Week 8 + 9 @ExcelerateLabs: too much work, too little time...do less, better

I had one reprieve before the August push came...back to Colorado for some backpacking in Lost Creek Wilderness with Clare and Bear...fell asleep outside looking up at the stars and stumbled back to our tent, then slept like a rock. We're 3 weeks from demo day...insane.

We're lucky to have met so many great people here in Chicago...what an awesome community.

We're putting together partnerships, pilots, product and pitches...all at once.

We're going to go get back to work...

Bear...she's just a city dog...but she's LOVIN' it up here!

Week 7 @ExcelerateLabs: Introfly

OK, we've been a bit busy building. We've got some great people helping us launch the soon-to-be best way to meet people in career fields that you love:

We're going to need every human being that we've ever known to sign up, say, right this second...then tell every other human that you know to sign up too.

Feedback is critical at this point, so when we launch we'll let you know...don't be shy!

Click the logo above, click this link, follow us on twitter, spread the word, call everyone you know.  Now. Pretty please ;)

OK, back to work...

Week 5 @ExcelerateLabs: Build + test, re-build, test again...traction.

Mentor month is over.  Wow.  Over 60 meetings.  Lots of good ones.  Lots of confusing ones.  Lucky to be able to have had them all. Time to get our new app live and get as many interested people as possible to try it out...like it...then tell their friends.

Simple enough?

We're re-launching our site with 100% emphasis on helping job seekers connect with the right people...not directly with job applications, but with connections with other people that can help them.  This is not a Facebook app or a LinkedIn app, or an email app.  It is all of those things in one simple interface where introductions and chance meetings that you make through this app could change the course of your life.

Simple enough?

Ok, let's get started.  Glad my wife surprised me this past weekend.  She is my rock and my foundation.  Without her I would not have the ability to take the chances I'm taking.  We had a great time in Chicago.  Love this city.



Week 4 @ExcelerateLabs: Set up tools for data driven decisions

We're launching a new update of BC here very soon. We'll be testing a variety of things with landing pages and focus groups first, trying to find that hook that:

1. Draws attention because it is different.

2. Gets job seekers something they really want...something that makes what they're already doing easier + better.

3. Moves users from thinking that we are 'nice to have' into something that they say 'don't take it away'.

4. Gets users to tell others about it.

Setting up to track all user activity is going to be key.  The toolset is below.  Any suggestions?  Let me know.

Updates to come.

Week 3 @ExcelerateLabs: Focus, test, build

The Excelerate Labs Mentor Twitter list was popular, so keep checking it out...I'll be adding more tomorrow. We had another insane week, but we're starting to get focused:

1. We validated some assumptions and ditched some others.

2. We are beginning interviews, focus groups and user testing this week.

3. We are BUILDING parts of our new site this week...I'm really impatient about this one.

One of the most important questions we were asked was "what percentage of your app features come from your users VS your vision?". Ummm, 70/30?  90/10? The wrong 90/10?  Ouch.  That is why we are hammering on learning like crazy and quickly building to test and iterate...no more long builds and long guesses here.

One book I'm dusting off is Positioning...there are far too many ways in our industry to be bland and generic...we CANNOT succumb to trying to be like everyone else.  User experience is a big part of that.  Communicating to get users to experience us is just as important.

Here's to another great week.  One week at a time.

View from our sublet (we actually have an apartment to call our own, at least for the next couple months):

Week 2 @ExcelerateLabs: User Acquisition Strategy

Another week, another set of great meetings.  The quality of the conversations are getting better too. If you want to follow some of the mentors, here is my twitter list.

Before our last meeting with Mike from LinkedIn, we met with Sam and got some immense focus: don't just show up on demo day with a great product you "just know" everyone will love...show up with a solid, focused way to show "this is how we will get 100k, then 1m, then 10m users, etc".  Tell that story that leaves the audience saying "how do I get in on this".

As I go through a pile of notes from the past few days I'm seeing patterns and we're starting to crystalize where we need to focus.  After all, 3 half-assed strategies will fail and 1 full-on strategy has the best chance of succeeding.  It is getting the feedback on these 3 strategies we've laid out that helps the most.

Last, we're getting to know the other teams here really well...happy hour last night was great.  We all need to blow off some steam and that was needed.

Chicago is cold and rainy...but great for a run today. Here was the view:

Week 1 @ExcelerateLabs: Mentor crash course

This past week my co-founder Kevin Melgaard (and friend since 1994) and I started at Excelerate Labs, the nation's #3 web startup mentorship-driven accelerator. We will be spending the next 90 days meeting with the best and brightest start up mentors (investors, entrepreneurs, teachers...all around successful people) to get a crash course the on the best way to launch a web startup. Building relationships with the best-fit mentors is job #1 at this point. After all, being resourceful as hell is the key to being a good entrepreneur, right? Here...the resources are coming to us. It is our job to make the most of it.

Getting in was hard. Excelerate gets hundreds of applications from all over the country. They only pick 10 companies. Getting in was great validation, not that we've got some insanely awesome idea, but that we've busted our asses and that we've shown we have what it takes to go through the REALLY rough spots of going through a startup and still

We've got a ton of work to do to build a better product, build a better team, build a better business...in 80 days...no pressure, eh?

After the first week, we've:

- Pitched to 100+ mentors, after hearing we would only the morning of...great learning experience and I'm glad it happened the way it did.

- Sat with David Cohen, Brad Feld, IDEO, Craig Wortmann, the class of 2010 Excelerate and many others. Seriously, how else could you get this level of quality in one week?

- Met with the Excelerate leaders about where we are and where we need to go.

- Slept very little and learned a lot.

Here's to week 2...starting bright and early tomorrow!