Wayra start-up diary: gathering momentum

For those of you who missed my last post, I'm documenting Night Zookeeper's experience at the Wayra Academy. Through these posts I am hoping to chart the learning experiences offered as part of Telefónica's startup accelerator Wayra.

Last week I met with Marcelo Ballona, an investor and Wayra UK judge. He explained to me that Telefónica, the company behind the Wayra Academy, is like a giant rocket ship, capable of monumental momentum. If a company doesn't get to the end of this programme with a successful business, it's likely that the problem doesn't lay with the rocket ship, but the business itself. That is a scary thing to think as I write this post, now well into our second month in the academy.

So what have we achieved so far? And what does it mean to be attached to a rocket ship? Night Zookeeper have been busy:

  • We have presented at FutureBook and were a finalist at the Meet the Innovators 2 IPG and TSB event.
  • We were named among the UK's top start-ups in the Startups 100 list.
  • We have swapped emails with a number of potential mentors and met with two who have agreed to help us throughout the programme.
  • We have been offered an education book publishing deal.
  • We have met with zoos and discussed the potential to run our magical school project there.
  • We have arranged meetings with several trade book publishers.
  • We have rewritten large parts of our alpha iPad application to help us scale when we launch our next site in three months time.

You may notice that I have written 'We' a lot. This is because each of these achievements was a result of our own efforts. An accelerator programme is, at its core, an opportunity for a business to take the initiative and drive itself forward. Yes, a programme will provide fantastic expert speakers: this month we heard from Luke Hakes of Octopus Ventures among others, but if anyone thinks that an accelerator is an easy path to setting up a business, they can forget it. If your business is to be successful, you require just as much hard work and hustle as you would outside of an accelerator programme, because ultimately, only rain falls out of the sky.

So where is the rocket ship in all of this? Well, it's part of the essential momentum that drives you forward. Paul Hutson, Night Zookeeper's education director, and I have talked a lot about momentum since we set up the company and it is something that we have tried to maintain through the decisions the business has made. Momentum brings the excitement and confidence that can result in unexpected opportunities and a great accelerator programme like Wayra is a fantastic way of building momentum.

But you don't need to be on an accelerator programme to move forward. Networking events, product iterations, angel investment, new team members, press coverage, competitions: all of these have contributed towards our general sense of speed and purpose. It keeps the team engaged and forces action rather than indecision or worse, procrastination. Many more decisions lay ahead of us and I will be sure to keep the benefits of momentum in mind.

I promised I would try and share other lessons from the academy, so I will end with something that a member of another team told me in the kitchen this week.

"Keep it simple; work out your core proposition and focus on delivering that. It will help you focus your efforts and build a product that answers your core goals." On reflection refining your product development ambitions is another great method of maintaining momentum.

If you have any questions please leave me comments below.

To find out more about Night Zookeper click here.

To read more about Wayra UK click here.

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