Entrepreneurship Tools

Susan Amat: Good things come to those who listen


Special to The Miami Herald

In just a few days, Venture Hive opens its doors to investors for our major pitch session, The Swarm. It has been an incredible three months as numerous visitors have graced our offices with their expertise, and our entrepreneurs have applied their insights with great results. Here are some examples of the power of great advice — when it is applied.

•  Develop your product with the buy-in of strategic partners.

We spent a week with Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovitz, authors of The Lean Entrepreneur, who emphasized creating value through lean startup principals.

Cory Hoffart from Hair Construction is leading a team to revolutionize continuing online education for hairdressers. Cooper spent time with the team on the importance of having customers validate your concepts and be involved in developing your products. Hoffart said that within a few weeks, “we acquired the support of a large beauty school. Hair Construction is now customizing our content specifically for them, which means we will get up to 8,000 users from that one partner alone!”

•  Lean into change.

Many of our entrepreneurs have run successful businesses before rolling the dice on their current startups. Bibhas Bhattacharya has built a mid-sized software training business over the last 12 years before founding Vikingo Games, which uses augmented reality to make a 3D gaming world appear on the printed page. Bhattacharya shared that he had always been frustrated when introducing disruptive innovation to his teams as most see the changes as “too risky and unproven. Now that I know the lean startup model, I can minimize risk and still incrementally implement innovative ideas.”

Having the team be part of the process of gathering information directly from customers and challenging their own assumptions will lead them to leap into new ways of thinking.

•  Understand your customer.

Danny Karbassiyoon brings years of experience in playing and scouting in the professional soccer world in co-founding Soccer WithOut Limits (SWOL), a one-stop authority for fans internationally. “One of the most effective things we learned from Patrick was how to acquire user data when a visitor lands on our page — we’ve been able to capture emails and interests as well as increase our Facebook presence using minimally intrusive methods. This has in turn helped grow and compartmentalize our email list to great effect.”

Your Listen’s Scott Goodman said, “after their sessions we began focusing not just on acquiring more users but acquiring more in depth analytical data on our users, who they are and why they use our site, which has already resulted in significant returns.” Whether your customers are visiting you in person or online, find tools to keep the engagement strong and targeted.

•  Pursuing Letters of Intent can be worthwhile, even pre-launch.

Entrepreneur, thought-leader and blogger Neil Patel was another favorite of our founders. His firm KissMetrics is a top consumer analytics company.

Miami hosts thousands of conferences a year and Danny Beydoun has found a way to help them run more efficiently. His startup MobiCon allows event organizers to run every aspect of their meetings through one platform. Patel helped him see the opportunity in pre-selling the company’s product, which hasn’t yet launched.

“Within 24 hours of his visit we already had appointments to meet with potential customers and within a week we had a verbal agreement for an LOI (Letter of Intent) from a large hotel management group that manages thousands of rooms,” said Beydoun. “Neil energized us and gave us a road map that has helped us transform the value of our business!”

•  Harness the power of the pitch.

Widely considered the foremost expert on angel investing and founder of the investment platform Gust, David Rose gave tactical advice on pitching to investors and coached every startups on their presentations for The Swarm. When meeting with Tabber, which offers a hospitality app allowing users the ability to order and pay through their phones from menus translated to the language of their choice, Rose told founder Ricardo Da Ros, “Treat me like I’m an intelligent 6-year-old.” Said Da Ros: “That helped me to adjust aspects of our pitch and the way we discuss our strategy.”

Susan Amat is the founder of Venture Hive and co-founder of The Launch Pad. You can follow her on Twitter at @susanamat.

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