5 lessons in 5 weeks of #startuplife

Peer Academy is now into week 5 of the Angelcube Accelerator Program.

For the past 4 weeks we’ve been in surgical operation. Not with white lab coats and rubber gloves, but in mid combat, pulling bullets out of the leg in the battlefield. As we busily work ‘in’ the business, our mentors have helped us work ‘on’ the business by slicing open our business model and revealing all types of pus.

Here are 5 lessons in 5 weeks:

Week 1 — What’s the Trade?

Whilst learning at Peer Academy is fun, to stand the test of time it needs to solve a tangible problem for individuals. So, why does an individual undertake professional development? Our exploration, including mostly street interviews (interviewing random people on the streets), revealed that majority of people undertaking professional development, did so to increase career prospects. Individuals didn’t care what the qualification looked like as long as it was something visible that could be ‘traded’ for better job prospects.

Peer Academy will look into a credential system of some sort, such as certificates or points to track your learning and development. It doesn’t have to be accredited. It can be something fun and new age that could then be ‘traded’ for a better job.

Week 2 — Why People Learn?

More street interviews revealed two drivers for why people undertake professional development:

1. Compulsory: training set by the organisation, normally to tick off their compliance requirements.
2. Emotional: individuals who are motivated to be their best and proactively seek ongoing education.

Currently, Peer Academy attracts those who are intrinsically motivated to learn. However, for Peer Academy to influence the way we learn at scale, we’ll look at how we can shape learning into an organisation’s DNA.

Week 3 — Increasing Bookings

On week 1, each startup fleshed out their core metric as a means to track their growth. Our core metric through this program is ‘# of bookings’. Ultimately Peer Academy facilitates the trade of skills between a ‘Host’ and a ‘Learner’, so our core metric has been useful for tracking week-to-week progress. Every meeting we have with mentors starts with ‘How many bookings this week?’

Each startup’s survival depends on their ability to show week on week growth against this core metric. When it comes to raising capital from investors, this is the only thing they’ll be interested in seeing. Of course, juxtaposed against the LTV (Life Time Value) of a customer minus the CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), where LTV minus CAC needs to equal a net positive.

It was surprisingly painful to face this core metric. Knowing that we have a 15 week countdown before investment, not seeing growth in the # of bookings bought up an almost unbearable amount of angst. We also learnt that we had no clear acquisition channels to acquire new customers. Which means most our bookings depend on word of mouth, which is great, but will not satisfy the growth requirements in order to survive as a startup.

Week 4 — Finding Acquisition Channels

Building from the previous week, we refined our focus on acquisition channels that could help us acquire new customers, such as SEM (aka paid online advertising), Partners, Events, Community, Content Marketing and B2B. We then carried out tests for certain channels and tracked our performance to understand which might work best for us.

Creating a metrics dashboard to track the ROI against each channel was a highly rewarding and revealing experience. A metrics dashboard will show where you are going well and not so well. It gives clarity on the direction of your startup. It also comes with a lot of emotion for founders, thus why many don’t set one up for themselves. Seeing ‘failure’ is like a dagger to the heart for most founders. Nonetheless, it’s necessary and just the type of personal growth we are after through this program.

Week 5 — Testing Private Bookings

This week we’re testing the idea of private bookings, where organisations can book a workshop for internal staff training. This is a way of creating further value for both sides of the marketplace. For Hosts, it provides additional revenue opportunities and for Learners, it creates convenience and cost efficiency.

As we’re in the midst of testing this opportunity, I’m looking for opportunities to get feedback from organisations. Here’s a landing page with more information on the opportunity: http://try.peeracademy.org/organisations/

If you have a moment, we’d welcome any introductions to HR departments who’d like to explore this further.

Touch base in a fortnight.

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