What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

When first developing a product, it can take a lot of time, effort, research, testing, and funding before a product is finalized and ready for the market. After such a large investment, the last thing you want is to discover that consumers don’t want to buy your product or have found major flaws. To avoid finding yourself in this situation, we recommend developing a minimum viable product (MVP) a basic model of your product that will attract early-adopter customers and give you the opportunity to finesse the final version based on their feedback.


Why is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) so important?


MVPs were introduced by Eric Ries as part of his Lean Startup Methodology — a process that builds businesses and products based on consumer needs rather than developing a product and then hoping it sells.

Having an MVP allows you to learn the maximum amount of information about your customers by using minimum resources and effort, and observing how they respond to the earliest version of your product.

Collecting valuable data about your customers and their feedback gives you the opportunity to make adjustments before launching your final version, eliminating the risk of pouring thousands of hours and dollars into a product that is not desired by consumers.


What are the key characteristics of a Minimum Viable Product?


1. Fast and Cheap

If your MVP takes two years to create and piles of cash to produce, it is not an MVP. 


2. Enough features to attract early customers

Your MVP only needs basic features, but at the same time, it needs to have enough features to attract early adopters.


3. The positives of releasing the MVP outweigh the negatives

Releasing an MVP means leads to first customer impressions and it also gives your competitors the chance to see what you’ve developed. The benefits you gain from your MVP such as retrieving valuable customer feedback should outweigh any risks.


4. Your method for submitting customer feedback must be easy and work 

The primary purpose of a minimum viable product is to know what customers think about it. You need to create a convenient and easy way for people to send in feedback.


An example is a software company offering a free upgrade of their next released software version to all customers in exchange for submitting their thoughts about your MVP.


When is it good to release a Minimum Viable Product?


Your startup may choose to develop an MVP because you want to:

  1. Launch a version of your product into the market as quickly as possible.
  2. Test an idea or feature with real customers before committing to full development. 
  3. Learn what your target market likes, dislikes, and would change about your product. 


What are the next steps after developing an MVP?


After releasing an MVP and collecting early adopters’ feedback, you should be able to answer one big question: “Is my product viable?” You will know if a wider audience will purchase your product and if continuing its development should be your next step. 

If you discover that customers would not purchase your product due to a lack of interest or having too many flaws, this is not a failure. In fact, your MVP has done its job by avoiding you from spending further time and resources developing your product. You can either go back to the drawing board to develop a different product altogether or keep with the same product but make significant changes.


What is a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP)?


If early adopters of your MVP demonstrate that a larger audience would purchase your product, you can continue product development to create a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP).

A Minimum Marketable Product (sometimes referred to as a Minimum Marketable Release MMR) is a progressed version of your MVP that is ready to be sold to a much larger audience. An MMR is still not the final version of your product and has minimal features, but it is more advanced than an MVP so more people are attracted to buy it.  


What is the difference between an MVP and MMP?

A textbook MMP is a solution to a customer problem they are willing to pay for, as opposed to an MVP which may not quite yet hit the mark. 

When releasing an MVP, it is early adopters who purchase the product who have a passion for testing out the latest products. When launching an MMP however, you are trying to appeal to a much wider customer base who will have much higher expectations than early adopters. 


How will having an MVP benefit my business?

Developing a minimum viable product is beneficial for the long-term success of your business. It sets you up to become a scalable startup, a quality that most startup investors look for when deciding to invest in a business.

As an entrepreneur, it can be exciting to keep developing your product until it reaches your full vision, but starting with an MVP will save you from making large business errors, wasting time on unwanted features, and spending large quantities of money that does not lead to any revenue.

How to Find Angel Investors

How to Find Angel Investors

A startup’s success is attributed to several factors including the company’s dedication, entrepreneurial skills, the consumer’s need for the products or services offered, effective marketing, business viability, and more. But as passionate, business savvy, and innovative as a startup may be, sometimes it all comes down to money. To launch, grow, and build a scalable startup, you need adequate funding, and a great option is to learn how to find angel investors and gain their support. 


What is an angel investor?

Angel investors are usually wealthy individuals who invest their money into early-stage companies in exchange for equity in the business. Typically angel investors are looking for long-term investments and are able to provide startup mentorship and business expertise in addition to their financial investment.


Is it difficult to find angel investors?

Generally, it’s not hard to find angel investors when you’re looking in the right places, but what can be tricky is learning how to get them to invest in your business which we will cover further down in this article.

Let’s first look at ways to find angel investors.


4 Ways to Find Angel Investors


1. Start with your local community

Angel groups and networks exist all over the world, but many angel investors take a greater interest in locally-based startups. Research groups that exist in your community. 


2. Use online databases

Many angel groups and networks are listed on online databases. Websites like Angel Investors Ontario list all Ontario-registered angel investor groups, making it easy for Ontario-based startups to find angel investors within the province. 

Other websites such as AngelList, Angel Capital Association, and Angel Investment Network give you access to thousands of investors. 


3. Search social media platforms

If your startup is active on social media, particularly on Twitter and LinkedIn, it can lead to connecting with angel investors. Your startup’s social media channels should follow and engage with relevant businesses and influential people.

In general, having an effective digital marketing plan can help you connect with influential people and angel investors.


4. Attend business networking events

Registering for local conferences, industry events, and business socials will bring you closer to connecting with angel investors.

Local networking events are often attended by angel investors, and it’s a great way to make introductions and plant seeds for building long-term relationships.


How to Secure an Angel Investment

Finding angel investors is one thing, securing investments is quite another. Landing funding from an angel investor is all about being prepared, polished, and passionate.


