startups

Of Visions and Solutions - MAP Blog Post

Some startups are born out of a vision alone. These begin with the founders envisaging the world without a key problem. The founders then leverage their own skills, or those of others they recruit, to find a solution.

Other startups begin with a solution. This solution can be a technology or business model, either newly developed or just never having thus far been considered for a given context.  Such startups form when founders identify a valuable problem that a given solution is suited to address.

And some startups are somewhere in-between. Our company, Relectrify, for example, is based on the vision that rechargeable batteries will become the heart of the future electricity grid. The problem to overcome is we currently use batteries for only a fraction of their lifecycle causing high cost and waste. Alongside this vision, however, we had a previously developed solution to a related problem as a starting point. The company effectively formed out of an ongoing brainstorm between my co-founder and I regarding how the existing solution would need to pivot to address the current problem. First this discussion was purely technical, then it became increasingly economic. Finally, Relectrify was born.

Whether a startup is problem-first, solution-first, or a mix thereof, one key challenge is making sure suitable focus is paid to both aspects as the company develops. This is what an engineer may compare to an inverted pendulum on moving ground. It almost always swings too far one way and it takes active effort to rein it back in. As soon as it is back under control it starts to swing back out, either the same way or the other. Rarely, if ever, does it sit perfectly in the middle without any effort. Having clearly differentiated team members helps. But nonetheless it is an ongoing challenge.

Over the past 6 weeks MAP has pushed all the 2015 intake companies tremendously towards getting both aspects right. Setting and working towards both weekly goals and longer-term milestones pushes development of solutions. However, just as much focus is being paid to defining a very clear company vision and being able to communicate it effectively. Our pitches, which to us seemed so well developed when we entered MAP, are under fire on a weekly basis, be it by Rohan’s well-placed injection of the word “boring” or very direct feedback from fellow MAP team members.

As a result we are thinking longer and harder regarding our companies. How to describe the vision succinctly. How to balance between the broader problem and the specific solution.  And, of course, how to share all of this in such a way that our pitch audience really cares. By following a rapid learning curve, we have a shot at making a real impact in this world. And at the end of the day, that’s the one thing that really matters.

Startup Resources

This is a working document of resources we have found immensely valuable and use as a public place to collate these for other growth ventures. The resources are broadly classed by topic, and each comes with a rating out of 10 and a sentence or two why we recommend it.

Investments

  • Venture Deals (book) - Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. 10/10. A book on investment raising that is as thorough in covering important topics as it is concisely written. Absolute must-read for any early stage company heading into first fundraising (and will prove highly useful long thereafter).

  • A Startup Takes Flight Series (article series) - Crunchbase. 8/10. A series of articles on important investment raising topics covered in a fairly thorough but engaging level of detail.

  • Redefining Dilution (article) - TechCrunch. 8/10. A short-form article on raising capital, with a frame-work for thinking about dilution and creating value.

Intellectual Property / Patenting

  • Patent Law and Strategy for Innovators and Entrepreneurs (online video course) - Jeffrey Schox / Stanford University. 9/10. Superb course that combines IP and patent theory with highly practical advice presented by a leading lawyer who has supported Facebook, Dropbox, Cruise and other growth ventures. Great for audio-only listening also.

Other

  • Slicing Pie (video - further detail available in associated book) - Mike Moyer. 9/10. A very simple and fair approach to divide and manage equity in startups. Every company should use this or a similar dynamic equity model from their absolute earliest stage.

  • Watt It Takes (podcast episodes) - Powerhouse & Greentech Media. 9/10. A series of podcasts with successful cleantech entrepreneurs about the reality building businesses. Particular favourites include Lynn Jurich (Sunrun) and Ryan Popple (Proterra).

  • Australian Startup Structures (blog post) - Kunal Kalro. 9/10. A concise and good overview of different structures capable of holding company shares in Australia.