The Glamorous life of an Entrepreneur Part 8 – Baby Steps

Some time has passed since my last post about entrepreneurial life.

I got to know 2 new start up accelerators
1. Papaya Ventures – started (among rest) by the impressive lady, Luisa Ribeiro, is located in a trendy remodeled colonial style house in Botafogo. I enjoyed the cool space and the great vide that left me impressed and motivated. I also met the guys from Dujour – who are promising to be the next IT thing for fashion and looks sharing. Maybe the next Instagram? They come from the technology and fashion retail background so they certainly know what they are doing! Apparently, some celebs are using their app already! ( I have a memory of an ant, so I cannot remember which ones, but I believe it was some rapper.. )

For whoever is interesting, Papaya’s last cycle was dedicated to consumer mobile apps and they are working on their next one which will focus on B2B.

2. Tonight, I attended an event from the Founder Institute, which is an accelerator for persons who work full time and want to launch something in their free time. They have an interesting setup of a type of mutual fund: everyone who enters has to contribute and also give a share to all the other existing members. They are now launching an accelerator program in Rio for the first time. I went because they have a big track record of launching ~500 companies in 20+ cities around the world so I figured it could be an interesting option for me.
The information session left me unimpressed by promises of a potential network of Rio-based mentors (who might those be exactly?) and a bunch of middle-aged participants who kept talking about their existing companies and how they want to relaunch them and be innovative.
Now I am trying to evaluate if I want to spend 15 weeks meeting these people and will I learn anything from this. On the other hand, it may be a good discipline to focus on execution. Food for thought.

As for LetMeKnow, I finally managed to buy a very cool customized logo from 99designs.com for only $100 bucks and one day of execution. Best deal I’ve made so far in this business! Now, the only thing left is to figure out how to add it to the website! Indeed, baby steps..

And.. last but not least, Mulheres de Lideraça / Women Leaders is still going very strong with lots of support from everyone! Love it.

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The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 7

This week I was somewhat slowed down because I was working on several things in parallel (what’s new about that?). It is amazing to live a life when new and different things happen all the time.

My newly launched social movement I wrote about in part 6 has kept me extremely motivated. Both men and women expressed opinions and support. Even my dad had one (he thought it was bullshit.. But that’s ok too..). I am learning a lot about engagement of all kinds of audiences.

As for LetMeKnow, I tried to outsource logo design to Russia but the outcomes were very unsatisfactory. Now trying again to find someone locally. There are a couple of leads and hopefully I will have something done soon.

In parallel, I am trying to promote a fellow start-up, Codifique, which is promising to become the next oDesk of Brazil in exchange for IT services. This is something we see often in start-up world: Bootstrapped start ups exchanging skills. I love the sense of community.

I’m trying to keep a bit of a healthy work-life balance and so on Saturday I went hiking and during the night I mixed business and pleasure, at the lovely rooftop Paixeco Bar in Jardim Botanico, when I enjoyed a caipirinha to the night view of the Christ while catching up with friends and meeting some of the bright young faces that are destined to star on future business magazine covers.

to be continued..

The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 1

I have been working on starting my own business for about 6 months now. Figured it might be interesting to share some growing pains here, while the memories are still fresh, in case that some day I will become the new Steve Blank and will have to invent stuff in order to tell my story, as I won’t remember anything anymore.

The first phase: Glorious Ideas Waterfall
– It all started very simple: my partner and I were having a pistachio ice cream at my favorite place in Ipanema, Felice. There was something in the air that made us make the affirmative mutual commitment: Lets start a business together! We talked about selling various things: basic T-shirts, designer furniture, basic furniture, design services, basic services, consulting for small businesses, etc, etc. This is how the ball started rolling.

-Being uber-sophisticated business women that we are, we had to formalize our brainstorming process. We started making spreadsheets with our key ideas, their pros and cons, sources of information and previous examples. We mapped out contacts across marketing, finance, supply chain, other start-ups (in this process we also learned to use better google docs…). The lists were just growing, and so were our brains with the world of opportunities out there.

The second phase: The idea shaper market research
-We started employing our network of contacts and hold meetings with everyone we knew. We met all sorts of people: aspiring, current and former entrepreneurs, food industry specialists, oil industry specialist, tech geeks (who we tried to mind manipulate into helping us for free and must admit we failed – geeks are smart), start-up accelerators, marketing gurus, SEO gurus, a professional chef (not related but still cool), and the list goes on. Our main lesson learned from this was that given that meeting lots of people is extremely useful in order to get feedback and filter out ideas in the beginning of the road, but then it becomes very confusing as people give contradicting opinions which makes it difficult to move on. There is ultimately no right answer when it comes to future innovation.

-We also did some field research, taking a road trip to the North Zone of Rio, trying to find out what Class C is interesting in buying. We learned that the answer is everything and anything, as long as you can break it down into a sufficient amount of future payments. We also sent some surveys to people, but the above had very limited response rate and people gave a wide range of answers that also made it difficult to narrow down options.

-Finally, we surveyed tons of websites, both in Brazil and globally to understand what people are doing, what works and what doesn’t.

The third phase: Ready, steady, go! (Making Decisions)
-Post the research, our spreadsheet was more robust with further information and we came to the conclusion that our ideas of launching various e-commerce concepts are basically impossible to execute: we had no expertise on marketing, logistics, manufacturing, sales or any other core e-commerce activity and we were unwilling to just risk everything in order to dive into such a deep pool.

We had to opt for something simpler if we wanted our first start-up become a real thing. The concept came up through a conversation with a digital marketing guru that mentioned some sites that she ran into in the USA.

I was hesitant but my partner set her foot down and said: Lets just do it!! (Thank you, thank you!). The name was debated for more than three months until again, my partner came to our rescue when she went on a very productive family vacation, where a joint brainstorming gave birth to LetMeKnow.com.br.

Stay tuned to part 2, when I tell about what happened when we finally had to stop planning and start doing. Hint: My biggest lesson learned so far is that start-ups don’t need ideas, they need skills and connections!