Out of hundreds of applicants we were selected for an accelerator program in Waterloo, Canada based on our news/social aggregator product. The accelerator had 110 mentors and 50 alumni + 50 peers in the network. We noticed something: people in the network had trouble finding others in the same network (peers, alumni and mentors) who had expertise they needed.
We all wanted to leverage the network but it was painful and took too long to find the right person and staff felt they were the bottleneck when receiving requests. I noticed this same problem at Manulife, Mohawk College and the Ministry of Education when staffing project teams or looking for a person who could provide context on a problem. The bigger the organization the harder it is to find the people.
The Serendipity Of Help
Leveraging the network is a critical part of an organization’s success. Based on our experience the accelerator staff asked if we could help with the problem. We were busy with our existing product but we wanted to help the community so we said “we’ll build you something over the weekend – if you like it you can use it.” So we did just that and the first version was focused on making it really easy to get started (low friction on-boarding) and connecting the network. The community liked it and word spread.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Through an initial integration with dashboard.io, Paul Singh (CEO of dashboard.io/Disruption Corp. and a partner at 500 Startups at this time), saw LaunchSpot and loved it! Paul invited me to a VC/Accelerator Symposium that he was running. So I flew out to the event and listened to 60 organizations like Union Square Ventures and TechStars talk about their problems. A major theme was connecting the network and not being the bottleneck to the expertise within the network. They had tried many tools and none of them met their needs (a trend we are seeing in the Enterprise/Corporate space as well). These platforms focus too much on content as well as status updates, and both social and mentor platforms take too long to setup a profile that is actually useful (high friction).
When I returned we talked to more organizations to understand if the problem was still an issue for them. The answer was YES! So we built some more and went to market with the first full SaaS offering of LaunchSpot in the fall of 2013. When we started working on LaunchSpot, we thought it was a weekend project that would help our community in Waterloo, Canada. Little did we know what would happen next...
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