It has been a while since our last post, and for good reasons. We have been quite busy at the F10 Incubator & Accelerator. Today, after already 6 weeks in the program, and 3 intensive weeks of masterclasses, I decided to get back to the blog and write a little bit about this amazing experience.
To start with, I’ll hopefully answer the questions I’m getting almost every day now: What is exactly an “incubator” and what are we doing in Zürich?
Dive into the incubator life
Being part of the “P2: Prototype to Product” program at F10, we benefit from having our own office space at the F10 office, but more importantly, the full support and assistance of the incubator’s mentors and coaches, as well as industry specialists.
OK, that’s for the official version, but more concretely…
On the first day, the tempo is given by a first quick and friendly get-to-know-each-other-startup, rapid office tour and expedited housekeeping rules. We mainly remember from this that 2 things are free: coffee and beers, we call this now our “survival kit”… Now that we know each other and the rules, let’s get serious and start by not less than a Grand Opening Ceremony!
What a better way to start the program by a first pitch on stage, in front of a panel of the experts and influencers of the Swiss Fintech scene. Pressure is high and even reach its peak when we realized that microphones weren’t working (hum!). Anyway, we did our best and delivered our message. After this stressing exercise, we had the opportunity during the apero to network and exchange experiences with some people from the audience as well as other startup members. What a day !
The rest of the week was packed with elaborating business models, studying customer journey, as well as working intensively on our vision and mission. All sessions usually composed by a quick teaching, then a practical assessment that we have to present to our startups colleague – this helps a lot our public speaking skills. We are drilled the whole day, and evening are usually used to recap the learning and make sure we apply them to reach our milestones and keeping the startup on the right track.
The week has gone so fast that Friday is already here. A day that will probably stay graved into many startup fellows being there first experience in curling. The great thing about this sport is that, with a little bit of practice and training given by the instructors of the club, it put everybody on the same level. The day ended, of course, with a fondue, another great experience for our international friends.
Not a sprint, but a marathon
The second masterclass came right after a flash week-end of rest. Things are getting more practical with sessions on risk management, customer interviews and basics on prototyping. We did benefit as well a lot from sessions given by experts external to F10: team building workshop, legal presentation or co-founding advice. I think everybody will remember the pitch training classes given by a former swiss TV star!
Days are usually intense at the office, starting before 8am and ending late at night. We tried to enjoy a F10 beer and debrief the day as much as possible. In our case, this is also a good co-founder self-assessment as we then shared an AirBnb in the middle of Zürich.
This is, again, exhausted, but with the head packed of learning and good energy that we went home again, seeing family and get some sleep. There will then be 4 weeks before the next masterclasses in Zürich. This doesn’t mean we should slow down, and rather stay focused on reaching our milestones and of course carrying on developing the business and product. Weekly meetings are also planned with two very important persons of the program: our dedicated coach and our devoted mentor.
Third week of masterclasses, things are getting more and more concrete. We did not pitch an idea anymore, but rather a product and a structured offering. Every pitch have to be targeting the audience of possible partners in order to initiate a first collaboration with them. This week was also very special for us as being the first one demoing our online prototype to experts in the industry. We were impressed by the traction of external invitees coming to see our prototype. We received very valuable feedback during this exercise as well as confirmation that we are heading the right way.
Coach and mentor
Each startup has a coach assigned. The role of the coach is to be the main point of contact with the incubator and is supporting in making sure we reach our milestones, go in the right direction, and thus succeed in the program. We are really more than happy with our coach, he is always on a good advice, providing new ideas, pushing us to clarify the dark points and challenging our decision and assumptions. Being two Swiss engineers, we especially appreciate his straight forward feedback and answering promptly and precisely our questions.
Regarding mentorship, we have the privilege to work with a former executive of one of the biggest financial company in Switzerland. His role is to bring external insights, opinion and advice about our startup, and help us with the execution steps. We are really grateful to have the opportunity to work with him and glad to receive the many pushes we sometimes need on our execution path.
Learning by Doing
The fundamental offering of an Incubator and Accelerator such as F10 is the unlimited access to its resource. Nothing moneywise though, but the ability to access an incredible pool of talented and insightful people to quickly test and validate any idea or concept. This benefit is priceless for us, as all the people present at F10 are top notch Fintech players or influencers.
In parallel of the incubator, we always keep an hear open to the “outside world” to make sure our offering will not be too narrowed down for a specific partner or influencer. For example we ran as well a survey campaign (we will present the details in a different article), and hold as many meetings with institutions as possible.
These inputs have result in us pivoting our business model a few time already.
We arrived at F10 with an advanced Personal Finance Management platform and a freemium subscription model. However, hours of elaborating business models on canvas and analysis showed us that we were sitting on something with a much bigger potential, and way more valuable for the end-customer…
That was the story of the journey so far, and we are looking for the next steps. But more importantly, what is then the output of those long days working and many beers popped late at night, on the F10 couch? This will be covered in a new article… stay tuned!