The sharing economy has gained some high-profile backers recently. A female UX expert offers tips on how to design for it.
I was initially unsure whether an accelerator was right for my startup, MommaZoo. Here are five reasons I’m happy we took the plunge and are now participating in ImagineK12.
By Catheryne Nicholson (Co-Founder & CEO, MommaZoo)
It all started with a tweet from Paul Graham
Imagine K12 is a startup accelerator for education technology companies. Modeled after Y Combinator, it’s an intense four-month program featuring weekly partner reviews, sessions with high-profile education entrepreneurs, and pitches to educators and investors.
Since MommaZoo is an education technology company, Imagine K12 seemed right up our alley. But before Paul Graham’s tweet, I never considered participating in an accelerator. I hardly fit the profile of the newly graduated college hacker that accelerator programs are designed for: I’m the mother of two, I’m way out of college, and I’m not male.
My co-founder, Matthieu, and I applied to Imagine K12 as a long shot. When we got the call offering us a spot in their winter class, we were too stunned to say anything other than “can we get back to you tomorrow?” For the next 24 hours, we debated whether an accelerator could really help us. A final gut check made us go for it.
We are now halfway through Imagine K12’s program. We’re happy to report that our decision was one of the best we’ve made. Here’s what’s been invaluable for us:
Your Baby Is Ugly
Honest, brutal feedback from very knowledgeable, dedicated people is precious. In education, teachers are often too nice to tell you your product is terrible. They just won’t use it and you’ll never know why. Parents will give you feedback but it’s rarely tractable (we simply have too many problems) and scheduling time with them requires rotating the earth backwards. The continuous feedback Imagine K12 gives us has made MommaZoo immeasurably better.
Imagine K12 includes events (like demo days) that act as forcing functions to improve your product faster than you thought possible. Schools have rhythms that you must be mindful of. If you don’t iterate fast and time your product changes appropriately, you may miss those windows of opportunity.
When you’re a startup, it’s almost impossible to get the attention of educators. Imagine K12 brings them to you, makes the introductions and validates your purpose. You meet luminaries and influencers in the field and learn from their mistakes and successes.
In the Same Boat
In education, a unique blend of consumer and enterprise models is necessary. This makes the startup road even more challenging: EdTech is carving a new path. Having other entrepreneurs in the same boat to help, inspire and boost you up when you’re at your low makes a big difference.
Teachers and educators are mostly women and so it makes all the sense in the world for women to start EdTech companies. And yet, look at the number of women founders: it’s dismal (ladies, check out Edukwest and tell me what you see on their homepage. Can you believe it was started by a woman blogger?!) Now look at the number of women founders in Imagine K12’s portfolio: it’s a breath of fresh air.
What Imagine K12 cannot do (or any accelerator, for that matter) is give you the magic recipe to make your startup succeed. You still need to find it yourself by working harder than you ever have and incrementing relentlessly.
Most startups fail. However, we have no doubt MommaZoo’s chances got better with Imagine K12 at our backs.
Between now and April 2, 2013, MommaZoo is running a Teacher Raffle. To enter:
- Register. Register on www.mommazoo.com.
- Invite. Invite your class parents and use MommaZoo with them.
- Feedback. Send us feedback and we’ll enter you in the raffle!
- Increase your odds. Refer other teachers/room parents and tell us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As soon as your referral registers on MommaZoo, you get an additional raffle. The more people you refer, the greater your chances of winning!
Winner will be notified by email.
About the guest blogger: Catheryne Nicholson is Co-Founder and CEO at MommaZoo. Between her multiple jobs and motherhood, she’s always multi-tasking. Back when she had the luxury to concentrate on single tasks, she built energy and emissions management, CRM, and defense software for C3, Siebel Systems, and Northrop-Grumman. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering, an MBA and is a registered Professional Engineer in Mechanical Engineering.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Nathan E. Photography.
Maker culture started out as a DIY movement…
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Building a hardware business is feasible today in
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Before coming up with the idea for GiftRocket, we (the founders) treated it like a problem set. We’d methodically work through the list and have late night discussions about
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the recent dust-up over race and Silicon Valley. Like almost every discussion of diversity and meritocracy in this town, it turned ugly fast. One side says: “All I see is white men. Therefore, people like Michael Arrington must be racist.” The other responds, “Silicon Valley is a colorblind meritocracy. If there were qualified women or minority candidates, we’d welcome them.”
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To me, these things are the two sides of the same coin.
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The time is once again upon us: Y Combinator applications are due tomorrow. From there, Paul Graham and company will choose the next crop of Y Combinator startups, which will converge on Silicon Valley in January 2012 to innovate, iterate, develop, learn and build — and take a sweet check from Ron Conway and Yuri Milner while they’re at it.
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My recommendation if you are to read any startup literature, Paul Graham influenced me the most and I liked to read what he had to say about startups. Action first. And if you have to read anyone, read Paul Graham.