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Reflections of a newbie mentor on startup speed dating at Startupbootcamp

Bernard Lunn reviews the recent Startupbootcamp. Image: Freepik
Written by Bernard Lunn

Bernard Lunn reviews the recent Startupbootcamp Fintech in Zurich and shares his observations on how to get the best from these events.

This is what I learned about the startup speed dating format (5-minute pitch and then 15 minutes one-on-one mentor/startup) in Zurich recently for Startupbootcamp Fintech.

  1. Startups need more coaching on how to get the best from these events. Maybe the first event is where they learn, but this is not using mentor time to best advantage.
  2. One specific thing was unclear to me at least, and I think to some of the founders. Was one supposed to give feedback on quality of presentation or on substantive issues related to things such as business model, competition, team and go-to-market strategy?
  3. Style and substance are not opposed to each other. For people who are deep into the product, squeezing all the knowledge and passion into five minutes can be torture, and then dealing with questions from mentors that are ill informed makes it worse (mentors are hardly briefed after five minutes). However, great ventures have clarity of mission and proposition, and this can come out in 30 seconds, let alone five minutes.
  4. My one note to founders: never act defensive or annoyed, no matter how dumb the comment or question. That ‘ignorant idiot’ could open the most critical door for you right now. Get used to snap judgments from potential customers, partners, employees and investors – it comes with the startup territory.
  5. Naysayers may offer you a to-do list and this is valuable. When you have worked so hard on your creation, it’s hard to take advice on something else that you need. Sometimes, you really do need to say no and stay focused. On other occasions, that feature suggestion could be key and you need to figure out how to deliver it. Knowing which is which is clearly a judgment call and that’s one thing that smart investors look for in a founding team.
  6. Founding team dynamics are critical and cannot be faked. Tough questions can reveal founders who clearly don’t see eye to eye and will not work well as a team, or can reveal a real team spirit where there is mutual respect and a willingness to hash out tough issues together.
  7. The quality was hugely variable, as one would expect for innovation this early in the funnel. There were some that seemed ready for investors with a little more work. There were others that just left one scratching one’s head. Startups are hard.

From the department of shameless promotion, I put what I know about breaking into new markets into my book Mindshare to Marketshare.

This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. You can read the original article by Bernard Lunn of Daily Fintech.

About the author

Bernard Lunn

Bernard Lunn is a serial entrepreneur who used to work for fintech companies such as Misys and Temenos. He has done turnarounds and startups in America, Asia and Europe. He lives in Switzerland and works as an adviser connecting banks, funds and strategics to fintech innovation globally. As part of the research for this, he is Founding Editor of Daily Fintech and provides mentoring to startups.

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