Every group or cohort of companies going through the HYPERDRIVE program has had a different experience. Not dramatically different, but different in the one way that is most important—because of program improvements based on feedback from the companies that went before. The HYPERDRIVE team has made it a tradition to ensure that everyone going through the program gets an opportunity to shape it for the cohort to come.
Some of the things our companies have taught us:
1. Don’t over-program—we need time to focus on our companies.
2. We need to meet more investors.
3. Finding the right mentor is hard.
This comment came with a corollary: Hold us accountable. HYPERDRIVE entrepreneurs want as much time as possible to focus on their companies, but told us they can’t be successful in this program if they aren’t held to achieving meaningful metrics. So, we now make sure companies have developed a six-month strategy, which they have to review with a small group of executives-in-residence (EIRs) and mentors on Day 1 of the cohort.
We started to put a greater focus on accountability with Cohort 3, and with Cohort 4, we engaged companies on objective-setting prior to program. This will make the first few weeks much more productive as companies are not wasting precious “sprint” time debating their objectives with mentors.
WE NEED TO MEET MORE INVESTORS
Successful entrepreneurs build relationships with investors and don’t simply hit them up for a cheque at the end of the program. We made it a point to create as many opportunities as possible for our companies to meet investors, right from the beginning. The big change we are making with Cohort 4 is formalizing the role of the Series 401 investor event we co-host with our partners at the OneEleven tech hub in Toronto.
We are making the end-of-cohort “showcase” events (previously called demo days) more community-focused. They will celebrate the big achievements in the program while sticking to the seven-minute pitch format. The best of the best will go on to Series 401, where the focus is completely on closing out a financing round.
FINDING THE RIGHT MENTOR IS HARD
Mentorship is hard. We’ve also come to realize there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
We have put mentors into three groups. The first combines specialized needs with general plan management. This group sees our companies weekly. A newly created second group is focused on specialty skills, answering the question, “How do I do this?” with a focus on SEO, UI/UX, sales, marketing and even growth-hacking. These mentors offer weekly, first-come-first-served hours. The final group is made up of mentors who offer an hour or two a month, centred mainly around domain knowledge. They are called upon to help entrepreneurs gain access to key people, or to better understand the inner workings of a vertical like telco, manufacturing or healthcare, as examples.
These are the big changes this go-round. We will see how it goes over the next six months. We will inevitably have further tweaks to make, but constant iteration is what makes a program—like a startup—great.
This article was originally published by Communitech Hyperdrive’s Managing Director, Doug Cooper.