My review of the STING FastForward accelerator

Many have asked me what I think about the STING FastForward program that my colleague at RevRise and I have participated in during the fall. It is a new STING program that gathers Stockholm’s most promising Internet startups in 4 month batches. We have thus been included in the first batch ever, where 8 companies were selected from over 70s applicants.

We, together with the other participants, have become part of an ecosystem of other entrepreneurs, business coaches, investors, experts and have been given tools and methods to rapidly develop our products and achieve success.

In short: STING FastForward is an accelerator for startups.

It has been a fall full of action and time has gone by a furious pace. So this is my attempt to summarize what I think about the program. Remember, this is my experience and not necessarily that of my co-founder, batch buddies or anyone else.

The other participants made it worth it alone

In total we have been 18 participants who met days and nights. Being surrounded by so many entrepreneurs with such diverse experiences have been a privilege in itself. I’m personally extremely focused sometimes and can probably be perceived as introvert and quiet, but a few weeks into the program I became more social, which opened my mind to new possibilities on a daily basis.

The same wide range is found in the various companies. Everything from hardware to market places, to games and designed furniture legs. Which means that you are forced to think outside of your own bubble.

The people all become my friends. This made STING FastForward worth it on its own.

Excellent coaching

In FastForward, you will be challenged – in a positive way. I have been running own companies in almost five years and it is extremely useful to be questioned. Are you going in the right direction, do you have short-term and long-term goals and do they match each other? The FFW-coaches challenged me all the time to reflect on what we do.

The coaches in FastForward advocates the methodology which you can read about in the books The Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas. I myself had read the books before the program and likes the methodology, but has never really worked by them. Not for real. Until I joined FastForward, then you do it for real. Each week, you follow up on your goals, so called validated learning, which means that you follow up very tightly and thoroughly, the most important in a company in the start-up phase, your (key) metrics.

A big family

STING has helped roughly 120 companies and all are available on an internal network. You get invited to events, after works and workshops to meet other like-minded. And I can always ask a question and get an answer from someone in the network. That’s powerful. This is a network of business owners who are all over the world.

Yes, it can be perceived distracting

Production-wise, the time during the program has not been optimal for us. And it’s not what you should do most of the time during this program. It is a requirement and it is certainly preferable that you have a prototype or alpha version of your product ready when you start FastForward. Take this opportunity to turn and twist on your business model and product market fit. Ask, try, test, ask, try, test and challenge your business in everything you do.

Don’t get me wrong, our business was not distracted, but the environment and the schedule is not made for 12-day hackathons. We joined the program with a fairly clear path. A clear path that didn’t last long. You meet various mentors and listen to a lot of speakers. You hear a lot of advice, and sometimes it is conflicting. And that’s okay. It’s great to get perspective and they inspire you by sharing what worked for them… but no one knows your business as well as you do.

These amazing coaches will wrap their head around the moving parts of your business first, and then help you think through solutions rather than just telling you what to do. Excellent coaching to say the least.

There isn’t always a lot of structure in the FFW program

Overall it was a good structure in the program, every week there were scheduled time for coach meetings and every week began with a roll call where all startups took up last week goals and achievements as well as upcoming week’s challenges.

The only thing I have to complain about is that it wasn’t always long-term planning of what was to be done, perhaps this depends on that we was the first batch ever in the program. At the same time it may be required short-term planning in this format, to fit for what we need.

It is also much of a “make it your own” approach, which I love. It’s up to what you want, you’re sitting in the front seat and decide your path. The coaches are there to guide and advise but they will never steer. The way it should be according to me.

Demo Day is a good forcing function

We got some press thanks to Demo Day, but don’t have too high expectations. In Sweden it is still relatively little attention to Internet companies, especially in the traditional media and perhaps especially in startups. We got however a lot of response from investors and business angels, which of course is great.

What was really valuable for me was actually the preparation for Demo Day. In about two weeks before Demo Day we started preparing our pitch, and the week before we did pitch prep every day. During FastForward you have access to mentors and experts who will provide feedback on your pitch and learn how to pitch your idea.

This really helped me nail down our product and vision, and forced me to learn to convey the story to the people in a powerful way. I see the value each time I pitch RevRise now.

If you join an accelerator program that has a Demo Day. Practice a lot. You want to stand out. Use Demo Day as a forcing function to reach your goals and see it an introduction to your fundraising.

It was also nice to have the Demo Day as a termination to all of us participants, that got me reflecting on what we have done during the fall, and increased the fellowship further.

Leaving FastForward, we’re on a good track but not without challenges

Now we have officially completed FastForward and we are back on our own feet. For our part, it is now the journey begins for real. We launched our product, December 11 2013, so we’ve been live for about two months and starting to bring in more customers. Next six months will be a very exciting time for RevRise.

Coming out of the accelerator STING FastForward I feel much smarter, more capable, more connected and I know I have many hard working people behind me.

I want to thank all the other founders and everyone in the STING crew for an amazing fall. I have learned a lot and had so much fun. Thank you!

I leave on the baton with lessons and relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life.

If you have the opportunity to join our FastForward family, do it!

Thanks for reading.

PS. This is post #20 in my blog challenge 100 posts. See you tomorrow!

You should follow me on Twitter here: @jskn

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