accelerator diary by Hiring Screen
07 September, 2015
Accelerator programmes vary. Follow the highlights and struggles of Hiring Screen CEO/co-founder Richard as he shares his experiences and embraces constructive criticism during his first week in the blueprint accelerator:
10 startups. Six months. One huge opportunity for the startups selected to participate in Swire Properties’ blueprint accelerator. blueprint is offering us access to the Swire Group of companies, a high quality group of mentors and additional professional services support. For my startup, Hiring Screen, this is a unique opportunity to establish product-market fit and elevate our business to the next level.
This first week at blueprint is a “Sprint” – a crash course delivered by Carlos Espinal, a renowned VC with Seedcamp in London. He's here in Hong Kong to give advice and potentially investment to the accelerator teams. Today we received a precious 24 hours to get settled in and acquainted with our new surroundings. As a group, we received a quick overview of the programme and familiarised ourselves with some basic housekeeping. It turns out that we’re on the receiving end of some nice perks (like US$10k of Amazon Web Services credits). This makes me smile.
W’ere told that the serious business kicks off tomorrow with a session on “Pitching”. I will be polishing my 3 minute pitch this evening in preparation, and aiming to bring my A-game tomorrow. A good night’s sleep is essential.
Seeing no logic in prolonging pain, my co-founder Luke and I raised our hands to go first in pitching Hiring Screen to the group of other startups in our batch. I’t’s natural that the first team to pitch receives the most criticism, and Carlos certainly had a few words of advice for us - ouch! Opportunities to get no-holds-barred criticism are few and far between, so Luke and I made sure we de–briefed after the session to work the feedback into a new Pitch. IvySpace co-founders Chris and Tim followed with a polished delivery and subsequent pitches from the founders of Talkpush, Fundity and IronFly were all given tips on how to improve the structure and content of their pitches. Whilst it’s clear that every founder knows their business very well, being able to present your business as an investment opportunity in a way that captures the imagination of potential investors is another challenge altogether.
After a tough afternoon pitching, what better way to unwind than with group drinks at Sugar at the top of EAST Hotel! It was a good turn out and a great chance to bond and connect with a few of the teams in a casual setting.
We kicked off with remainder of the group pitches, and Carlos asked the startup founders to take charge of feedback. Inspired by Tuesday’s session, advice from the floor was free- flowing. Romain, founder of Popscout, was told to be even more French, to gain extra credibility in the fashionable world of Pop-up Stores, before Bindo were given some tips on reshuffling their slide deck to better emphasise the core offering of their product. The rest of the session focused around branding, with Kim, the founder of ParkLu, talking to the group about the Park Lu brand and hearing Carlos’ feedback.
We’re mid-way through Sprint week and it feels like we have covered a lot of information. Like any good immersion course, time will tell how much is soaked up!
blueprint is focused on creating a “tech community”. The first and second batches of accelerator startups are overlapping this week, giving us the chance to pick the brains of those who’ve just finished their accelerator round here. We are sharing a desk with Easyship, one of the most successful startups from the first batch. It’s great to have chance to speak with Easyship co-founder Augustin Ceyrac about fundraising and hiring interns. Some other well-established Hong Kong startups – Shopline and Notey – also base their offices inside of blueprint. I’ll definitely be leveraging their experiences going forward.
Today’s theme with Carlos was fundraising. The discussion centred on the technical aspects of valuation; $ amount to be raised — % Equity on Offer — Post Money Valuation. LuxTNT entered into an interesting debate with Carlos on whether or not raising money in one go was better than doing so over a number of rounds. All the startups in this accelerator batch are at different stages of development, but after a few days of being grilled on various parts of our strategies, it was good to drift off to a land of Unicorns and three comma clubs.
The final day of “Sprint Week” began with Kim from ParkLu going back over her company branding, having integrated some of the input from Carlos and the group. It was clear that she and her team had really made the effort to reflect on the feedback and that in the branding part of their strategy, they had made significant progress.
In fact, making small pieces of progress was pretty much how I would sum up our first week in blueprint. Outside of the ordered chaos of moving into the office space and getting teams settled, the sessions with Carlos threw out so many different topics and challenges that taking in and implementing just a few gems of wisdom seems like a win.
With “Sprint Week” over, we'll now turn to regular sessions with Hilary Szymujko, who runs the blueprint accelerator, to help keep our efforts focused. The odds against startups are known to be piled high, and with support of blueprint and the multitude of opportunities that being part of the accelerator provides, there is every reason to expect that blueprint’s second batch of startups (hiring Screen included!) will play a big part in Hong Kong’s tech future. We’re pumped for the next 6 months!
-Richard Hanson, CEO Hiring Screen