Atlanta, Badgy, FlashpointGT, startups, Technology

Insider Thoughts on Flashpoint – Georgia Tech’s Startup Accelerator

My startup, Badgy, just finished as part of the first class of Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator. Flashpoint is taking applications for its summer class, and since plenty of people have asked for thoughts and advice, I thought I’d share them in a more public format. Apply by March 18th.

First, Flashpoint is the best thing going in the early-stage Atlanta Startup Community. Many programs exist and continue to emerge. Flashpoint provided the best workspace, mentors, guest speakers, peer group, and curriculum of ANYTHING I have seen in Atlanta. If I were starting a new tech startup in Atlanta today, I would apply to Flashpoint tomorrow. I think they will do a better job this class setting expectations that teams should work in the Flashpoint space, because teams can learn a lot from each other.

Second, companies should know what it is that the LOVE about their startup. Flashpoint will push and prod at every assumption you have about your startup, what it does, how it should work, distribution, you name it. Many of the passions for your startup will form the core of what you are, and Flashpoint will help you tweak every non-essential part of it on the path to finding product-market fit. I think that some of the teams with weaker convictions were somewhat set adrift by this pressure-cooker process. If you just want to start a startup and don’t know why, this may not be the place for you. I do think that some of the feedback can be a bit harsh, and could have been more constructive and rooted in industry knowledge. But bring a thick skin and you’ll be okay – we were getting hammered to pivot until a month before demo day.

Next, Flashpoint is not going to get you “funded”. Yes, the Flashpoint investment fund will probably offer you some cash (up to $25k) to fund some of what you need to do. Yes, we went to awesome demo days at Union Square Ventures in New York and Andreessen Horowitz in Silicon Valley, but the companies with the best funding results so far were the companies that already had the best funding prospects heading into the program. The first classes of any accelerator are an unknown commodity, and will be treated as such. The funding rate of our class will be lower that TechStars/YC, and will probable be lower than future classes of FlashPoint. I think the next class of Flashpoint will see more VC firms send partners instead of associates to FP demo days. I think there will be many success stories from Flashpoint Fall 2011. Flashpoint will make you more fundable, and I credit it for preparing me better for investor conversations that have started even after and outside of demo days.

Also, Flashpoint is not a part-time job. Teams that were distracted by day-jobs and college responsibilities seemed to make less progress than companies that were “all-in”. This is a function of both attention and urgency. I’m skeptical of the idea of bringing corporate teams into the Spring 2012 class, but it’s an experiment and I’m sure Flashpoint will measure it by its outcome.

Lastly, understand that Flashpoint is itself a startup. Flashpoint is following the customer discovery and lean startup principles it puts its own companies through. That means that not everything will be planned, and that things will change in unexpected ways, just like you would expect in your own startup. Just like your own startup becomes better organized, planned, and successful as you iterate, Flashpoint is learning how to succeed in Atlanta, with out community and surrounding resources. The Flashpoint team cares tremendously about their companies’ success, because that’s ultimately how their success will be measured.

Comment with other questions. What do you want to know?

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Cheap, Last-minute SXSW Interactive Tickets for the Busy Entrepreneur

As a startup founder, I found it hard to commit to attending SXSW until the past week, and I don’t have the time to spend goofing around hunting for a cheap ticket. I need the purchase to be transactional. SXSW will gladly sell you a last-minute pass for $950. But that’s expensive, and I’d rather spend my money building Badgy than on inflated ticket prices.

Time for our old friend eBay. A quick search for “SXSW Interactive” tickets with the “Buy it Now” option brings up several $600 options. Quick $350 savings. Amazingly, that’s just $5 more than what people paid if they committed to the “early bird” rate before September 23rd. I did this yesterday afternoon, swapped emails with the seller while I was at the gym, and had the pass transferred by 6 pm. Fast, transactional, cheap.

If the supply of $600 passes dies out on eBay, $700 seems like the going rate on CraigsList. A little more expensive, and less transactional, but still doable.

I can’t really help you with cheap airfare or lodging. The cheapest option for lodging would probably be to rent a van and sleep in it. And you can probably stay pretty close to all of the happenings. For next year, and really for any big event, a great option is to pre-book a room with a loose cancellation policy on AirBNB long before the renters and everyone else realize they need to book and jack up the rates for that week. If you decide you’re not going on the trip, you’ll only lose the AirBNB booking fee (10% of the overall price) when you cancel. I did this for the Super Bowl and was able to stay walking distance from all of the festivities in Indianapolis.

If you’re going to SXSW, let’s meet up! Give me a call or text at 404-663-9945, or email rob@bad.gy.