The latest cohort of Pipeline startups recently completed the first of four modules in the program. SPN caught up with three Kansas City participants to see how it went.
Austin Barone is Co-Founder of Just Play Sports Solutions, a software system to help coaches from high schools through the WNBA improve instruction, practice preparation and execution.
“From my perspective, basically what we did was a crash course on whose pain point we’re solving and what it is,” he said. “You can’t have a business without customers. They have to have a pain point and we have to solve it.”
Roy Scott, Co-Founder of H3 Enterprise, agreed. H3 is an ed tech startup that uses an online platform to distribute positive music and education programming.
“This module was more about drilling to the bottom of who our customer is, what that pain point is, and how we’re relieving it,” he said. “We’re truly identifying our customers and how we’re going to reach them.”
For Jennifer Rosenblatt, Co-Founder of MusicSpoke, time together away from structured sessions was as valuable as time spent in the module itself. MusicSpoke is an online marketplace for composers to connect directly with conductors and performers.
“Even though the three of us are in Kansas City, we all stayed in the same lodging together as a Pipeline family,” she said. “We really quickly got to know each other, work on homework together, and tell personal stories.”
The group plans to do the same thing for modules in other cities. The collaboration has helped.
“We all worked on our own businesses specifically, going down to the pains we relieve,” Rosenblatt said. “Because of staying together, we got to help each other work on customer discovery.”
The focus on customers will be a part of all four modules.
“A big part of each module is to clearly define customers and figure out if there are pivots we need to make to be more efficient or expand reach,” Scott said. “Let’s try to get a different perspective, get everybody’s input to see if there’s a better way.”
A program like Pipeline forces entrepreneurs to deal with challenges they might not otherwise address.
“The reality of the situation is that no one of us would take the time if we weren’t forced to do it,” Barone said. “We’re in the grind of day to day operations and don’t sit back to look at it from the ten thousand foot level.”
Based on their experience so far, major pivots seem far less likely than focus and refinement.
I don’t think it’s a matter of pivoting the business model,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s focusing my marketing effectively to a specific subset of customers that have the pain that I had.”
A change in marketing focus is also an outcome for Scott.
“Our big focus was geared toward schools, and that can sometimes be challenging,” he said. “Now we’re going more directly toward parents and decision-makers at home who see a need for healthy hip-hop or different, innovative ways to get kids active instead of glued to their devices.”
Realizing that you can’t be all things to all people was a takeaway for Barone.
“We have an excellent product that a lot of people really love, but you can’t solve everybody’s problems,” he said. “We’re going to have an excellent opportunity to gain market share. Making sure that plan is focused is very important.”
The three very compact, very scheduled days were tiring.
“But you don’t get growth without pain,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s a painful process but out of it you get growth and focused execution.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.