PREPARE a detailed yet concise business plan

Angel investors want to assess your startup’s viability and growth potential. Write a detailed and well-organized business plan that includes elements such as an estimate of how much funding you need, your business strategy, a competitor analysis, and financial objectives.


POLISH your elevator pitch

Whether you connect with angel investors online or in-person, having a well-executed elevator pitch is essential to capture their attention and interest. Aim to keep your pitch concise and simple, and include why your startup is a solid investment.


PASSIONATE entrepreneurs are an angel’s best friend

When angel investors invest their money, time, and expertise, they are not only investing in a business but in the person or people behind it. If you are not passionate and driven, angel investors may question if you have what it takes to go the distance.

How much money can you ask for from angel investors?


As a general rule, startups need to calculate two things before determining how much money they should ask for: Business valuation and funding requirements.

Determining your business valuation will help you come up with an asking amount that is proportionate to how much your startup is worth and also determine if this amount alone will cover your startup’s needs.

Most angel investors will not look at requests that exceed $1 million and will be looking to take a percentage of your company that equals the percentage of funding in relation to your business. For example, if your business is valued at $1 million, and your startup requires $250K in funding, the angel investor will most likely want approximately 25 percent of your company. 


How do I get help landing angel investors?

Startup incubators mentor entrepreneurs to launch, grow, and scale their businesses. Startup incubators place a large emphasis on acquiring funding as this is a large component of any new business.

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas teaches clients how to secure investments, connects them with local angel investors through the Peterborough Region Angel Network, and prepares them by teaching them how to build a solid business plan, give an effective pitch, and ultimately get the funding they require.

How to Build a Scalable Startup

How to Build a Scalable Startup

The word ‘scalable’ is used frequently and as an entrepreneur, it is a term you need to become familiar with. Scalability is what investors want to see and what will lead to quicker success. But what exactly does it mean to be a scalable startup? How do you become scalable?

We have broken down the basics.


What is a scalable startup?

A scalable startup is a business that has the potential to easily grow and significantly increase its revenue with minimal additional cost.

When a startup is deemed ready to scale, it means it has already proven the success of its product and business model and is prepared to expand to new markets, regions, or demographics.

Example of a Scalable Startup

Many scalable startups operate within the technology industry. This is mainly because once a tech product has been initially designed, created, tested, and finalized, the cost to replicate it is minimal in comparison to the development process.

An easy example is a software startup. The initial development of the software can cost a lot of time and money, but to clone or mass produce it for distribution costs a nominal amount.


How do you make your startup scalable?

Understanding scalable startups is pretty straightforward, however, what leaves the majority of entrepreneurs puzzled is how to become scalable.

We have compiled a list of tips that can help you secure investor funding and experience exponential business growth.


1. Retrieve research to back up your business 

Your product or business may be innovative, but you need market research and facts to support how your innovative idea will be the next big industry or money maker. This provides investors with context which will make them more likely to jump on the bandwagon.


2. Prove your product works

You’ve heard the saying “talk the talk”; becoming scalable tests if you can “walk the walk”. As awesome as your investor pitches may be, it does not hold a candle to showing your product work in real time. It gives you far more credibility. 

Develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and make adjustments to it based on customer feedback. Consider following the Lean Startup Methodology when developing your product to ensure it is a product consumers want. This can ultimately save you a considerable amount of time and money.


3. Have an attractive business plan

As cool and unique as your product may be, scalability to investors comes down to dollars and cents. Your business plan needs to show high profit margins, which can more easily be achieved by keeping your overhead costs as low as possible while still having enough momentum to grow. You should be able to show real sales of your product and that customers are willing to pay full price.


4. Recruit a solid team

To scale a business, you as a startup owner cannot be tied up with day-to-day business operations; your attention needs to be focused on big-picture strategy. To do this, you need to have a solid hiring process so you can acquire a team of driven and skilled people who you can depend on to keep the business running smoothly.


5. Implement an effective marketing strategy

Your startup needs to invest in marketing in order to scale. If people do not know your company or product, they will not buy it. Every company and product is different, and so is the audience they are targeting. Therefore, there isn’t one “tried and true” strategy to follow.

Develop an effective digital marketing plan or consider if following an account-based marketing strategy will be beneficial for your startup. We recommend recruiting a marketing person or working with a marketing agency that has the expertise you need.


6. Increase your startup’s efficiency 

Eliminate or adjust any manual and time-heavy processes that hinder your startup’s efficiency which may include staff processes, administrative tasks, manufacturing, or others.


7. Be able to pivot and adapt

The global pandemic taught us that businesses must be able to pivot. Remaining open to better ideas, new products, and constructive feedback will show investors that you have the leadership skills to recognize what is best for your business and its growth.


To learn more and receive mentorship throughout your journey, inquire about joining a startup incubator that can provide you with the knowledge and guidance you need to scale.

Lifelong Learning: What it is and Why it’s Important for Entrepreneurs

Lifelong Learning: What it is and Why it’s Important for Entrepreneurs

Formal education (i.e. a university degree or college diploma) has long been considered what an individual needs to be successful. Although it is still certainly advantageous and necessary to do well in many industries, entrepreneurs have begun placing greater emphasis on lifelong learning, which was found to be the number one characteristic to achieve success as a small business owner in a 2021 study.

Technologies, tools, customer needs, and industry practices are constantly changing, sometimes on a monthly basis. To stay relevant and competitive in today’s business world, entrepreneurs must adopt a lifelong learning approach so their knowledge and skills continually evolve.

So what is lifelong learning? Why is it important and how do you do it? We have outlined everything you need to know so you can begin your journey.


What is lifelong learning?


Lifelong learning is the never-ending pursuit of knowledge that enhances personal growth and development. The term often refers to learning that takes place outside formal education settings such as a school or corporate training program, though these outlets are not necessarily excluded.

