Ideas can come from anywhere—the problems you currently face, the gossip you recently heard or the trips you took half way across the world. But validation, yes, is essential if you wish to enter the startup galaxy. Hear from Brian Scordato, a man who has had his fair share of entrepreneurial moments and is now helping others reach their path to success.
A basketball enthusiast, Brian Scordato was raised to become an entrepreneur. “My dad is a medical engineer and always pushed my sister and I to do our own thing since day one.” While he may have launched many ventures that failed, he recently decided to take the consulting route (given his expertise) and launch Tacklebox Accelerator for early stage founders to transition from idea to validation. Fun fact: he also writes for Fast Company and teaches Product Development at General Assembly.
“Tacklebox helps validate your idea within 6 weeks. It is a pre-accelerator for those starting out.”
“Our best startups have been due to the founder working in a particular industry for many years, noticing a problem and then wanting to change it. As for college students, they mostly notice broader issues which lead to a higher rate of competition.” So be ready to have your warrior paint on!
Brian wasn't always so wise. He experienced many mistakes when launching an app called Find Your Lobster back in 2011. “We originally launched under a different name, called 3 Degrees, which connected friends to friends of friends via hobbies and interests using Facebook's data. This quickly transitioned into single people wanting to meet other single folks in their neighborhood. Or as we know of it today as online dating.” Brian quickly pivoted his business model and came up with Find Your Lobster, an online dating app that finds matches based on friends of friends using Facebook's demographic. This was before the Tinder days when no one was swiping and users wanted to know more information rather than just looks.
“We didn't have enough users on the platform and made the app open to everyone and anyone.” Rookie mistake. It is best to intensely focus on one customer segment and one city so that users are satisfied with the services and supply can fuel demand. The saturation will also lead to word of mouth marketing. “We quickly learned that if you market to everyone, you speak to no one. You need to have a niche customer base, identify a customer persona and speak their language to be heard.”
“Customers would only have up to 10 matches per day due to there not being enough users. Or in some cases, no matches at all.” Brian had secured funding for this idea through his mentor whom he met while interning at Johnson & Johnson during his MBA and at that moment had no direct competitors in this space.
However, when Tinder launched and gained dramatic popularity due to its game-like feature, Brian’s investors told him to replicate that model. “We had a choice: to re-segment the market or follow Tinder’s lead. We chose to become like Tinder due to pressure from our investors, but that was the wrong choice.” Find Your Lobster died in 2014. RIP.
To Infinity and Beyond
“Best piece of advice I have ever received is to charge more. If a customer is not willing to pay a premium, then you don't have a differentiator. Don’t discount early on to try and get more customers and raise the price later. This becomes troublesome. Your early customers should pay more and as you move away from your niche segment, you can bring the price down.”
Having dabbled in the VC world (for those interested in becoming one), Brian tells us that you need to have founded a previous company, know what it takes to raise money, and be super personable, quick on your feet, comfortable talking with people and not shy to always say no. Yes, 99% of startups get shot down by VC’s. It’s the wild west out there and this ranger ain’t nice.
Got a brilliant idea and want to get validation and feedback? Sign up for Tacklebox here or email us and we will put you in touch with Brian. Or in the word of Notorious B.I.G, If you don't know, now you know.
Photo courtesy of Tacklebox.