PreAccelerate is for super early stage ideas
For entrepreneurs that want to prepare for advanced incubators and accelerators or just want to launch their idea into a real company, the PreAccelerate program has launched in Austin to help those entrepreneurs build a plan and acquire the skills to get to the next level. There are a lot of programs we have featured here that focus on companies seeking funding or have fleshed out their idea, but the market for accelerating super early stage ideas is sparse.
PreAccelerate Co-Founder Tina Cannon said the program was inspired by her company, Napkin Venture’s Free Friday Brainstorm sessions which Cannon said is constantly filled with entrepreneurs with an idea unclear about next steps. “We felt that for those entrepreneurs there were not as many accelerator type resources,” she said. “Most ended up tossing the idea or at best heading to a local small business resource center which may or may not be what they needed still. So, we set in motion to create a place where ideas could be molded into companies, PreAccelerate.”
While advanced incubator programs are increasingly more niche-oriented, accepting only retail or only app developers, and so on, PreAccelerate says their “slate is open,” as applications are open to really any type of entrepreneur from software, apps, consumer packaged products to brick and mortar.
Cannon asserted, “If it is an idea that needs polish and finish out so to speak, then that is what we are here for. Ideas that are not ready for a larger incubator or not ready for bank financing… still in the flushing out business model and wrapping structure around the concept, that is the type of companies we are looking for.”
One class under their belt, one more to go
The program has already had their first class of four entrepreneurs/companies graduate, with two turning out of the class that are up and running – MomComLife.com and Edmosphere.net. Cannon said that in the program, entrepreneurs will build out their models, identify their markets and go to market strategies, finalize their entities, start a beta, and get users. After PreAccelerate, participants take all that data and early users and either bootstrap or chase seed funding.
Because the program is based in Austin, they say there is no shortage of mentors. They’ve put out a call for mentors for the second class of PreAccelerate and are now sorting through responses. “We are looking for mentors who just love the ideation and early early stage ventures,” Cannon added.
Their first Demo Day for the first class of participants went well, according to Cannon, as they partnered with Tech Ranch and had Christopher Clayton as the keynote. All four companies presented to a crowd of investors, press and entrepreneurs. Cannon said, “We were thrilled with the progress of the entrepreneurs and of the fact that they had a short time frame to develop a company, flush out the details of a pitch deck, rehearse and kill it on Demo Day.”
When asked what surprises they’ve encountered so far, Cannon said, “Lucky to report no surprises. That in itself may be the biggest surprise. I half expected us to trip over every operational thing but we were blessed with great sponsors, partners, applicants and mentors so it really went off without a hitch. Fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx the next one!”
Is COVID proving that efficiency is overrated?
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Forget about maximizing profits. Don’t decrease friction – increase it. Oh, and efficiency? Overrated. Wait… what?
When COVID-19 took off in the U.S., shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and blow-up pools had many of us thinking the American manufacturing supply chain must be inefficient. How was it even possible that we didn’t – and still don’t – have enough PPE for healthcare workers?
But what if the problem is that the supply chain is too efficient? That’s what Barry Schwartzis, a professor of psychology at UC-Berkeley and author of “The Paradox of Choice,” argues. Streamlined supply chains, just-in-time deliveries, and little slack in the workforce are all part of the gospel of efficiency. But maybe all that efficiency isn’t really working out for us.
Storing huge supplies of masks in warehouses is, arguably, an inefficient use of money and space. But we sure could have used a stockpile when the pandemic hit.
When businesses run lean, there’s little room to hedge against potential disasters. Schwartzis suggests we focus less on efficiency and more on being prepared for all potential scenarios the uncertain could bring.
It’s all about “satisficing.” (Anyone else now have Elvis in your head singing, “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me”? No? Carry on.)
Satisficing = satisfaction + sufficing. It’s aiming for the adequate, not the optimal. Schwartzis calls it insurance against “financial meltdowns, global pandemics, nasty bosses, boring teachers and crappy roommates.” Sign. Us. Up.
He goes farther and takes that lesson to our personal lives. Don’t try to blow the return on your IRA out of the water. Set a goal that works for good and bad financial times. Don’t search for the best of all possible jobs. Find a job you’ll like doing even if you have the manager from hell. In short, look for the “good enough.”
Sound familiar to those of you who are parents? Amid all the talk of the Tiger Mom and the Helicopter Parent, there’s also been discussion of the Good-Enough Parent. You might want the coffee mug that says “Best Mom Ever,” but you don’t actually have to be the Best Mom Ever. Ditching “best” for “good enough” is like a magic elixir for de-stressing yourself and your kids.
Still, the idea that we can increase efficiency in our personal lives is so seductive. We all want to spend less time doing the things we don’t enjoy so we can spend more time on things that bring happiness and, yes, more money. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, seen the lists: Structure your schedule. Time your tasks. Organize all the things.
Being able to always find your keys certainly could reduce the amount of cursing in your home. We can’t just toss out the Holy Grail of efficiency.