Lifelong learning as an entrepreneur helps you to grow your business, and build the essential entrepreneurial skills that help achieve business success. 


Types of Lifelong Learning


There are many different types of lifelong learning which are essentially different motivations to pursue it. Some people are primarily driven by one motivator whereas others are driven by several. Main motivators include: 

  1. Curiosity – An eagerness and desire to be informed and gain knowledge.
  2. Purpose – Wanting to learn information and skills to put into a particular practice including learning through first-hand experiences.
  3. Social Improvement – Develop social skills, networking, teamwork abilities etc.
  4. Self-Learning – Discovering your true strengths, weaknesses, purpose, and interests.


Why is lifelong learning important for entrepreneurs?


Humans are naturally driven to learn, grow and evolve, which is extremely easy to see in children. However, as adults, we sometimes need an extra push or encouragement to continue this healthy path of development. 

As an entrepreneur, you want your business to be the best that it can be which means staying ahead of the curve and market trends, having the skills to adapt to business changes, and knowing how to lead your team efficiently and effectively.

Lifelong learning is important so you are remaining relevant amongst your customers and constantly improving so you have the capacity for growth.


Examples of lifelong learning


There are many examples of lifelong learning that can help you succeed as an entrepreneur which includes: 

  • Developing new skills 

Whether it is learning the art of public speaking, mastering how to use new technology, or you are training on how to become an effective business leader, constantly developing new skills will give you the tools to become a better business owner.


  • Researching new ideas and concepts

Self-initiating research through online searches, podcasts, news articles, and more is a great way to continually learn new ideas and spark creativity for your business.


  • Acquiring new knowledge 

Expanding your knowledge on a variety of topics can bring different perspectives you had not previously considered, strengthening your ability to think outside the box.


Benefits of Lifelong Learning


Lifelong learning offers countless benefits not only for your business but for your own personal growth. Although at first lifelong learning can seem like another thing to add to your already long list of “to-dos”, the benefits you receive really do outweigh the effort put in. 


  1. New skills and knowledge gained

The most obvious benefit to lifelong learning is that it allows you to acquire new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis. This alone comes with many other benefits such as improved business operations, personal growth, and overall fulfillment both professionally and personally.

  1. Business growth

If you are continually learning and applying new skills to your business, there is a good chance you will experience business growth and an increase in revenue. Keeping informed about what your target audience is looking for and how you can meet their needs better than your competitors, is just one example of how lifelong learning can yield positive results for your business.

  1. Refreshes your mindset

As an entrepreneur, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks. By introducing a commitment to lifelong learning, you will find yourself becoming motivated to seek out ways to learn new information throughout your day, even if what you learn seems small. Slowly, this will create a refreshed mindset so you do not feel bogged down by some of the daily tasks that come with owning and operating a small business.

  1. Places a larger focus on what matters most 

Every entrepreneur is goal-driven. If they weren’t, great business ideas would still be concepts and would not be transformed into businesses. 

However, when trying to get your business off the ground, especially in the beginning stages, the bigger picture goals you had set for yourself and your business can become foggy as you are often more concerned with daily urgencies and troubleshooting.

Lifelong learning has the ability to make you want to find opportunities to seek out new skills and ideas that will evolve and grow your business and reach your ultimate goals.  

  1. Enhances and improves upon existing skills

One of the greatest benefits of lifelong learning is it’s not always about acquiring brand new skills or knowledge. It is just as beneficial to build upon existing skills that are valuable to have both personally and professionally. 

For example, as an entrepreneur, you already have gained skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, brainstorming, and more, but these are the skills that can always be finessed and improved. 

As your business grows, so should your skills as you will take on greater responsibilities, manage a larger team, and come across new situations.

  1. Improves self-confidence

As you become more knowledgeable and skilled, you will naturally gain greater confidence in your abilities to take on the next big project or achieve bigger goals.

Perhaps at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you were unsure about how to market your company, create a startup budget, or how to effectively participate in networking events, but after introducing lifelong learning you have not only acquired a pile of knowledge in these areas but you are confident in applying them in your business.

  1. Gain a new qualification

Most often when lifelong learning is referred to, it is informal learning that is being referenced such as outside of a school or training course. However, this does not mean that these elements can not be a part of your overall learning journey.

There are many online and in-person training programs or certification courses that can really enhance your understanding of a particular subject. Once completed, you can add a new qualification or certification to your credentials as a business owner.

Tips for Lifelong Learning


1. Stay motivated

Lifelong learning is self-initiated, ongoing, with no real parameters. Therefore, it requires a great deal of motivation to make it a priority or it will always fall to the backburner. A tip is to set incentives for yourself to keep yourself on track. 


2. Make a list

Once you decide that you are going to adopt lifelong learning, it can be overwhelming when there is a world of possibilities waiting for you. To stay focused on learning what is most important for you and/or your business, it is helpful to make a list according to priority. 

This list should not be static, allowing you to constantly add, remove, or change things you want to learn.


3. Add structure

Because there are no parameters for lifelong learning, adding some structure can be really beneficial. Examples of this are implementing a schedule (i.e. every morning you start your day with 30 minutes of learning) or a ritual (i.e. writing down a goal before you start your 30 minutes and then writing down what you actually learned when you are done).

Adding structure will naturally make you approach your learning more seriously, and you’ll be a lot more likely to stick with it.  


4. Proactively seek opportunities

Lifelong learning opportunities are endless, but you sometimes need to find them. Some opportunities do just “come along” but mostly they come from proactively searching for what is out there for you to grasp. Keep your eyes out for upcoming classes at local community centres, reading groups, or webinars.


