By Ingvild Sørlie, Intern at Innovation Norway San Francisco
How do the mentors TINC?
“Silicon Valley is a great place where mentors and friends of TINC will engage you as an early company and try to help and give ideas and even advice. It's your job, as founders, to figure out what advice to implement. Only you know your team, your customers, your business.” – Scott Barclay
Every week of TINC, all the companies have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with four different mentors for one hour each. If your quick at math, that’s a total of forty hours of mentoring each week during TINC, and that’s a lot. But the mentor sessions are also what is emphasized when the TINCers answer what they value most about the program. So, this week we have dedicated the blog to the mentors.
Getting feedback from the mentors has been described as confusing, frustrating, inspiring, epiphanies and mind changing. There’s a lot of feelings involved when your company is getting some honest feedback from the mentors, but it’s also one of the best parts of the TINC program. We in the TINC team like hearing that our TINCers are confused, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you haven’t been challenged and questioned what you’re doing at least once a week during TINC, then you’re not really TINCing.
Daniel Kjellen is our newest addition to the TINC core mentor group and already he has shown extremely valuable to the companies. Daniel’s expertise lays mostly within fintech and payment but for our companies working towards the e-commerce B2B market he has also been an invaluable resource. Daniel also focuses on marketing, product fit and strategy, and is a well-connected guy in Silicon Valley who sees connections from the second you tell him what you do, almost like a TINC matchmaker.
Victor Belfor is the big bear in the group of mentors. He can be so direct and brutally honest it’s almost scary, for that reason he has been nicknamed “the butcher”. But as the big bear he is, he also cares greatly for the companies. He has deep experience in “the front of the house” with business development, revenue generation, and frameworks. He is currently working as Senior VP of Channel Sales and Business Development for Conversia, a leading AI-powered business developer and sales agent.
Scott Barclay’s expertise is in health and big data, in his own words he “helps build companies at the intersection of health and data”. Scott is also our expert in letting you lead a meeting. Scott is very set on not giving the companies a direct answer to their business, rather letting them take control of the mentoring and use his expert advise to guide them to find the answers. After all, the companies must make their own decisions of which advise to follow when the TINCing is over.
Sean Percival is our metrics guy, but as is with metrics there is so much more to Sean. Sean has over 12 years of online marketing experience and has formerly worked with 500 Startups, Topix and Blockchain. Sean is a veteran when it comes to accelerator programs and preparations for fundraising, and he is currently the operating manager of the Oslo based Katapult Accelerator.
Since this was the week with main focus on mentoring, there were no workshops on the schedule. However, we still managed to fit in some inspiring group activities. For the stressful day-to-day life of startups, a session of meditation with James Brown was very welcome. Even though we didn’t fully master the art of meditation in one hour, the session helped remind us that when you take time to take care of yourself, you become better at your work. The same day we also had a founder talk by Jonatan Littke from Lookback, to learn about building teams and culture in your organization. The weekend was kicked off with a meeting with Carl Fritjofsson from Creandum. A founder, turned VC gave a candid look into both sides of this complicated co-existence.
TicketbirdThe Ticketbirds are the TINCers with the best merchandise, but the eagle, CEO and founder Daniel Hedberg claims he has been reborn during TINC. Maybe a phoenix is a better bird now? The rest of the Ticketbird team Magnus Vigren and Roger Eriksson agree. “TINC is nothing like we expected. It has just been a rollercoaster. We have been discussing a lot about who we are, why we do what we do and the core problems we want to solve. It has been all over the emotional scale. It has been demanding, frustrating, we have argued, hugged, felt anger and joy. It has been a very dynamic process.”
Ticketbird is an online customer support service that uses AI to improve the answers to customer questions. They came here to validate and challenge product market fit, and have been working hard with just that. They feel it has been so many impressions and ideas the first week, so they haven’t really had time to realize what has happened or process and use their newfound knowledge. But now Ticketbird has seen the light, and as all successful startups do once or twice, they have pivoted. “We had a meeting with the mentor Daniel and that gave us an epiphany. His reaction to a part of our value proposition gave us the inspiration for this pivot, and by focusing on a small part of our value proposition we can actually widen our possibilities.”
Sweetzpot is the sportiest company attending TINC this fall with their hardware that measures breathing as an alternative to heart rate during exercise. Håvard Bjor and Arne Laugstøl, are excited to be in Silicon Valley, not just for the contact with the American market but also the culture that exist in this area. “Silicon Valley is kind off the Olympic arena for startups. This is the perfect place to understand what path to choose to get to that level and into this community. The kind of mindset that we get here, there are big thoughts, global aspirations, and it really triggers something in us.”
The American market was however one of the main reasons for Sweetzpot to decide to attend TINC. They wanted to test product market fit and validate and tune their product for entering the market overseas. And as everyone else, they found focus.
“When we came, we thought we were focused. The initial market response was completely different than what we expected. But we are still working on it, and we have some rough ideas but we still need to investigate. So, we’re going to use the last week to select one of the three paths we’re looking at.“
Coala Life Philip Siberg is attending TINC by himself, but his family is keeping him company in Palo Alto. And even though bonding with Mark Zuckerberg over parenting on Halloween was a highlight, TINC has been even better. Coala Life makes it easy for consumers to monitor their heartrate with their portable sensor and a smartphone, and Philip’s heart really beats in rhythm with Palo Alto. “It has been very inspiring and exceeding my expectations. TINC has also given time for reflection and not just getting caught up in life. This is the first time I’ve had a few weeks out of my busy life and it has been great to have time think about the big picture. “
But it hasn’t just been ups, there’s also been some downs. “I had my second week trauma where I felt like: wow, we suck, what are we doing, we’re completely focusing on the wrong things. I really felt the down period that everyone talks about.
Then, at the end of week two I pitched for an investor. He said: “this is amazing and this could work in SV”, and then I was back on top of the world again. “
Philip says he came to TINC to get feedback on his business model and create the worlds smartest business model for his company. The feedback from the market has been very positive, however, cracking the code with the smartest business model he is still working on. But he has come a very long way in these three weeks.