gener8tor’s View on Startups – The Five Essentials
From our perspective at gener8tor, a fundable startup features five essentials:
- A hustler
- A visionary/operations person
- A brilliant user experience lead
- A great hacker
- An innovative business model*
In other words, the startups that grab our interest are four-fifths people and one part business model. This plays out in practice as startups offering ‘A’ execution of a ‘B’ plan appeal to us far more than those promising ‘B’ execution of an ‘A+’ plan.
The hustlers lead it off for us and for good reason – they verify, validate and sell. We know our hustler-led teams because they’re the ones grabbing revenues, getting attention, and securing follow-on funding before the others. More philosophically, hustlers fit our model of customer-driven development through minimum viable product and quick customer feedback loops. From an investor’s perspective, the hustlers just make you feel better about the whole endeavor. Hustlers live on what they kill, which aligns well with a startup’s priorities.
We put the visionary and operations hat together for a reason – they’re in tension and startups need someone who can balance the stress of day-to-day startup life with the dream-big mentality that makes the grind worth it. Startups tend to come with team sizes in the single-digits and responsibilities that stretch across job descriptions. With so much to do and so few people to do it, the startup is going to need someone who can balance the long-term direction of the enterprise with the practical concerns of who is going to deliver on your development milestone that’s due tomorrow.
We talk a lot at Gener8tor about the intersection of business and the arts with the hope that one day we’ll see more artists realizing that their skills belong in a software startup. All too often we see teams of business students or programmers who have no idea how to present their digital identity to the world. The problems that come with being unable to communicate clearly in your main channel are tremendous. We value teams that carry a UX expert who designs with the end user in mind, educates and guides users with images, text, and layouts, and who appreciates the value of testing and analytics as much as their own creative intuition.
And our hackers - Wisconsin has them and they’re part of the reason we’re confident this program will work. Our hackers fear no engineering project, however great or small. They identify a problem/need, devise and develop solutions solutions, and they do it more efficiently and enthusiastically at innovative startups that are close to home. If you’re a hacker who cares about creating software that could change the world, contact us with your ideas and show us your talent – we’d love to hear from you.
Finally, we’re looking for innovative business models. We challenge those who apply to our program to think outside of their day-to-day lives for innovative ideas. For example, if you’re idea is accessible to anyone who has gone to a restaurant or stayed at a hotel room, chances are the legions of entrepreneurs looking for an accessible idea have mined the area thoroughly. But if you’ve worked in a menial job that no one is paying attention to for improvements or obtained industry experience that gives you a unique and valuable perspective on what people are willing to pay to do differently, chances are you should apply. We’re fascinated with the intersection of new technology with spots in the non-virtual world that have yet to realize a disruptive impact.
While we look for startups with these 5 essentials in our application process, what we’re really looking for are the best combinations of all the elements. We want applicants who can grow into something bigger than themselves, and most of all, those who have the will power and passion to keep going when the reality of startup life sets in.
*Thanks to Fred Wilson for his work in explaining a similar model he employs.