5. Don’t make excuses

An entrepreneur’s life is busy, therefore it can be easy to justify why you haven’t dedicated time to learning. By staying motivated, adding structure, and seeking opportunities as listed above, there should be no reason why you can’t make lifelong learning an active part of your routine.


How to become a lifelong learner


There is no right or wrong way how to become a lifelong learner. Every individual’s approach to lifelong learning is unique because their goals are different. 

However, there are some common ways you can become one.


  • Develop a sense of constant curiosity. 

It is easy to become blasé about many things in life. When you transform this into curiosity, you will see how this significantly impacts your creativity which can benefit your business.


  • Read more books that will benefit you personally and/or professionally.

Books are a great resource that in today’s technology-driven world are often left behind. Books offer an in-depth look at specific topics rather than grazing the surface.


  • Utilize technology

Let’s be honest, as an entrepreneur, you do not have time to read a full book on every subject you are interested in. This is where podcasts, documentaries, and YouTube channels are fantastic. It allows you to become introduced to a topic which can lead to researching further podcasts and videos or searching for articles or books on the topic if you want to learn more.

Podcasts are a convenient way to soak in knowledge when you are busy doing something else such as driving in your car, riding transit, working on minor tasks, or on-the-go running errands. 


  • Invest in short training courses

Training courses can offer information and skills development that cannot be learned as effectively through books or technology. 

Training courses can be found online or in-person and are often taught by an industry professional who not only provides knowledge on the subject matter, but a first-hand experience that is invaluable.


  • Keep an eye on the news and market trends

Staying in the know on what is happening locally, nationally, and around the world is not only good for your own personal knowledge but can impact your business. Getting into a routine of spending some time at the beginning or end of your day reading news headlines and what the market is doing will make you feel like you have your finger on the pulse.


  • Talk to mentors or other professionals that have more experience

Business mentors have walked in your shoes and have personally experienced the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. The first-hand knowledge they can provide is better than any other resource for learning because they can answer specific questions and provide tailored advice on how to handle circumstances you are currently navigating.

Learn the benefits of having a startup business mentor, and why forming this type of relationship will not only greatly contribute to your lifelong learning, but help your business succeed.

How to Write a Good Elevator Pitch for Startups

How to Write a Good Elevator Pitch for Startups

When you’re trying to grow a startup business, entrepreneurs should do a lot of networking to drive brand awareness and connect with the right people. Whether you’re attending a formally organized networking event, an industry conference, or you strike up a conversation with someone in public, it is essential that every startup is ready to go with a well-executed elevator pitch. Having a good elevator pitch can mean the difference between attracting interest from an investor, landing a new client, or connecting with a startup mentor who can contribute significantly to your company’s success. So, what exactly should a good elevator pitch for startups look like? 

We have included all the essentials so you are ready to create an elevator pitch that is memorable and effective.


What is an elevator pitch?


An elevator pitch is a concise yet powerful description of your idea, business, or product that can easily be verbalized in the time you would be on a short elevator ride – about 30 seconds or less. 

In that half a minute, the person you are pitching to should clearly understand what it is you do but left feeling intrigued, curious, and wanting to learn more.

Nailing your pitch is what will separate you from others, and it will open up large opportunities for your business. 


What is an example of an effective elevator pitch?


An example of an effective elevator pitch comes from Text Request, a small business specializing in texting software.

Your business relies on communication with clients, but calls, voicemails, and emails are less effective with people under 40. But almost all texts are read within three minutes. Text Request makes live two-way texting possible for your business with our easy-to-use dashboard. People can text you, too, and we can even use your current phone number in many cases. Other businesses use Text Request to increase leads, grow revenue, improve operations, and drive customer satisfaction, all because of the power to connect instantly.


Using Text Request’s pitch as an example, we will outline how to write an elevator pitch, what information should be included, tips to consider, and things to avoid.  


How do you write an elevator pitch for startups?


Capturing a person’s attention in a short amount of time can be a challenge. That is why effective elevator pitches are packed with vital information about the business (without being overbearing). 


An effective elevator pitch should include the following important information:


Who you are 

Text Request

What you do 

Makes live two-way texting possible for your business with our easy-to-use dashboard.

Why you do it

Business relies on communication with clients, but calls, voicemails, and emails are less effective with people under 40.

What makes your product standout

Businesses use Text Request to increase leads, grow revenue, improve operations, and drive customer satisfaction.

Who you serve 

Businesses that rely on communication with its clients.


3 Tips for Writing an Elevator Pitch


1. Capture their attention.

Beginning with a question or strong statement that highlights the problem your business is solving is a great way to capture your audience’s attention.


Example: Your business relies on communication with clients, but calls, voicemails, and emails are less effective with people under 40. But almost all texts are read within three minutes.


2. The simpler, the better.

When an elevator pitch gets too technical and complicated, you will lose your audience. Remember, no one knows your business more than you do, and sometimes industry terms and concepts are not as widely known as you may think.


Example: Makes live two-way texting possible for your business with our easy-to-use dashboard.


3. Focus on an issue faced by your target audience.

What issues are they currently struggling with and how does your business solve their problems? 


Example: Calls, voicemails, and emails are less effective with people under 40.


3 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Elevator Pitch


1. Don’t be a robot. 

Having a well-prepared elevator pitch is essential, but you also don’t want to sound too rehearsed. There is a balance between being prepared and sounding like you have memorized your pitch word for word. Practice saying your pitch in a way that seems natural and will flow at networking events.


2. Don’t give too much away. 

There is a difference between providing all of the important information about your business and revealing every little detail. You want to leave your listener wanting more. 


3. Don’t be pushy. 

An overly aggressive salesperson quickly makes people uncomfortable and uninterested. Your pitch should exude confidence, but do not make your audience feel pressured to invest or become a customer on the spot. 


