Incubating Dreams @startmate
Nearly a year has gone past since we @scriptrock were accepted into Startmate.
The ride has been wild, putting everything you’ve got on the line, describing your dreams to strangers and convincing everyone you have what it takes is lying before you.
I’ll give a rough breakdown of what our last week looked like.
1. We furiously worked on the prototype.
2. Our video was reworked at least 20 - 30 times (we stole time from work to hang out in cafes, bars, libraries and outdoor spaces with sketchy wifi) and was the source of very little sleep.
3. Alan was drained from working all day and then all night on the product video doing the voice overs and meticulously getting the story right.
4. He then isolated himself in a car to do the final voice over (the first 10 times, planes, trains and automobiles just got in the way of the sound he wanted)
5. We made a decision to put music into the background of the video (Hendrix playing Voodoo Chile) in hindsight probably a bad decision as it distracts from the message ;)
6. We rewrote our application heaps of times. Tweaking words and putting in as much background experience as possible. (also probably not ideal)
7. We randomly connected with Startmate people trying to get the skinny on what the mentors responded to. (Thanks AJ!)
8. I think we had a crude landing page up at the time (with next to no information about what we did)
9. The moment we pressed the send button on the application a sense of inevitable relief fell upon us, quicky replaced by a terrifying feeling of dread.
10. We submitted about 2 hours before applications closed. After submitting we talked about how we could have improved it, but then gave up about 5 mins later.
Then the wait started, it felt as though it stretched on for years…. it was agonizing.
We were all still working full time jobs, but stayed in constant contact, there was still so much to do. We snuck away at lunch to talk about it and gather intel from twitter on who else had applied. We didn’t tell anyone that we had applied (mostly for fear of failure)
We watched the video (well I did) repeatedly, until I realized the hits were logged and we wouldn’t be able to tell if anyone aside from us had been watching it. We stopped immediately. But kept scraping the page waiting for a increase.
We started following people on twitter, judging the other companies that applied, assesing their talent and the idea that they had…we became frightened and had stopped by the following Tuesday.
Then a few days later sweet relief, we were invited in for an interview.
Alan read the email out, we all man hugged then promptly sat down and freaked out.
The interview was a full day event and we would be doing interviews with all of the mentors individually.
We tried to prepare but then just gave up. We couldn’t, we racked our brains on what they would ask, came to conclusions but then decided “screw it”. We would rock up, be ourselves and tune accordingly
Inner tension builds counting down to interview day. You find yourself trying to learn as much about the program, startup mentors and the general scene. Nothing can really prepare you.
I remember the first time we rocked up to ATP, we were all nervous. It turned out we were not alone, there was around 20 people congregating around the brown couches in the foyer all looking equally concerned.
Some would acknowledge you, others were in zen focus mode, looking only to size you up. (Setkick had a live video session to a co-founder in Canada open)
The mentors looked human, smiling and trying to put everyone at ease. They looked just like regular people.
Niki announced a round robin session with 5 or 10 minutes per team with mentors, there were 10 mentors sitting inside the meeting room at tables waiting for each team.
Hint: Go for the jugular at this point, the competition looked strong to us, we decided to make sure that we would meet with every mentor at all costs, if we were going to fail we would at least get feedback from everyone of them.
The day was gruelling, 5 minutes to describe what you were building, why anyone would care, how you would make money, how long had you known one another and why you are the ones capable of building this thing. The questions were weird at the time, but in hindsight make sense now.
You quickly realize that they have seen heaps of pitches and are pattern matching, they are looking for a formula that you may have. You cannot bullshit what they are looking for so just be yourselves.
The day wore on, we missed out meeting 2 mentors as they had other business to attend to, we started to follow them but the other startups also had the same idea and descended like vultures. We looked on in dismay as they chatted happily on the way out.
More mentors cycled in, we promptly pounced and met with them.
We occasionally chatted with the other founders, but it was idle small talk, we were blown away by some of the teams, everyone was focussed on getting in front of the mentors.
It was dark by the time we left, we were drained emotionally and mentally. We all went home for another waiting game.
Alan had to do a short contract in Melbourne for a week, and flew down. We wouldn’t see him again until a few days after we had found out we were in.
I remember the day really well, Leo and I worked in the same building on announcement day and we were keeping a close eye on twitter and forums in general.
Around me people could tell something was up, I just couldn’t focus during the day.
News starting breaking on twitter, people who hadn’t made it in were tweeting, we waited, at around 2pm we had read several more tweets from teams not getting in.
We kept on waiting…
At about 3pm, Leo and I couldn’t take the pressure, we hijacked a meeting room and paced back and forth reading updates theorizing why it was taking so long…Then Alan rang.
Leo put him on speakerphone. My knuckles were white from holding the armrest on my seat.
Alan started…“I just got the email…we’re not in”
Leo and I looked at each other, his face fell…I was sad, the world and time seemed to crawl to a stop.
Alan continued “fuck you guys, I’m joking we are in!”
Leo and I both screamed at the phone calling him all types of names.
We hugged, told Alan he was an asshole and sat back down in our chairs.
We had 3 or 4 weeks to settle all of our business and start the program.
It was on.