Through Sam's love of free happy hours around town, Matt and Sam found an incubator program that would help them form their "million dollar idea" into a functioning business. They were accepted into the Founder Institute incubator on September 18th.
The incubator met every Wednesday. Assignments included writing business value propositions and plans, conducting research interviews, and setting up various business services. And each week both Matt and Sam were expected to give a 1 minute pitch of their idea, the intention being that practicing and tweaking the pitch again and again would help solidify the idea, make it easier to articulate, and ultimately help them entice an investor when the time came.
The incubator provided feedback on the pitch and the assignments as well as brought in guests from the Austin entrepreneurial community to speak and share experiences. Another benefit of the incubator was that it provided a support group of other entrepreneurs who were trying to start their businesses at the same time.
Life in the Incubator
Matt and Sam hit the ground running. The incubator met every Wednesday, and every weekend they would work in a woodsy coffeeshop, thoughtfully completing the homework assigned to them.
It was fun and exciting. They felt like they were really doing something, like their $1,200 entrance fee was being put to good use.
But the work was hard and monotonous. It wasn't the work they were expecting to do. There was an ungodly amount of soul-searching work: essays about "Why I want to be an entrepreneur," and other self-help bull shit. And frankly, Matt and Sam didn't give a shit about that kind of stuff. They just wanted to solve a problem and build something sexy.
And the scores they got on their pitches each week remained the same. To the point where they thought it was rigged. They weren't able to adequately explain dating apps to bald, white men in 1 minute, and explain how XUP was an entirely different concept. The feedback was always the same: "But how are you different? And how will you compete? And how will you make money?" There were clearly class favorites. And entrepreneurs were dropping like flies around them.
After about a month, the work became absurd: in one week, survey 400 people about the user experience of your product. It wasn't attainable while working full-time. So Sam dropped out. He had reached a point where he decided he couldn't dedicate Wednesday nights to this fucking self-help incubator when what he really needed to do was divide and conquer. Matt could do the class while Sam could work on designing the app, finding a developer to build it, and testing out date experiences.
So Matt carried on in the class. He met with the other entrepreneurs, he completed some of the homework, and he listened intently to the guest speakers. And each Wednesday night after the class, Matt would meet Sam to transfer the knowledge from the class. And Sam would show him new designs.
The Mentor Idea Review - November 14th
The first major milestone of the class was a 3 minute pitch including a visual presentation. If the entrepreneur didn't get above a certain score, they would be kicked out of the incubator. The expectation was that the pitch would include pretty much all of the outcomes of the homework thus far, so Matt and Sam had some work to do. They wrote their business plan, they crafted their product roadmap, they quoted research about millenials. And Sam worked to build a company brand that would make the presentation look so put together, so thoroughly thought out, that the judges would write them checks right there and then.
Sam crafted the presentation and then Matt practiced delivering it at least 25 times. Maybe 50 times. Nah, probably not 50 times. Sam filmed Matt, laughed at him, judged him, timed him. And they tweaked it. They tweaked it real hard.
And soon, Matt's nonchalant delivery made it seem like the app was already built. They were ready to present.
And the award goes to…
So they made it. Kind of. They didn't get kicked out. So their pitch was "just alright."
The incubator assigned Matt and Sam a "special assignment" that would determine whether they could continue in the program. The incubator wanted more research, personas, interviews. They wanted more validation that people would actually use the product.
So Matt went to work rewriting the business plan and problem statements, and Sam designed this awesome, on-brand pdf for all the information. And then they submitted it.
They received no feedback. But they were invited to continue onto the next class. So, like, hooray. 🎉