Started on a napkin, now we here

A brief update on Nextt and our continuing path to scale

Baby Drake doing…Baby Drake things.

I can hardly believe it, but it’s been seven months since Tom and I publicly launched Nextt as a pre-accelerator that helps prospective entrepreneurs turn ideas into experiments.

And what a wild ride it’s been.

We received over 100 applications (with $0 in marketing).

We shipped 10 MVPs (each in less than 10 weeks).

We created multiple real businesses (with paying customers, killer teams and awesome investors) in the amount of time it takes many to just build a v1 product.

And, unlike basically every other accelerator in the world, we did so without raising a dime of money ourselves or requiring any of our founders to go full-time.

But, as proud as we are of what we accomplished and the people we collaborated with during this period, running a lean accelerator has never been our goal. And we’re far more excited about what’s to come than what we’ve already done.

From gated accelerator to open software platform

Through our experience operating Nextt as a ‘high-touch’ accelerator, we’ve established a few key truths about our business and ourselves.

1- Most fundamentally, saying “no” to motivated people with untested ideas is antithetical to our mission and word view. We launched Nextt in part to make innovation more inclusive, so the idea of outright ‘rejecting’ people with ideas has never sat well.

2- The first set of goals is virtually identical for all prospective entrepreneurs. In order to give their project a chance to succeed, they need to validate their assumptions (about their product & market) and win the trust of people who can help (e.g. investors, collaborators, connectors). Everything either feeds those goals or doesn’t matter.

3- The countless hours we spent reviewing, evaluating and designing experiments for the applications we accepted (as well as those we couldn’t) was worth it.

Those long nights were exhaustive user research that provided us clarity on the most common problems faced by our target market and how we can solve them at scale.

And since graduating our second (and likely final) cohort in November, that has been our exclusive focus.

We’re on a mission to turn what started as a selective and ‘high-touch’ accelerator into an open software platform that streamlines the path to fundable businesses for thousands of prospective entrepreneurs across the globe.

The early evidence is promising

The big takeaway from the past month or so is that that our software is starting to catch on, and there’s more of it on the way.

1- A few weeks ago, our v1 platform for community-powered experimentation, Nextt Experiments, was featured on the homepage of ProductHunt.

In the process, we attracted 100+ upvotes and new submissions from Wharton to Nigeria. Even more encouragingly, we’re seeing users/customers of existing Nextt experiments submit their own and those submitters contribute to/follow others as well. The ecosystem is coming alive, and we’re just getting started.

2- We were recently invited to lecture at Columbia SIPA and the professor decided on the spot to change the final assignment to submitting and running Nextt Experiments.

Since then, we’ve received interest in similar partnerships from multiple undergraduate and graduate programs throughout the country. While far from our primary focus, it’s awesome to see Nextt resonate in areas outside of venture as well.

3- We just shipped an early beta of Blueprint — our magic 8-ball for business ideas. This exhaustive set of experiment playbooks for all types of models (from marketplaces to utilities to retail) is a true labor of love and essentially productizes our methodology into a tool anyone can use.

4- While most of our work to date has been focused on validating assumptions, we’re starting to build software that helps folks achieve the second key milestone required for entrepreneurial success: winning the trust of people who can help.

We’re making rapid progress on a product called Core, which helps prospective entrepreneurs leverage their own micro-networks to create accountability, get support when needed and build trust with external parties from the earliest days of a new idea. If we do it right, Core will dramatically reduce the time and cost associated with recruiting collaborators & raising money for ambitious people throughout the world.

Our paper prototype for this concept is seeing a > 90% response rate and great feedback thus far.

We’ve got our work cut out for us

Despite our progress to date, we’re just getting started and have a lot to do/prove in a short amount of time. We’ve set ambitious goals for the next 10 weeks (including shipping a v1 of Core, getting 100+ experiments posted and closing a seed round ourselves).

As always, we face friction across the board.

  • We’re still a team of just two (full-timers). In many ways, this helps us move quickly, but it also puts clear constraints on how much we can do at any given time.
  • First impressions take time to shake. Despite our best efforts to be transparent about our mission and iterative approach to executing on it (i.e. eating our own dogfood), it’s taking to time to change some investors’ impression of us as a high-touch incubator / accelerator.
  • Life is real, and bootstrapping is hard. It feels like forever since I’ve had a consistent paycheck, and I’m getting really tired of tuna sandwiches :)

But, almost every morning, I wake up with sincere excitement for the day ahead and an unrelenting belief that I’m working on exactly what I should be.

Great things take time to build, and we’re absolutely loving the journey.

As always, thanks again for your continued support and more to come very soon :)

— Ajay & Tom

We’re always looking for feedback, referrals, and people looking to help us build. If you’re interested, or know anyone who could be, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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