OfficeRnD just finished the intensive 13-week mentor-led programme in Europe’s first property-innovation focused accelerator called Pi Labs.
Starting a new business is an intense challenge that takes more than good team, hard work and the Lean Startup book. You also need the right partners and a bit of luck.
At OfficeRnD, we had the chance to find an investor and partner that helped us accelerate and find the right way to our market.
Two developers in a garage
We started OfficeRnD in Sofia, Bulgaria back in October 2014. Two developers, writing code after work, during the weekends and at night, believing they are making the software that someone is waiting for. Classic. We were identifying problems, defining the scope of the solution, developing feature after feature. We’ve been discussing and brainstorming about – ‘Who is the target customer? What do they need?’. We identified our assumptions. Since we’ve been so ‘lean’, we decided to launch the product and ran a social media campaign to get feedback. So we did and most of our friends registered. We’ve paid attention to their ideas which allowed us to create new features, we’ve also been fixing bugs. It was a very productive session, we thought. But was it really?
The next step was to focus more on the business itself. So we’ve joined for the Startup Academy in Sofia. We discussed the Lean startup again and again but well, we all know what it means, we read the book.
At the same time, two investment funds found us and invited us to apply – LAUNCHub, Sofia and PiLabs, London. They both decided to invest in OfficeRnD, which was a great surprise. One of the first things one of the managers at LAUNCHub even did was to send me the Lean startup book with the kind advice to read it. Funny right?
PiLabs Accelеrаtion program
We chose to relocate to London. It was no brainier – the biggest office market in the world and acceleration fund specialized in our domain – Pi Labs – Europe’s first property accelerator.
The program started high: 20+ meetings in 3 days with the Pi Mentors – awesome business and property stars from the London property and related industries. The touch questions appeared again – ‘Who is the customer? Why will they pay? What is the problem you solve?’. We’ve been answering our assumptions based on gut feelings. We could’ve felt that something is not right, but well, we’ve been happily developing more and more features 18h/day.
We all know the phrase – “Get out of the building!“. It took us quite some time and many hours of work for the Pi Labs managers and mentors to make us understand it. They literally pushed us out of the building by introducing us to dozens of potential customers and partners. That is how the meetings began, we had customers meetings every other day. We started to ask questions, to get answers and to learn. The dots finally started to connect. We started to see recurring problems in every meeting and that were not the problems we thought of initially. So we started to identify the problem, to see how our solution fits. We managed to acquire few customers to trial the product and we worked with them on a weekly basis. Their feedback was very valuable.
At that point, we actually started to enjoy those meetings, and we realized that being out of the office can be fun, that the weather in London is also not that bad, even for us coming from way more sunny part of the world.
As a recap, Pi Labs and their strategic partners Spire Ventures and Cushman & Wakefield, supported us in various areas:
- Warm introductions to potential customers and partners.
- Introductions to investors.
- Defining the scope of the solution, the product, and the business.
- Finding the right people to help us – either employees or advisors and mentors.
- Spread the word out via different marketing channels.
- Prepare for further rounds of investment.
The acceleration program finished with Demo Day.
‘Demo Day’ enabled potential investors to meet the teams, find out how the businesses have developed throughout the three-month Pi Labs experience and learn what the future holds for the ambitious entrepreneurs as they vie for additional funding for continued growth.
At this stage, we got huge support from Pi Labs. We even had special training from MetaSpeech to improve our Public speaking, Pitch skills and most importantly, body language. That was really helpful and as a result, all the 5 teams were really very well prepared on stage.
Check out the short 3 mins video from Demo Day. It’s cool, isn’t it?
Thanks, Pi Labs, Cushman and Wakefield, MetaSpeech, Pi Mentors and everyone that helped us during the toughest first months of our startup journey.