Startup Stories Part 21: The Importance of Investor Demo Day and Beyond

Here’s the 21st part of my bi-weekly column with The Star Metrobiz. Read the original post here. Hope this helps!

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Having personally completed two accelerators myself in the United States when working on my startups, I’ve learned that while Demo Day was certainly the highlight of the program, the next 6 months post Demo Day is the time that makes or breaks most startups; whether or not you manage to raise funding for your startup, run out of money or find a way to generate sustainable revenue.

At MaGIC, we consciously modeled our accelerator after another government-funded program called Startup Chile, especially considering that Chile, just like Malaysia, is a natural-resource rich country within a larger region that is trying to take itself to the next level via innovation and entrepreneurship. Our team spent 2 weeks taking a leaf out of their playbook and adopted it to the ASEAN context and the inaugural cohort of MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP) was born in July 2015.

It has now been 4 months since we launched the MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP), Asia’s largest accelerator with 50 ASEAN-market centric startups (ASEAN track) from 12 countries and 25 Malaysian social enterprises (SE track) solving local social and environmental issues. As the first of its kind in the region, we did well by receiving over 1,000 applications from 26 countries from around the world, including ASEAN, Czech Republic, Uruguay with an admission rate of around 7% into the inaugural program. We are also heartened by significant participation from Sabah and Sarawak.

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Last week, the program culminated in an Investor Demo Day on the 16 and 17 of November, for the ASEAN and SE tracks respectively. Over 100+ investors and partners from around the region attended the event, where selected startups and SEs pitched on stage to raise funding or invite partnerships and collaboration opportunities with serious investors.

We have designed the program to have multiple levels of support. Ultimately, acceleration relies on 3 primary factors: mentors and curriculum, tracking milestones and introductions to potential investors and partners.

For MAP, we have engaged 100+ mentors with 18 weeks of content including classes, workshops, office hours and pitching sessions. Some of the more prominent mentors we had coming to speak and give office hours to our MAP participants include: Anthony Tan, Founder of Grabtaxi, Erman Akinci of Catcha Group, Adrian Vanzyl, CEO of Ardent Capital, Hans-Peter Ressel Managing Director of Lazada, Kai Kux, Managing Director of AVG, Mark Chang of Jobstreet, Joel Neoh, Founder of KFIT, Khailee Ng, Managing Partner of 500 Startups.

In terms of milestones and tracking, we made every startup pin down one primary growth metric to be tracked on a weekly basis over the course of the program. Any accelerator only works when there is real growth in meaningful KPIs.

In addition, we started introducing investor and corporate partners halfway through the program to maximise touch points with the startups. MaGIC initiated multiple Route-to-Market days with corporate partners such as telcos, banks and conglomerates to facilitate business development conversations with MAP participants.

Even though we are not running this program as a business, we place exceptional importance on driving real market demand value via real growth and acceleration. MAP ASEAN aims to prepare startups to be investment-ready. MAP SE’s current objective is to inspire a movement and build awareness around social enterprises, ensuring that high potential social enterprises grow into Malaysian success stories in the near future. This will subsequently inspire a movement that will contribute towards the development of the social entrepreneurship space. 

We have also focused on building an inclusive environment to further enhance the ecosystem. Encouraging a ‘give back’ culture is one key example of this, where the cohort share knowledge with local communities and inspire future entrepreneurs around the nation.

In one of my August Startup Stories column, I had written about “Metrics that Matter for Your Startup,” and on Demo Day, your product’s “traction over time” or progress is the most important thing that matters. Your pitch deck, wireframes or business plan could have gotten you into an accelerator, but at D-Day, you get to present to a global group of potential investors. It puts you on a platform that could make or break you; it could either place you on an investor’s radar, or have your startup black-marked should you present unprepared or not exhibited enough growth.

The other thing to consider is the marathon after the sprint, startups build and chase their metrics so hard in time for Demo Day. However, it takes tenacity to keep running the race to build a sustainable and profitable business. For MAP startups, I hope they keep the momentum going and capitalise on the connections they have established during their 4 months in the program.

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In closing, here are the 10 core tenets I shared with our MAP participants, which I believe will help in any founder’s startup journey and continue to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem:

  • Be a PURPOSE-DRIVEN founder. Remember why you’re here.
    Why you’re building this company
  • FOCUS on doing one thing really really well, one at a time
  • Be INSANELY OPTIMISTIC about possibilities but grounded with practicality
  • STAY HUMBLE: Always be CURIOUS and eager to LEARN
  • DARE TO FAIL: Be diligent about EXPERIMENTING with different strategies & methods every week: DOUBLE DOWN on those that work
    and cut out those that don’t
  • HUSTLE and try harder: Two of the most valuable characteristics of
    a great founder is RESOURCEFULNESS & PERSISTENCE.
    There are always 10 different ways of achieving something
  • PAY IT FORWARD: Give before you Take
  • When in doubt, ALWAYS CARE. Your platoon’s problem is your problem.
    Their success is your success
  • PERSONAL GROWTH is as important if not more
    important than COMPANY GROWTH
  • Don’t miss the FOREST for the TREES

 

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