Every week I talk with five to 15 founders in the early stages of building a product-based company. Their products range from software to consumer products and they are all at different points along their growth curve. Some have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and have validated their target customer base and are ready to focus on scaling customer acquisition and operations; some have had early success proving demand from their customers and are figuring out the best way to build and deliver their product; and some have built a minimum viable product and are testing out their model with beta customers. Some of these entrepreneurs are just at the idea stage and are trying to figure out what their next step should be.
As the entrepreneur-in-residence for the Advanced Technology Development Center in Savannah, it is my job to provide these entrepreneurs with the resources and connections they need to succeed at every stage, including advice, education, connections to capital, service providers, and potential cofounders. We also offer experienced mentors who have been where the entrepreneurs are and navigated the startup waters to grow successful companies. I am inspired by every one of these individuals — by their passion for the need they are trying to solve and their willingness to take the economic risk to bring their product to market
And yet 90 percent of all startups fail. The biggest reason for failure is not lack of capital or lack of resources; it is a failure to find product-market fit. In plain English, this means that no one wants to buy the product — or at least not enough customers to create a sustainable company. The painful truth is that great ideas do not always translate into great products, and great products do not always translate into successful and sustainable business models.
ATDC is one of the longest running and most successful technology startup incubator programs in the country. Powered by Georgia Tech, ATDC offers a curriculum based on the lean startup model with a focus on customer discovery and validating business assumptions using the business model canvas. As one of the largest university-based startup incubators in the country, ATDC works with more than 800 technology startup entrepreneurs each year across Georgia.
Earlier this year, 12 founders participated in ATDC Savannah’s first startup boot camp, a 10-week accelerator program that takes startups from concept to launch. Founders attended weekly interactive workshops taught by experienced mentors that focused on validation of their target customers, business model and assumptions. Some of the companies already had products and revenues while others were still at the concept or prototype stage.
Several of the founders have since launched their products and several more have raised funds to build their products after validating their customer demand and business model through the boot camp. Through all of the founders that I’ve met in my time serving the Savannah community, I have seen the fastest progression and evolution in first time entrepreneurs who have participated in this unique program.
If you or someone you know is serious about building a product or startup, or even already have an initial product and customers, I encourage you to sign up for ATDC’s Fall Bootcamp which will run from Aug. 23 to Oct. 14. Graduates will be invited to pitch to investors from around the region at Savannah Demo Day and the winners will receive prizes and additional opportunities to pitch to a wider audience. Apply at www.atdc.org/uncategorized/atdc-savannah-startup-bootcamp/.
Yvonne Jouffrault is the founder of Tour Buddy Apps, a Savannah-based company that provides a software platform for publishing and managing apps for visitor destinations and tour companies around the world. Yvonne is the current Entrepreneur-in-Residence to the Savannah community for ATDC and a past board member with The Creative Coast, a non-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region.