How can you improve your elevator pitch?


Improving your elevator pitch really comes down to one word – practice. It takes time to master a pitch. Do not feel discouraged if, in the beginning, you feel a bit shaky in your delivery — the more you do it, the more natural it will come to you.

The mentorship of a startup incubator can help you finesse your pitch, work out the kinks, and help you prepare to “go live” at upcoming networking events.

10 Entrepreneurial Skills Every Startup Founder Should Have

10 Entrepreneurial Skills Every Startup Founder Should Have

The only difference between a great business idea and a great startup business is making the decision to go for it. This can feel like you are standing on the edge of a tall diving board debating whether to take the plunge. If you are contemplating jumping in the water, knowing what entrepreneurial skills are essential for success will help determine if you are ready to embark on this new journey. 


Why are entrepreneurial skills so important? 


When you first transition from working for a larger organization to becoming a startup business owner, you experience a lot of exciting, new freedoms. What is also new is no longer having a full team of people with interdisciplinary skills to accomplish projects and reach goals. 

Acquiring essential entrepreneurial skills will prepare you for the road ahead, especially in the beginning stages. When starting out, you truly are a jack or jill of all trades. 


What are the essential entrepreneurial skills for success?


1. Perseverance

Every startup will experience some form of roadblock, rejection, mistakes, failure, and slow progress. These experiences do not determine the fate of your business, but how you react and deal with them can. The ability to persevere through harder times with resilience, optimism, and determination is arguably the most important skill to have as an entrepreneur, and it will ensure that you can keep your eye on growing your business no matter what scenario is thrown your way.

2. People Skills

It does not matter what type of business you will have or what industry or sector you will be in – well-developed people skills will always be critical for success. 

Whether you are working with a team, corresponding with customers, or acquiring investors, knowing how to properly and effectively communicate and work with people will prove to be an essential part of running your business. 


3. Passion

If you do not strongly love and believe in your startup’s product, service, or purpose, you will not have the same drive to reach success. 

Passion is the only essential skill that cannot be taught, and it is a key ingredient that will not only help lead to success, but it will make your startup journey so much more enjoyable.

When we refer to passion, we are not saying you need to be head over heels with your business every minute of every day. In fact, there will probably be weeks where you feel deflated. What is important is that overall you have a huge desire to turn your once great idea into a viable business.

4. Communication

Learning how to communicate clearly, effectively, and creatively is what will set you apart as a brand or the next big investment opportunity. 

As a startup, networking is a large part of growing a business and forming important connections, but if you do not know how to communicate what sets your brand apart from the competition and why there is a need for your product in the market, you will find it very difficult to win over new customers, investors, and potential new hires.

5. Time Management

This skill cannot be emphasized enough. Learning how to effectively manage your time will keep you working toward your goals and not becoming easily swallowed up by day-to-day operations.

Time management can be a tricky skill to master when it feels like you have a million things to do, but it will provide you with work-life balance which will lead to you being happier, more focused, and rejuvenated to give your best ideas and efforts toward your business.

6. Sales

Sales never end as an entrepreneur. You are constantly selling yourself and your business to everyone you meet whether it is a formal networking event, investor pitch, or you strike up a conversation with someone in public.

As a startup business owner, you are the first salesperson at your company, and you must acquire sales skills to initially get your business off the ground.

7. Ability to Learn

Entrepreneurs are constantly learning. You may have advanced technical expertise, but do you have any experience with marketing or accounting?

When you are first starting out, you will need to embrace the idea of lifelong learning and being open to trying your hand at many new skills to run your business. 

Once you reach a certain level of success, you will be able to recruit team members with skill sets and expertise that will be an asset to your startup’s growth. Even once your company has added many team members, you will constantly run into new concepts and things to learn to lead your business in the right direction.

8. Teamwork and Leadership

The skill of working well in a team and leadership are typically referenced separately. However, with entrepreneurship, we feel these two skills are so closely linked that they should be placed together.

At a large corporation, there is a substantial division between team members (employees) and leadership (management). At a newly-formed startup business, teamwork exists daily between business owners and their employees as there are very few people to accomplish many goals.

Strong leadership skills are essential at any stage of growth but don’t forget that having strong teamwork in place will not only make you a better leader, but it will form a healthy work environment that will be most effective at achieving your goals. 

9. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking skills are synonymous with entrepreneurial skills – they are required to develop business strategy, problem solve, rethink the effectiveness of projects, and look at situations from varying perspectives. 

Critical thinking skills are also necessary for strategic planning and knowing when change should occur to improve your business. 

10. Finance Management

Having financial skills does not mean you need to be an accountant. Financial management in this context means that you know how to create a startup budget and understand startup business taxes.

When it comes down to it, if an entrepreneur has many great skills but does not have any in the department of finance management, the business will be in trouble. 


How do you develop entrepreneurial skills?


After reading our list of essential skills, you may realize that there are a few that you may need to work on. Not to worry! It is rare that someone has all of the necessary skills when launching a business.

Here are 5 recommended ways to refine your entrepreneurial skills:

  • Network with other entrepreneurs and industry professionals 

Learn what your peers and industry professionals are doing. This can provide great insights!

  • Find a startup mentor

A fantastic way to develop the skills you need is to connect with a startup mentor.

  • Learn from a variety of sources

There are many books, articles, webinars, Ted Talks, and magazines that are rich in reliable and educational information. You may also consider registering for a course.

  • Attend industry or skill-based events

Find out about upcoming conferences, seminars, or online events that can refine your knowledge and skills. 

  • Research the benefits of joining a startup incubator

Startup incubators are great organizations that help entrepreneurs develop a wide range of skills to help their businesses become successful.



