Key Takeaways from Startup Accelerator Startupbootcamp – Month One

This piece discusses some key learnings from participating in the well-known startup accelerator, Startupbootcamp.

30 days have passed since our team at Tradler began the three-month startup accelerator at Startupbootcamp Smart City & IoT in Amsterdam. Our AI platform geared towards improving employee engagement started the Bootcamp alongside nine other leading European startups.

Between training, meetings with mentors and clients, and getting to know the other teams, our days have been non-stop.

However, this past week, Tradler’s founder, Jasper Deprez, wanted to take some time and identify the key takeaways our team has experienced so far. Our hope is that the lessons we have learned on our journey from “Startup” to “Stayup” will help you with building your own company.

1. Breakthroughs Occur When You Open Yourself up to the Advice You Do Not Want to Hear

One of our team goals at Tradler is to never write an article about how we failed. We want to win, and our mentors have taught us that this is impossible without proactively seeking out uncomfortable conversations.

When you are with someone whose opinion you value, asking them what product features they like is a good first step. However, the conversation cannot end there. Be sure to ask hard questions:

“What holes do you see in X, Y, Z?”
“What aspects of our model could potentially hold you back from recommending us?”

These hard questions will get you faster on the right road. But they will also help you forge stronger relationships with your mentors. Asking the right questions will ensure your mentors will see you as someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Tradler Graduating Startup Accelerator Startupbootcamp

2. Cash Is Not “King” But Your “Pitch” Is

When looking at the companies that are doing the best in the startup accelerator we see a glaring pattern. Those who communicate their ideas the best are also performing the best.

When launching Tradler, one of the best decisions we made, was to include communication training in our strategy. We sought out experts in our community in order to get our sales pitch tight from day one. The difference from “Take 1” on our own, to “Take 10” with professionals, has single-handedly put us in the position that we are in today.

No matter what you read about productivity “hacks,” nothing competes with strong communication skills.

3. The Best Way to Attract Investors Is by First Attracting Clients

We would be lying if we said we’ve never thought about the idea of receiving an outside investment. However, this past month many have warned numerous times about the serious dangers of the mindset:“When we have funding, then we can do X.”

From our experience, investors would rather learn about our reality, over our projections. The best way to create a company worth investing in is by focusing 100% on getting clients.

4. Opinions are Best Served Filtered

The accessibility to very smart people is the startup accelerator and Startupbootcamp’s beauty. However, if we asked everyone’s opinion who we’ve met, we’d be faced with too many options and not enough direction.

The fastest way to jeopardize a relationship with a mentor is to waste their time, so do your job first, so they can do theirs.

The best advice always comes from taking the time to identify the right questions. Then take it one step further and identify the best person to ask said question. Or better yet, present three possible solutions so the discussion becomes action-based rather than problem-based.

5. Trust Is Leadership

The biggest drawback of participating in the startup accelerator is our separated team.

At first, we thought this would be a huge problem for our productivity, but the exact opposite has taken place.

Today, we only have time to tell our team what they need to know and what needs to be done. As a result, we have taken a step back and now leave it up to them to figure out the “how.”

Letting go was not easy at first. However, the level of ownership our team members have demonstrated (some of which are very new) is astonishing. They prove power flows where power is given.

6. Solutions Are a Handshake Away

Since arriving here we have been reminded time and time again that the best problem solver is a large network. This advice has helped us to change our default setting to “who,” rather than “how,” when faced with a problem.

When it comes to starting a company there is no better advice than meeting as many people as you can. This will not only make your ride more enjoyable, it will also save you time.

7. Don’t Look for a Big Idea, Focus on Identifying a Big Problem

Not even a week into our time at Startupbootcamp we decided to kill the very idea that started our company.

This was terrifying, but we originally created our idea to find a solution “we thought” existed.

Today our solution addresses a real pain point that exists. By stepping in our clients’ shoes, we’ve positioned ourselves for growth.

The Biggest Lessons We’ve Learned from the Startup Accelerator, Startupbootcamp

If we’ve learned anything during our short time at Startupbootcamp it’s the power of just beginning. We started with a “nice to have” product which opened the door to help us identify a “must have” product. This, combined with the lessons learned above, have put us back on track towards accomplishing our goals and we hope they do for you as well.

Michael Thompson is the communication lead at Tradler, a software solution that increases employee engagement, and a freelance writer specializing in helping “Startups” become “Stayups.” He currently resides in small town Catalunya and his work has been shared by Fast Company, INC and Thrive Global.

  • Originally published August 8, 2018, updated April 26, 2023