I thought I knew what a Startup was… I was schooled!

In Fusionworks we are focused on competitiveness: we want our customers, our country and the markets in which we operate to be competitive. Therefore, we are in an eternal transformation by adding services and products to our portfolio, to optimize our customers operations, because being competitive is an ongoing process not a destination.

Although for over 13 years of growth we have successfully launched six different lines of business, our newest challenge is different, to develop our own software, for us to market globally. But each new challenge comes on the heels of a new learning process, launching a product it’s a totally different venture.

With eyes wide open and looking for ways to learn about launching a product to the market, we found I-Corps. I-Corps is a course offered by the Georgia Tech Venture Lab and is brought to the Island by Grupo Guayacán and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.

The course offers a pass to the world of humility, where any level of arrogance you might have because you think you may have business knowledge, disappears in a trice. The experience focuses on minimizing the failure of “startups”, following a methodology focused on diminishing the risks and the most common mistakes made when launching new products.

We were Team 134 for the workshops and presentations.

A Startup is not a small company that has a product in mind and needs capital to develop it. I learned that a Startup is a group of people that thoroughly investigates the problems of a segment of the population and after clearly understanding the problem, looks for a solution. A key message I learned is that “Most startups fail because they develop products that nobody wants to buy”.

Throughout the course they teach the teams to research, interview people, to write relevant questions and to design a series of hypotheses that through these interviews, help validate if the team’s idea is economically feasible. For a month, the goal is to reach about 100 interviews. So, it’s easy. If you have a business idea, the first thing you have to do is to interview about 100 people that somehow will receive value from that idea. Voila! If you are doing this you can claim you are in a Startup.

This is the second year the course is taught in Puerto Rico.  This year, 18 teams were admitted and  13 made it through the end. In our case, the interview process was very revealing. When we started we thought we had a “product”, and when we finished, we realized that what we had was a single module of a system that is much more comprehensive, and if fully developed, will add incredible value to the market segment we want to help.

The other thing we learned is that since a Startup does not have the resources to attack multiple large markets or industries its strategy and market segment bust be very granular. As specific as you can get.  For example, we started saying and our product was for retail and wholesalers.  We ended up understanding that our product was for branded food and beverage wholesale distributors.  That was the best thing that happened to us, it now sound much simpler to manage… So what I thought was a problem for Puerto Rican companies because specific industries are too small, ended up being grate, because those markets are very easy to reach and understand for a business that has very limited resources.  What this means is, you focus on a niche rather than multiple industries or markets, you demonstrate your success, then learn from other markets and continue growing. The key is focus!

Our team proudly displaying the I-Corps participation certificates.
Our team proudly displaying their I-Corps participation certificates.

In the process we also learned that a Startup initially makes minimally viable products  MVP) that do not scale, but are starting points. In fact, a picture or video may be sufficient to achieve that first client or investor. In one of the workshops, a team presented the idea of developing an app to send notifications to patients for certain medical conditions. The instructors asked the team that before building the App, they should find 30 people who had these conditions, send them the messages, and ask if they benefited from the service and how much they would pay for it. After that, they would know whether or not it was worth investing money in the App.

That simple: they didn’t have to invest anything and were are already in the market with a service.

Sometimes we focus on the product and forget what we are trying to achieve, which is to solve a problem for which the customer is willing to pay enough to cover our costs and profits.

Most businesses fail because they never “start”, they stay in a simple idea. Maybe that’s why these new success stories like Google and Facebook are called Startups, because the important thing is to START. Now you know where to start! As they say in I-Corps: “Get Out of the Building”… And we must leave the building, to learn and talk with customers, with 100 of them.

I urge all entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico to participate in this course, to get to know Grupo Guayacán and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, and learn about the great things that are happening in Puerto Rico. We thank Grupo Guayacán, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, and Georgia Tech for this great and important contribution to our company and our island, Puerto Rico.

We were definitely schooled!

This article was written by Fusionworks’ Director Jorge Mejía.

Fusionworks: experts in Microsoft GP, Microsoft CRM, Oracle Fusion Financials, Oracle EBS, Prophix, SAP Business Objects, Microsoft Power BI. 

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