e@UBC Open Office Insights

Published on Monday, December 22, 2014

As we say goodbye to 2014, the e@UBC community wanted to share a few observations and tips from our Open Office sessions.

Dwell in Possibility, but Work in Reality

“I’ve spoken with numerous people who believe that running a businesses is like running a lab… all they need to do is get a patent and write some grant proposals, then “presto” opportunity will come knocking. What is often overlooked is validating a business model and sources of revenue. You should be able to fill in the blank about how much a real customer would be willing to pay for “X”.

Work with Customers, Not Assumptions!

“Many people get so excited about their venture that they forget to seek out potential customers (you know, the people who are willing to pay for the product) and ask them about their preferences for product features, service enhancements, etc. There’s a common belief that customers may not really know what they want, but to exclude them from your research is a major faux-pas. Feedback from customers helps to quickly validate or invalidate a business hypothesis, a step which is critical for any company to succeed.”   

BFF doesn’t equal COO

“Even if you have known someone since kindergarten, sharing ownership of your company based on friendships rather than company requirements, could be a recipe for disaster. What exactly will your BFF contribute to your team? What contributions will they make going forward? Likewise, offering a close friend a huge stake in your new venture without vetting their overall skill-set and contribution to the development of your company might not leave you in the best business position over the long term.”

Break Open the Piggy Bank

“It seems like numerous company founders rely too heavily on grants, angel investors and VCs to fund their ventures. Founders have to be willing to share the financial risk of investing in their company. After all, if you don’t want to invest in your company, why would anyone else?”

Speak to me in Grade 2

“My experience tells me that complicated stories delivered in a complicated way with buzz words, acronyms and scientific terms are a sure way to drive people away. Wordy language also suggests that you might not respect me enough to bother to tell the story in a way that fits my limited knowledge on the subject, or that you are too lazy to do so. If you take the time to use language that I can understand, I am more engaged with your company and feel like I “get it” right away.”

But we don’t have any competitors!

“Know who the competition is in your space and don’t be afraid of them. Do a thoughtful and thorough search on other companies and document the findings. Just because someone thought of it before you doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement or refinement of a product or service. In addition, your technology might be unique, but others may be solving the same problem for your customers in different ways – these are also competitors.”

Remember Your Ps and Qs

“Remember to say thanks to those people who have helped you with your startup. It takes no time to write a short “thank­-you” email and to provide periodic updates on your company’s progress. These small gestures create good will and help to build long term, sustainable relationships in your network. Don’t let your networking leads go cold!”

H-E-L-P, I Need Somebody

“I’ve noticed that people get so attached to their startups that they feel they have to take on the role of CEO, COO, CTO and CMO by themselves. It’s normal to wear alot of different hats, but when you start to feel overwhelmed it’s important to ask for help. There are a pool of mentors, advisors, academics, and other professionals who are very generous with their time and willing to help guide you. All you have to do is ask for their help.”

We hope these tidbits of wisdom help you get a fresh start for the New Year. See you in 2015!

Happy Holidays!

e@UBC Team