How to use entrepreneurial skills to run your startup business?


When you begin running a business, you may have more advanced entrepreneurial skills than you think.

However, sometimes when you’re into the day-to-day operations of your startup, it can be easy for the essential skills to be forgotten.

Try to revisit this list of essential skills regularly and evaluate in which areas you are excelling and others where you could improve. 

The key is to remember that no one is perfect, even seasoned entrepreneurs. The idea is to always practice these skills until they become natural in your daily routine.

What Really Makes a Startup Successful

What Really Makes a Startup Successful

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If you’re a startup, you don’t need an article or blog post telling you that your business ideas need to be original, useful, and well, amazing to catch the world’s attention.
You know that, and you know your business plan will execute it all. So when you’re in deep thought about what makes your startup unique,clock stock photo think broader than just your business’ product or service, because when it comes down to it, all past successful startups provide the same type of service that people love so much – saving time.
Nowadays, all people want to do is save time, no matter what they are doing. From automatic doors to an angry emoji, basic and complex technology is working together so humans have less work to do.

The reality is, if technology disappeared, we’d all be lost, and most of all, we’d notice how much extra work we were putting in to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. We rely on technology for online banking, obtaining world news, and the list goes on.
Gaining such reliance on technology isn’t known as the best quality of this generation, but it is prime time for tech entrepreneurs to make it big with their innovative ideas.
Spotify is a good example of a tech innovation that saves time for users. No one wants to pay three dollars for an individual song. So when Spotify came out, people could instantly have access to millions of songs for a small fee.
And what do people want to save as much as time? Money.
Instead of making that long-distance call, you now can use Skype. Why pay full price when there are sites like Groupon? And who even has cable anymore when all the good shows are waiting on your Netflix account (or your friends account you haven’t logged out of)!
Convenience here is also key. Saving time and money is great for anyone, but if you’re making the user do more than signing up an account for your business, ypexel small uberou may scare them away.
Think of an app like Uber. Uber on average is a cheaper alternative to a taxi service, but what made it even more popular is the process of ordering one. All users had to do was download an app and account, so getting a guarunteed ride in 10 minutes was just a click of a button away.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur in this digital age, remember – if your startup can save a person time, money and overall be convenient to the customer, you are on the right track, keep hustling.

Are you a tech entrepreneur?

Learn more about how we help ag-tech, clean-tech, healthcare and digital startups grow
throughout Peterborough and the Kawarthas and accelerate worldwide HERE.


Incubators are the Gateway to Angel Investment 💸

Incubators are the Gateway to Angel Investment 💸

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You’ve perfected your business plan, have your product prototype, and have successfully tested the market. Now, your ready for some investment to take your innovative business to the next level!

But wait. . .how?

You have about 10 – 20 minutes standing in front of Angel Investors and if you pitch right, your business may just have the chance of a lifetime to scale high.

Being a client at the Innovation Cluster provides a lot of perks. You are working steps away from staff who are ready to help you with any situation, one of them being your helpers in preparing for pitching to investors – call us gatekeepers, if you will!

Did you know that the Peterborough Region Angel Network is one of our Industry Partners? The Angels know how important it is for a startup to work with an incubator before pitching to angel investors. Therefore, anyone who is interested in pitching to the Peterborough Region Angel Network must come to the Innovation Cluster first!

The staff at the Cluster have helped many clients perfect their pitch and make sure their business is ready for the stand.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind as you prepare for pitching to the Angels. . .

    What accomplishments have you had so far? Investors want to know how you’ve gotten to this point, and the issues you’ve surpassed graph stock phototrying to build your business. Do you already have clients on board? Do you have an online following begging for your product to be public? These achievements are important, and can help identify what the future of your business will look like if given an investment opportunity.
    What business going into an investment pitch isn’t innovative and needed in today’s world? Although it’s important to get across the need for the product, you want your pitch to be told in a way that the product’s self-worth is showed naturally, rather than being preached about. You started this business because you know how important it is to exist, so find a way to convey that to the angel investors so they feel the same way.
    Claiming your business rises above the rest isn’t only naive, it’s untrue. There will always be competition and people working to be better than your business, watching your every move. So instead of “being the best”, be different. Figure out what your quirk is and run with it to sell how your business has more potential than the rest.
    Every business has their vulnerabilities, recognize them. What are your threats, and what could go wrong? Once you know what they are, be prepared to answer how you can work around them so your business won’t fall. Having this worked out and are able to answer as soon as a potential investor asks, will show you are prepared for any challenge.
    Think back to your past successes and failures. Use them to prepare for future challenges and create a step-by-step plan to grow your business. Not everything goes as planned as an entrepreneur that often, but setting yourself milestones will give investors confidence in supporting your next steps in the plan.
    The team dynamic is extremely important to investors during a pitch, because it’s just as important for businesses growth. If you angel investment 6don’t have a team, you can’t be a one-man-show forever if you want your startup to expand. So whether you’re going into the pitch as a team or as an individual, you’ll need to be able to show investors how you’ll continue to attract talented, innovative and skilled people to your business, so your startup will continue to thrive. Remember – collaboration = innovation.
    This may be the most important one. Angels want to know their investment is being put into the best use possible and that they are able to make a return. You’re product is innovative, it’s needed, and it’s possible, so what do you say now to cross that line into investment? Here’s the secret: The angels want specifics to where their money is going, so by preparing with this checklist, you should know exactly what you’ll do with it. If you want people to invest money into the future of your business, you must be able to know every detail of how you want that future to look.

