TechLaunch Grads Reveal Best Advice They Received From Mentors


Photo: The audience was packed for TechLaunch's demo day. Photo Credit: Mike Peters/Montclair State University
The audience was packed for TechLaunch's demo day. | Mike Peters/Montclair State University

NJTechWeekly.com attended the TechLaunch Demo Day Sept. 19, 2013, and saw nine polished presentations from the startups who had attended the 16-week program in Clifton. All the presenters had come a long way since they started the program, and it was amazing to think of how far they could go.

The class included a business-to-business (B2B) startup, a hardware startup product, social health companies, a messaging startup, e-commerce companies and some we’d have trouble categorizing. All the founding teams had good, solid credentials and demonstrated strategies they would use to get themselves to the next level. What’s next for these companies? Execution of the plans they’ve made.

NJTechWeekly.com asked the startups for the best piece of advice they had been given by a mentor at TechLaunch and why or how it helped them.

  • Just get the product out there and begin testing.

Hazarai CEO Ian Griggs: It would be hard to narrow it down to just one piece of advice, considering we were provided with 16 weeks of input from some of the best minds in the startup community. Something in particular that stuck out for us came from one of our mentors, Mike Ajnsztajn, who encouraged us to just get our product out there and start testing. Even if it isn’t perfect yet, don’t worry; just get it out there and start getting feedback. In the past we’ve tended to want to wait until everything was just right before releasing it, which it never will be, and the market validation we received from testing early was incredibly useful — which we wouldn’t have known had we gone our typical route.

Photo: Hazarai, a tech company whose motto is "For all Fankind" presented at demo day. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Hazarai, a tech company whose motto is "For all Fankind" presented at demo day. | Esther Surden

30 Second Showcase CEO James Kaiser: A consistent theme that many of the mentors brought up was just getting your product out there even if it is not quite finished. Before this had been said, so many times we were withholding our product and trying to make it as polished as possible. By getting 30SS out there and…tested by real-world users, it gave us much more insight into the product.

  • Focus on the low-hanging fruit.

Invidio cofounder Joe Scola: As a cofounder it’s easy to get lost in the big dream, but it’s essential to sometimes take a step back and realize you need to crawl before you can run. We have refocused our go-to-market strategy on guerrilla strategies that aim to help enter through the path of least resistance.

Photo: Inbox presented at Demo Day. Photo Credit: Mike Peters/ Montclair State University.
Inbox presented at Demo Day. | Mike Peters/ Montclair State University.

 Inbox  CEO Maher Janajri: The best piece of advice we received by a mentor at TechLaunch was “Focus now, grow later.” The idea [is] that although there is so much we can do, big things have small beginnings

  • Beware of following all mentor advice indiscriminately. Select which feedback to listen to.

ProspectPredict (formerly Relationship Manager) CEO Harry Abrahamsen: The best piece of advice that I was given at TechLaunch was on feedback. I was going to receive a lot of different solutions and opinions from the mentors. The advice … was that it will be up to me to select and decide which feedback I will listen to.

Caktus CEO Panu Keski-Pukkila:It’s hard to say which one was the best. As in business as usual, there is no general truth or one size fits all. Maybe a best piece of advice has been not to try to follow all advice but instead filter and try to weave together the ones that feel most relevant to us. The best mentors we have met have been the ones who have really challenged the very fundamentals of what we’re doing, and doing so prepared us well for the questions people will ask. 

  • Focus on team building and showcasing your team.

ShareWatts CEO Sameer Pai: The best piece of advice that we were given by several mentors is to build the right team and to be careful in choosing the appropriate people as new hires for the company.

Photo: Seekchange is a personal coaching platform. Photo Credit: Mike Peters/Montclair State University
Seekchange is a personal coaching platform. | Mike Peters/Montclair State University

SeekChange cofounder Nicole Letelier:  Speak to the strengths of your founding team. As a company with proven experience within our core competencies — a successful tech startup within the mental health space and hands-on personal coaching experience under our belt — we were told we needed to showcase this to potential investors. This was key for us, as we are currently seeking an investor to fund the next phase of our growth.

  • Treat competitors as potential strategic partners.

BeautyStat CEO Ron Robinson:The best piece of advice I got from a TechLaunch mentor was to treat your competitors as strategic partners. By sharing and collaborating with your competition, both parties can benefit, and who knows — one day they might even acquire you.

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