So Schwartzis has another word for you: Friction. Slow down. Don’t move too fast.
“Building friction into our lives, as individuals and as a society, is building resilience into the system,” Schwartzis says. It’s like tapping the brakes.
For business, friction could come from companies seeing themselves as caretakers of their communities rather than just profit centers. Could that kind of corporate responsibility lead to fewer jobs eliminated in the name of efficiency?
For homeowners, friction could be in the form of kids, pets, neighbors or the community – making you see the property as more than just a big investment. Could that prevent skyrocketing housing prices by reducing speculation based purely on profit?
Sure, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s an interesting take on issues we’re thinking more about amid the disruption of 2020’s pandemic.
“To be better prepared next time,” Schwartzis says, “We need to learn to live less ‘efficiently’ in the here and now.”
That could be one of the more important lessons we’re learning now.
Amazon sets eyes on couture with launch of online Luxury Stores
(ENTREPRENEUR) As of this week, Amazon is an online luxury retailer. Is this good or bad news for smaller luxury retailers?
When I think of high-end fashion shopping, Amazon is not the first store that comes to mind. Groceries, random knick-knacks, and pet accessories for my adorable pooch are the items in my cart.
This week, Amazon confirmed the launch of its high-end online designer fashion and beauty brand shopping experience, Luxury Stores. Currently, Oscar de la Renta is the first brand to launch on the platform, but more are on the way.
Available by invitation only to eligible Prime members, the store launched on Amazon’s mobile app. Eligible customers received early access to the designer’s Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections. The collection included “ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume,” according to Amazon.
If you’re a Prime member and didn’t receive an invitation, you can request an invite by visiting amazon.com/LuxuryStores.
Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta said, “Oscar de la Renta is thrilled to partner with Amazon for the launch of Luxury Stores.” He told Vogue that “somewhere near 100% of our existing customers are on Amazon and a huge percentage of those are Prime members. For me to get more mindshare with existing customers in addition to getting new customers—that’s the name of the game.”
According to The Verge, Amazon has over 150 million Prime members. With that big of a number and potentially huge customer overlap, we can all see why Bolen is so thrilled.
But what does Amazon’s break into luxury retail mean for smaller luxury retailers? Smaller companies are still struggling to keep up with the retail giant. With small brick-and-mortar stores fighting to stay afloat during the pandemic, could Amazon’s online Luxury Stores be an all-inclusive solution?
According to Amazon’s press release, the company doesn’t plan on only partnering with established fashion brands, but also with “emerging luxury fashion and beauty brands.”
“We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and we are inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands in Amazon’s store,” said Christine Beauchamp, President of Amazon Fashion.
Engadget reported that Amazon is taking a hands-off approach with Luxury Stores. The company will offer backend and merchandising tools support. Brands will have control over their pricing, inventory, and selection. With brands being able to have more control over their experience, maybe smaller luxury retailers will feel inclined to use this new sales outlet.
“It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers,” Beauchamp said.
Amazon has yet to reveal which new luxury stores will arrive on the platform. Hopefully, we will also see our local luxury stores on Amazon in the future, too.
Small businesses must go digital to survive (and thrive)
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A study at Cisco reveals how digitizing small businesses is no longer optional, but critical to success, thanks to the pandemic.
As digital transformation efforts ramp up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study released by Cisco has highlighted some key insights into how small businesses will need to adapt in order to survive in the “new normal.”
The study, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), analyzed more than 2,000 small businesses across eight different markets, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, and France. Using a four-section index to assess a small business’s digitalization efforts, the research found that 16% of companies said they were “thriving and feel their businesses are agile and resilient.” While 36% stated they were in “survival mode.” Regardless of where they were ranked in the index, the study concluded that 70% of firms were in the process of ramping up digital transformation within their company due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC. “Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”
The study also highlighted several challenges associated with digital transformation. The three biggest obstacles that businesses seem to face during the process were digital skills and talent, budgetary issues (lack of funds or previous commitment of funds), and cultural resistance to change. Despite these roadblocks, 45% of companies surveyed stated that they expect over 30% of their business to be digital by 2021. And 32% responded that they are planning on developing a digital strategy. This included investing in talent with the right set of digital skills moving forward.
Those decisions fall in line with Cisco and IDC’s recommendations. These include creating a three-year technology road map and building a workforce with the right skills to succeed in a digital world. Other suggestions include finding the right technology partner, and keeping up with industry trends. Leveraging financing and remanufactured equipment can aid with cash flow and budget requirements.
As small businesses continue to adapt to consumer behavior and the whirlwind of ever-changing rules that have come with the coronavirus, digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the post-COVID world. According to the report, if half of the small businesses surveyed can reach the second-highest tier of the index by 2024, those companies could end up adding an additional $2.3 trillion to the eight markets’ gross domestic product (GDP), contributing to the global economic recovery.
As we approach the six-month mark of the pandemic, just when and how the “new normal” will emerge is still uncertain. But there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses — even if it’s faint green and contains zeroes and ones.
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