Are you a client of the Innovation Cluster?: If you think you are ready for pitching to the Angels, you’ll need to come to us first. This list is the foundation of preparing for your pitch, but there’s always more to be done. And as an entrepreneur, we know you’re used to that. So stop by our office and we’ll help you prepare for the best pitch the angels have ever heard! 😎

Have a company and want to join the network of entrepreneurs in the Innovation Cluster? APPLY TODAY

10 Reasons Entrepreneurs are Lifelong Learners

10 Reasons Entrepreneurs are Lifelong Learners

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Being an entrepreneur is hard work and takes a lot of growth personally and professionally to reach success for a new business. As an incubator for entrepreneurs to start and grow their business, we know one of the most important qualities for our startups to have is the motivation and willingness to learn in order to reach success.
Here are some reasons why the Innovation Cluster’s entrepreneurs are lifelong learners.

Our Entrepreneurs. . .

1: Never Miss An Opportunity
Always wanting to grow their knowledge, entrepreneurs seize every moment of their day and keep their eyes open for what event may be an opportunity where the average person may not notice. For example, when meeting a stranger, entrepreneurs don’t just introduce themselves, they use it as a chance to network with a new person. Meeting someone in a career like theirs could help their business further on, and if the person lives a completely different lifestyle, it’s seen as an opportunity to learn about new topics.

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At the Innovation Cluster, we know how important it is to network, so we host events like E-Connect for the community to learn about the small businesses around them and so entrepreneurs can make connections with new locals.

2: Know the Benefits of Teamwork
Entrepreneurs work well independently as they are creative sorts, but understand what scales a business upwards most is efficient teamwork. Collaborating with people who have different visions, experiences and knowledge will create a business that provides the best for consumers, and that is exactly what an entrepreneur strives for.

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Inside of the Cluster’s incubator The Cube, startups get to work side-by-side with other companies, and find it beneficial to learn from one another when another company has recently solved that bump in the road they are encountering.

3: Use Modern Technology to Their Highest Potential
You’ve likely heard the saying, “We have the world of information at our fingertips on the internet but instead we spend our time watching videos of cats.” Well not entrepreneurs! Technology is the biggest advantage for people trying to start their business in today’s world. When it comes to self-learning, it has never been easier! Entrepreneurs have a lot on their plate and know just how much the internet can help.

The Innovation Cluster is technology-based innovation, so you would see most of our client’s using computer, manufacturing and VR technology on a regular basis, researching how to advance these products and use them to their company’s benefit.

4: Use Personal Time to Grow Knowledge in New Things
4 blogEntrepreneurs don’t only use technology to their advantage, they utilize any spare time they have in a day. Everyone has spare time, even if it is “wasted” on the long drive to work, waiting in a doctor’s office, or watching your food cook. Entrepreneurs motivate themselves by knowing the benefits of good time management, both for themselves and the future of their business! They get creative by listening to informative podcasts while driving, reading a page of a book they carry around when they are stuck waiting in line, or get inspired by their surroundings, whether people they talk to or an article shared online.
We never hear our entrepreneurs sitting around saying they are bored. They are constantly thinking on how they can be better in every aspect of their life each day. In The Cube our Innovation Specialists are always meeting with company’s to ensure they are staying on the right path of being motivated and using their time to stand out from other businesses.
5: Accept Criticism and Use it to Grow
After working hard on a project then have someone say it needs work, or maybe even a huge re-do, it can be hard to change perspective to see it in a new light. But honestly, good criticism can take a business a long way. Entrepreneurs recognize failure as another word for try again.
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill
An entrepreneur can’t fully make it on their own without some support in growing a business. Being a startup in an incubator like The Cube provides workshops such as a Path to Building a Successful Business, where entrepreneurs are challenged to consider each section of their business model canvas and make sure they are setting the right foundation for their business to successfully grow.

6: Want to Learn More Than the “Bare Minimum”
Independent entrepreneurs may go by the title Founder, CEO, or President when first starting out, but reality is they cover all positions when first starting their own business. There’s operations, finance, marketing, communications, manufacturing, and they must understand it all. It sounds overwhelming, but what makes a true entrepreneur is the willingness to learn new things outside of their comfort zone.
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In an incubator like The Cube, startups have resources and tools to learn the basics of each section of growing a business, but at the end of the day it is up to them to lift the bar higher to execute those resources and succeed in every section of their business.
7: Enjoy a Good Challenge
No one enters the life of an entrepreneur who wants the same routine everyday. Each event brings a new problem they need to solve, some harder than others. As these entrepreneurs face these challenges, they learn how to overcome the problem and in return their knowledge, experience and business get stronger because of facing those challenges head on.
The Innovation Cluster provides workshops called Hands-ON that feature topics for entrepreneurs to conquer challenges and overall be successful. For example, our most recent workshop was “How To Be Happy” as an entrepreneur, hosted by knowledge partner Inclusive Advisory.

8: Remove the Barrier Between Their Professional and Personal Life
In today’s society, people tend to focus more on either their professional or personal life, often struggling to find a happy balance between both. Entrepreneurs start out on the right path to finding a balance as they are creating a business which they are passionate about and have their own voice and schedule. By choosing this lifestyle, they give themselves more opportunity to thrive in both aspects and open up doors for more learning as they don’t feel trapped in one section of their life.
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9: Are Coachable
Entrepreneurs have every opportunity to seek out experienced and established business professionals in all aspects of the working world to take note of their success and learn.
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At the Innovation Cluster, we have an abundance of connections to knowledge partners that are eager to help startups grow their business and find their best path to market. A range of knowledge from the partners are available to our clients whenever they have questions or concerns, and know how important it is to seek help rather than go alone off assumptions.
10: Know if They Aren’t Getting Better, They’re Getting Worse
In a world of competition and used-up ideas, entrepreneurs need to stay on their toes and take inspiration from the abundance of businesses and advancements around them to better their own creations. The world is advancing fast, and it’s not waiting for entrepreneurs to catch up.
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It might seem like every idea has been used, but here at the Innovation Cluster, we believe ideas can always be turned into greater ideas, and our entrepreneurs have that mindset too. We have clients advancing the food, clothing, tech, healthcare industry and beyond.
At the Innovation Cluster, the possibilities are endless!

