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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11 thoughts on “Insider Thoughts on Flashpoint – Georgia Tech’s Startup Accelerator

  1. If a team has two members — say one technical and the other business/market — how important is it for both of them to be present at the Flashpoint offices during business hours? I know of several potential teams with that profile who could devote significant time, but mainly nights/weekends for at least one of them.

    I’m not asking about criteria for being accepted. My focus is on what you feel is important to really benefit form the program, based on your experience.

    Thanks for your post. It should be extremely helpful to anyone potentially interested in the program.

    1. Good question. One interesting aspect of the program is that, especially early in the program, it’s as important for you to be out talking to real customers, showing them things, and iterating, as it is for you to be “at the Flashpoint offices”. I happen to believe that it’s important to have 2 people in these meetings to get a balanced perspective and to give the person who isn’t primarily speaking room to observe non-verbal cues.

      So yes, clearly it’s up to that sort of team to decide whether to apply and up to Flashpoint to decide whether to accept the team. I felt like teams that were less than full-time made less progress than those that were. As Flashpoint grows, I expect it will become impossible for a part-time time to make it, because a high-octane part time team will be out-learned and out-iterated by a slightly lesser full-time team. Others might disagree.

      1. You’ve already answered some questions at the back of my head. I’ve got related concerns as what telanon said.

  2. Thanks for this insight. I just applied for the Winter 13 class and I am praying that we get in. I am not a seasoned entreprenur but I am also not a rookie, so I am really hoping to get that mentorship from the Flashpoint program.

      1. The company is Intelligent Bar Innovations. We have a product that will put a new tech savvy spin on bartending. Our concept is awesome, we have gotten really good feedback on the prototype, but my only reservation is that I have not seen one company that made it into flashpoint with a phsyical product. Most are software based or web based. But we shall see what the Flashpoint team thinks about it.

  3. Do you think Flashpiont is a good space for a company with a consumer product that’s not quite under the category of “technology?”

    1. It’s possible. It really depends on where you are with the product. If you’re early in the process and willing to adjust your product vision based on what you hear from potential customers, Flashpoint could be good for you. If you’re very confident about what your product needs to be and who needs it… if you have good traction, you’re probably too far along for Flashpoint. If not, you probably could reconsider your assumptions and do Flashpoint.

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