How a wrong seat on the plane to San Fransisco gave me the right idea for my startup

Usually the best ideas surface when we take a shower, according to science.

My best idea surfaced because the airline didn’t put me in the seat next to my husband. Instead I happened to be seated next to Mr. Siebers with whom I had a conversation about his startup in the robo investment space. It was during this twelve hours flight that the idea of Robo VC was born: I want to bring artificial intelligence to the venture investing space. Being an angel investor myself, I’d always missed some innovation in how venture investments are done. Isn’t it strange that VCs deal with the latest technology but don’t leverage it themselves?

Over the last four months I’ve learned some lessons on how to innovate in a corporate environment. First of all, I would not have started this activity without our intrapreneurship program, “Swisscom Kickbox”, which provides the framework and the incentives to explore ideas in a 20% time allotment and with a small budget.

20% of my Time for 100% of Work. Small Budget. Startup life here I come!

The initial weeks were a constant emotional up and down. As head of Swisscom’s startup initiative my job is about reviewing business plans, scouting talent and evaluating which startup would have the biggest potential.

Now the tables have turned and it is I who’ll be reviewed, evaluated and…well…approved or rejected.

When my idea was still nascent I was a bit insecure whether it was solid and if I would be a good person to work on it. Now I’ve grasped the real meaning of “fake it till you make it” — at least my interpretation of it.

So when I presented the first draft to experts I felt two things:

1. I was afraid that someone might steal my idea.

2. I was afraid that a person I respected in that field might think it was stupid.

Let me assure you: The two points above are the ones you should be least concerned with. Unless you are out there promoting your idea, you don’t have a clue if you are on the right track with it or not! I spoke to more than 150 people about my project — everyone gave me some useful input or connection.

Seriously: Without their input the idea wouldn’t be what it is today!

So I kept on talking to many people and over time realised that it’s the right idea at this point in time. I also felt that I’ve got a strong enough network into the investor world that I will be able to gather enough data for a strong enough competitive advantage.

But me by myself would not be enough. What really gets people(=Investors) excited is the team that you are able to present.

A hacker, a hipster and a hustler…

Now I understand how hard it is to set up a team in an early phase.

I can totally see why a solid committed team is already valued with CHF 1m by an angel investor: So many things are undefined, and there is very little budget to compensate anybody.

Plus: Any team members need to be rather different to compliment me — but how do you get to know people who are different?

So far, I have gathered a good team for the MVP phase of the next four months in the Kickstart Accelerator program. We have a hacker, a hipster and a hustler (that’s me). Let’s see if the team is strong enough moving forward.

What’s next?

Over the next four months, I will be working on building an MVP:

  1. We are planning to analyse at least five big startup databases from venture capitalists and startup acceleration programs. This will tell us which factors are most relevant to building a prediction model — and also how much more work is needed (technical feasibility)
  2. We want to implement the first version of our software in an MVP way: What is needed to show the value to the customer without any bells & whistles?
  3. We want to start three pilot projects with venture capitalists and business angels and have many more customers in the pipeline. ;-)

It is rewarding to see other startups have started to perceive our project as a peer. I still feel like a corporate innovator and angel investor — with one foot in the entrepreneurship world.

Startup life, here I come!