3rd of August 2020
Most people see start-ups and their success stories and think: “This looks quite straight forward, you build a product, you go through an accelerator, raise funds, and then you become an overnight success if you have a bit of luck”. Let me tell you, in 99% of cases that’s not true. Building a product can’t be done without validation.
And validation is a lot harder than one thinks, because people act different to what they say. Accelerator and incubator programs aren’t that easy to get in to, and it is definitely not guaranteed that you’ll succeed after. Raising funding requires both the ability to network and a lot of strategy. The overnight success is the product of countless “literal overnights” and last but not least, the “luck” that start-ups have, is often self-fabricated.
In this article I’ll outline some of the major milestones that have been part of Kibo’s startup journey and let you in on our (pending) success story. I’m not telling you this story to show you what we’ve done, I’m telling you this story to show you how small events in your life which don’t seem much at first, can change everything.
Little side note before we get started: Studentup was a company founded by the same three founders at Kibo: Robin, Ramses, and me. This company saw us travelling throughout the world and was the reason Kibo was founded – because we talked to our users and realized that there was a much bigger opportunity for us to pursue after, and we took it. So let’s dive into Kibo’s story:
Back in November 2019, I attended TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, Germany. At the time I was still representing the Studentup concept (company prior to Kibo). It was one of the trips I was least lookingforward, as I knew that the Studentup concept would likely develop into something completely different, but I had to pitch something. So, I put a smile on myface and went out there to network. In Berlin I coincidentally ran into KevinB ojan, the former president of the Erasmus Tech Community in Rotterdam. What started as just an exchange of ideas and experiences turned into something much more. Kevin decided to invite both Robin and I to ETC’s podcast “Understand Tomorrow”.
During the podcast something about our story thus far resonated so much with Kevin, that he decided to invest into the company shortly after.
Lesson learned: no matter how unimportant an event or connection may seem; it could completely change everything for you or your startup in a matter of days.
How we got in touch with ACE, the Netherlands’ #1 rated incubator program was also quite unusual. It started with a pool party (what?). During this party I met current ASIF president Federico Maroli due to common friend. We connected on all the usual social networks like always, and that seemed to be that. Fast forward 18 months and Robin and I were in San Francisco trying to raise investment for Studentup. Federico saw our pitch video on LinkedIn and got in touch with us about a possible investment. After months of negotiating and us uprooting the entire Studentup company this deal didn’t go through due to various reasons. What we were left with however, were friends and huge advocators of us as founders. Federico made a direct intro to ACE and probably played a pivotal part to us securing a spot in their spring cohort.
Lesson learned: find people in the VC industry and have a beer (or five) with them.
During the ACE program we were introduced to and applied to the EdTech Evolution accelerator in Latvia. A program where 6 startups (if admitted) competed for prizes from prestigious players in the EdTech industry. Kibo was selected as one of the startups and we decided to participate in the middle of the ACE program (because why not do two programs at once). At the end of the week we were presented by a prize from the prestigious LearnLaunch accelerator from Boston, USA. They now help us with anything related to US business.
Lesson learned: Sometimes turning 12- hour workdays into 17-hour workdays for a limited period of time can make a big difference, you just have to want it enough. It’s important however, not to make a habit of it (a startup is a marathon, not a sprint).
After a big social media push, which included a feature by our former University (Maastricht University), we had quite some people reaching out to us for various reasons, including podcasts. One of these people was Scott van den Berg, (co)-host of “Investeer een keer”. He invited Robin to his podcast where more than 1000 Dutch investors attempt to find the next Unicorn. This episode has just launched, so be quick and listen to it!
Lesson learned: build a social media presence no matter what. You have a great idea and are validating your concept? You should’ve already built a social media presence by then. Start right now, find some interesting topics to write about, get yourself a couple of thousand connections on LinkedIn and build your personal brand. The first customers and investors are acquired by the people, not only the idea.
Th takeaway from this should be that nothing happens like you expect it to, not in startups, and certainly not in life. The key to success is to out yourself out there. Put yourself in a position where you can fail, talk to people to just exchange ideas, help others, you never know what might come of it. If you want to know more about us, Kibo, or our journey as entrepreneurs then reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us in LinkedIn, Instagram. and most importantly, don't forget to sign-up for Kibo!