The Art of the Pitch – Four Key Pitches Every Entrepreneur Must Have

The Art of the Pitch – Four Key Pitches Every Entrepreneur Must Have

In his Guest Blog for Innovation Cluster Industry Partner, the National Angel Capital OrganisationRay Walia writes: “Crafting a pitch is an art — it takes time, practice and multiple revisions to craft your perfect business pitch. But by investing time and effort into crafting your pitch, you will find that many doors will open for you throughout your journey as an entrepreneur.”

Ray Walia is an entrepreneur and investor with experience in multiple businesses in a variety of industries with multiple successful exits.

Walia argues that every early-stage entrepreneur must have four key pitches in their back pocket, with three versions of each: A one-minute (elevator pitch)a two-minute, and a five-minute pitch.

Each one is designed to spark interest from the recipient and get you more time in order to expand to the two minute or five minute pitch — then ultimately, for a proper sit-down meeting.
“When it comes to the perspective of an investor, we listen to hundreds of pitches each week,” Walia writes.
“Your pitch must be clear, and concise in order to grab our attention so that you can stand out from the crowd. Attention spans are only getting shorter and shorter every single day (not just for investors, but everybody) due to the digital distractions in our everyday lives.”

The following four types of one minute pitches you must have in your back pocket all have fundamentally, the same elements. The only exception is the value proposition, which differs for specific audiences:
1. The Investor Pitch
(This pitch is where your audience is an investor or representatives affiliated with funding opportunities)
The first three elements (which should be consistent across all four pitches) are:
· What is the problem you are trying to solve?
· What is solution that you’re solving it with (your product or service)
· Who are you, and why are you the one that can solve this problem

The value proposition for the investor needs to revolve around how are they going to benefit by investing in your company? (i.e. how are they going to make money, or how will an investment into your company add to their portfolio and/or benefit the other companies in their portfolio).

2. The Strategic Partners Pitch
(For when you’re looking for partner organizations, stakeholders, etc.)
The value proposition for this audience is, simply put, how are you going to make them money or how will you make their company more successful? For them, it’s all about increasing their bottom line.

3. The Team-Recruit Pitch
(To be used when seeking a co-founder, employees, or specific people you want to work with to help build your company)
For this audience, list out the problem, solution, why you (your skill sets) and finally, why them? Why should they join you, and how will joining your company be a great career move for them? How, in the next ten years will this company be amazing? Tailor your value proposition to their needs and wants of being part of an organization and the movement you wish to create.

4. The Grandmother Pitch
(You guessed it — this is the pitch you would use to explain what your company does to your grandmother)
If you can’t keep the problem and the ‘how’ simple enough for even your grandmother to understand, it doesn’t matter how much time and energy you spent on the previous three pitches and their respective value propositions because you would have lost the person’s attention before you even got to the value proposition.
I’d also add that the value proposition that you would include for this kind of pitch is why are youdoing this? What’s the outcome that will make you happy? Because, A) your grandmother wants to see you happy, but B) it also clarifies and affirms for yourself on why you are on this path in life, and what are the outcomes you want to see from this endeavour.
For all of these pitches, know your audience.
Sometimes, the audience might fit in a grey area — but that’s up to you to make the gut call on what sort of pitch they want to hear. If you do it properly, you’re going to get that two-minute or five-minute time frame with them, and at that time you elaborate further on the how and dive into the who and discuss elements of the business model. Ultimately, you are looking to lock in a next meeting where you are able to deliver a formal presentation tailored to that specific audience.

If you’re at a conference, and you know which investors will be in the room, understand their investment vertical, recent investments, or what excites them. When pitching to investors at a conference, make sure your pitch is clear, concise and that the value propositions reflect the aspects that will resonate with that investor.
For strategic partners, you should know who they are, what will trigger their bottom line, and what opportunities are going to excite them. The more you show the alignment between your company and theirs, the easier the sell.
With these four pitches, evaluate the context of the situation. Use the one-minute pitch for casual encounters — like at a convention, conference or meet up group. It’s the classic elevator pitch, but the ask will be for more time. Design your pitches so that you can break through the noise and get your message across in a quick, efficient manner.

Lastly, get out there and pitch as often as you can — but most importantly, practice, practice, practice. Test your various pitches and tailor them to your specific audience. Even if the person you are pitching to knows you (or you’ve met them at previous events), chances are if they like you and your company, they are going to talk about or even pitch your company to someone else on your behalf.
By providing a clear, concise and consistent pitch, you can ensure that they can in turn pitch your business appropriately in your absence. Don’t half-ass it, don’t cut corners. Take the time to construct your pitches as you want your message to resonate with each audience, and allow them to carry it forward the way you want it to be done. By taking the time to craft your perfect pitch, it will create a ripple effect of extending your company’s message — which may open more opportunities for you in the future when you least expect it.

Ray Walia is an entrepreneur and investor with experience in multiple businesses in a variety of industries with multiple successful exits. His entrepreneurship background evolved through extensive involvement in his business as producer of global concerts & events for the Bollywood movie industry. In 2012 Ray co-founded LX Ventures & Launch Academy and took over as Executive Director of Metabridge. In 2014 Ray was named Entrepreneur Mentor of the Year for British Columbia and the Forty Under 40 list by Business In Vancouver. 

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