who actively invest in companies like you, and who are keen to be helpful. And… there is no fee to apply or participate!

Learn more & apply at: www.westernmademoday.com

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An Engine to Find Product/Market Fit

Previously I shared Brad Feld & Neeraj Agrawal’s descriptions of how hard it is for a startup to achieve product/market fit… and the ramifications of that failure. Recently Jim Stanczak kindly shared an article identifying the solution: a numbers-based, systematic, empirical process for measuring product/market fit and iterating your product towards it. This article is pure gold. Highlights:

0) Anchor on a leading indicator.

Just ask users “how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?” and measure the percent who answer “very disappointed.”

After benchmarking nearly a hundred startups with his customer development survey, Ellis found that the magic number was 40%.

1) Segment to find your supporters and paint a picture of your high-expectation customers.

As an early-stage team, you could just narrow the market with preconceived notions of who you think the product is for, but that won’t teach you anything new. If you instead use the “very disappointed” group of survey respondents as a lens to narrow the market, the data can speak for itself — and you may even uncover different markets where your product resonates very strongly.

2) Analyze feedback to convert on-the-fence users into fanatics.

This batch of not disappointed users should not impact your product strategy in any way. They’ll request distracting features, present ill-fitting use cases and probably be very vocal, all before they churn out and leave you with a mangled, muddled roadmap. As surprising or painful as it may seem, don’t act on their feedback — it will lead you astray on your quest for product/market fit.

3) Build your roadmap by doubling down on what users love and addressing what holds others back.

To increase your product/market fit score, spend half your time doubling down on what users already love and the other half on addressing what’s holding others back.

4) Repeat the process and make the product/market fit score the most important metric.

The percent of users who answered “very disappointed” quickly became our most important number. It was our most highly visible metric, and we tracked it on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. To make this easier to measure over time, we built some custom tooling to constantly survey new users and update our aggregate numbers for each timeframe. We also refocused the product team, creating an OKR where the only key result was the very disappointed percentage so we could ensure that we continually increased our product/market fit.

Read the whole article and consider it an instruction manual. We certainly are at Launch413. My thanks to Rahul Vohra for taking the time to document this process and share it with the world.

Do You Have Product/Market Fit?

Ran across these great blog posts (The Illusion of Product/Market Fit for SaaS CompaniesThe SaaS Adventure) by Brad Feld & Neeraj Agrawal respectively. Product/Market Fit is now, appropriately, a central concept in startups. But when do you have it?

  1. If you think you have it, odds are darn good you don’t. Is your data really robust enough for you to know you have it?
  2. If you do have it, odds are good you don’t have it good enough to scale!
  3. If you do have it, and you are actually ready to scale… be ready for the world to change and for you to lose Product/Market fit… at scale!

Not trying to be a downer, but getting these questions wrong can kill your company. Luckily, those two posts have some great rules-of-thumb for keeping you honest and on track.

 

Launch413 Completes Seed Round

My thanks to the many people who put their faith in Rick Plaut and my new venture, Launch413. A special thanks to the many members of River Valley Investors who provided the pre-seed funding to get us started and then played a big part in finishing our seed round.

For those that don’t know Launch413, we are an alternative venture fund that takes startups from Launch to their first $10 million in revenue. We are serial entrepreneurs and veteran executives dedicated to helping startups become engines of prosperity in our region. We accelerate our entrepreneur’s progress by investing our expertise & networks to provide strategies and introductions that would have taken years to acquire on their own.

Launch413 uses a royalty-based model instead of equity, allowing our entrepreneurs to keep 100% ownership of their venture.

We are now actively seeking companies to invest in. If you know any great startups with a connection to Western Massachusetts and who want to scale to at least $10 million in revenue, let me know :).

Launch413 Begins Phase 2, Investing in More Companies!

Launch413 Logo 2018

Launch413 is itself a startup, and like all startups has lots of hypothesis to test. I’m proud to share that we just completed Phase 1 and validated all of our core hypothesis:

  • With our help startups accomplish in months what would have taken them years to do on their own
  • Our Venture Advisors can provide that help in a scalable-way
  • There are enough startups connected to our region that want our kind of investment

Time for Phase 2: take on twice as many startups to make sure our systems scale. If everything works as we expect (within the bounds of startup land :)), then in a few short years we will, every year thereafter, help 4-8 local companies reach at least $3 million in revenue. Do that for a few years and the jobs, wealth, and prosperity created starts to get really exciting!

So we’re looking to add 3 more companies to our portfolio. If you know a great startup past the I-have-an-idea / VVM stage and raring to reach their first $10 million in revenue, please send them to our spiffy new website: www.launch413.com.

Launch413 invests in WoofTrax

WoofTrax Logo, a person walking a dog

I am proud to announce the latest addition to Launch413‘s portfolio: WoofTrax. Led by Doug Hexter, WoofTrax helps pet parents and their dogs stay healthy and generate donations to their favorite animal shelter… just by going for a walk and reading relevant pet-health information. WoofTrax has facilitated over 10 million walks on behalf of over 7,000 animal shelters across the country.

Some of their customer testimonials:

“I love using the app, and have actually lost 32 lbs. and 5 inches off my waist by walking my dogs and the shelter/rescue dogs. I promote you every chance I get! Thank you 😊” —Kimberly, via Facebook

“One of a kind app! As a Nonprofit Leadership and Management student, fundraising is imperative for the survival of any nonprofit organization. By creating a practical app that is user friendly fundraising can be done by anyone, and better yet, you get to hangout with your dog while you do it! The design of this app is professional and very easy to maneuver. I love how easy it is to create an account, and get started, raising money right away! The content of this app is very minimal, it tells you who you are walking with, who you are walking for, how long you have been walking, and how far you have walked. This app is very innovative. It is literally one of a kind. The app is very easy to use and navigate. There are not many functions, and everything is clearly labeled and easy to find.” —adgilles, iOS App Store review

We are excited about WoofTrax’s potential to do well by doing good and are delighted to be working with them.

For those that don’t know Launch413, we are an alternative venture fund helping startups go from launch to their first $10 million in revenue.

Launch413 Announces First Investment Cohort

One of the two new ventures I launched in the fall is Launch413, an alternative venture fund helping startups get from launch to their first ten million in revenue.

We hoped to find four great companies to invest in by the end of 2018. I am delighted to announce that filled our cohort (see the list here) by the end of February.

We’re an alternative venture fund for many reasons, one of them is that we roll up our sleeves and really help the companies grow. Over the coming months I look forward to sharing some of our entrepreneur’s successes. Stay tuned!