In an Internet based startup? You should apply for iGAP.

iGap is drawing to a conclusion, just one more session on funding which will be delivered by  Brian Caulfied @BrianCVC . Brian, who gives VC’s a good name, is one of the main organisers of iGAP along with Ray Walsh (EI) and Sarah Buckley (EI).

iGAP is a programme that is designed specifically to help early-stage internet companies to develop that clarity and to give them tools to help them to execute on the strategy they have defined.

It’s the “clarity” bit I’d like to explore a little more. At Cauwill we have a great product that works well internationally. We have (international) customers in the travel sector some of which pay, others are very slow to pay 🙁   Before embarking on iGAP we identified a few concerns with the sector which would prevent growth & scaling. iGAP  confirmed our concerns and has helped us to formulate a plan to tackle a new sector i.e. get our value prop and promise statement for the sector,  how best to approach it and the best route  to market. We had a tendency to build things first and then go  to market. iGAP helped to us to step back from the product & features and focus on a strategy before building/coding anything.

So how did iGAP change the way we do things?

I firmly believe it’s a combination of quality speakers and the format of iGAP that makes it a success. I’ll get back to the speakers in a moment but I’d like to focus on the format.

  • Training – I hesitate to call it training.. it’s more than training. Speakers provide insight into their businesses, how they run things, how they set the team up and how things work in web businesses.
  • War Stories – we get to hear from those ahead of us about how they got there.. and in some case what they did wrong to cause the company to fail. for example Colm Lyon of Realex Payments, Ray Nolan of Worky.com, Feargal Mooney of HostelWorld, Niall Harbison of Simply Zesty, David Lenehan of Polldaddy and others too numerous to mention here but thank you all for coming in and talking to us.
  • Networking – everyone on iGAP is encouraged to network, get to know everyone one the programme and the past programme. iGAP also run several events/panels in parallel where more networking is possible. They even had the Telegraph in and several iGAP companies got profiled on it. A common thread with a lot of the speakers was that b2b business can be very personal and finding the right person is half the battle.
  • Open and Sharing Environment – after ‘training’ we go to our cohort groups which is run by the facilitators. Here we openly discuss the day and discuss the ‘homework’. Companies bounce ideas off each other and a lot of good stuff comes out of the cohort meetings. We are all in the same boat so it’s easier to row together and share our pains than remain in isolation. Some of the feedback at times can be brutally honest.

I know many such management training and incubation programmes exist, we were on LEAP which was good for us at the time, but iGAP is different because it focuses specifically on the needs of internet businesses.  Over a period of seven months, six modules were led by international lean start-up and customer development experts such as Eric Ries, Scott Rafer, Paul O’Dea , Justin KnecthSean Ellisand Oren Michels .Over the programme they addressed issues such as lean startup theory, product market fit, monetisation strategies, internet customer acquisition, business development using APIs, etc.

Here is a quick synopsis of the content covered by the speakers

Paul O’Dea : Provided the Business battle card. This a great way to get an overview of the your business in 5 questions:

  • What do you want to be famous for?
  • Who are selected customers?
  • Where is your measurable value?
  • Why should customers choose you rather than your competitors?
  • How will you get your product to market?

Eric Ries : What can I say? This guy has changed the way we do things in Cauwill. We love the lean startup theory and before we do anything we pause and think  – how can we do this the lean way? If you’re reading this – thank you so much Eric.  #leanstartup #MVP

Scott Rafer :  Scott dealt with the business models and understanding your customers sales funnel. The better you know your customer – the better chance you have in closing out a deal with them. “Startups fail because they lack customers and a profitable business model” – Steve Blank

Sean Ellis : Delivered content on Marketing and Customer Acquisition. Really enjoyed this talk. Everything in the presentation is based around the Startup growth pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is correctly finding product market fit. He provided us with a set of questions and one very tough task – asking your customers how they would feel if they could no longer use your product. It’s a horrible question because we live a world where we (startup companies) think our product is super cool and everyone should love/use it .. we just don’t want to hear potentially bad stuff from customers. You know what? This was a great (tough) task and helped us to improve our product market fit.  Do it here http://survey.io

Justin Knecht : I was too ill to attend Justin’s talk, but catching up from Ian and hearing his thoughts on the module this was also another great presentation with real insights into user centric design. I’m currently going through the slides so I’ll update this post with my thoughts at a later stage.

Oren Michels : Up there with one of the best speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. This guy is all about biz dev. Very clear delivery on how to be stronger with customers and help prevent the sales funnel from filling up with ‘Barney Deals’. Oren mixes in stories from The Valley which are very entertaining! The timing of this talk was just serendipity.

iGAP has provided us a framework to structure our decisions and do things faster. It’s not rocket science but it is definitely some form of science – mixed with a bit of luck. We still have things to fix but we’re confident that with a clear focus and sticking to a good strategy we’ll be fine.

Ronan

Sharing my experience on startup, sport, linux, mobile phones, movies and some other random stuff.

13 thoughts on “In an Internet based startup? You should apply for iGAP.

    1. @skehillr good overview of #igap. Gives a strong incentive to apply for a place in the class of 2011/12. Thanks for that Ronan. M

  1. Hi Ronan,

    I am going to “borrow” a bit of your content for my own blog (accredited and linked to you of course). Its a fantastic overview of the programme and thanks for blogging about it.

    For everyone else, as a fellow participant on iGAP I wholeheartedly agree with Ronan. This programme is the most practical learning experience you could go on if you are an internet startup.

    Rory

  2. Great Post! The lessons from Sean, Oren and Eric etc… are priceless for any start-up. Enterprise Ireland also deserve some serious kudos for delivering such a world class program! Thanks EI & the Alliance.ie sponsors!

  3. Great post for any company looking at IGAP. Also really useful for current IGAP’ers – certainly helped refreshed my key takeouts from the sessions.

  4. Hi Ronan,

    Great article.

    We were on the EPP, Enterprise Platform Programme at the ERIC Carlow for 2010/2011 and found the programme great.

    Does this programme differ much from the EPP/Leap is it a different angle than the EPP/Leap.

    Thanks
    Niamh

  5. Hi Niamh,

    Thanks for your comment and question – LEAP and iGAP are very different. LEAP suited us for that moment in time. It was a good starting point – we got overviews of general business practices including pitching, accounting, sales, HR etc. but where iGAP differs is the focus and clarity it brings to Internet based businesses like ours. We changed the way we worked after iGAP, we worked smarter, built things better and quicker by avoiding common pitfalls. We also built a great network of people we could trust and relate to.

    R

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