January 17, 2019

The Foundry658 Bootcamp experience

For the love of art

In October last year we found out that ColourSpace had been accepted into Foundry658’s bootcamp for creative startups hosted by the State Library of Victoria, in conjunction with ACMI. 

All participants selected represented the breadth of Victorian creative industries, and we were invited to participate in a rigorous three-week business development program with various business experts, mentors, investors, and consultants..

As an evolving startup, this experience was invaluable in our learning process! Our founder Scott Ko reflected on 5 major things he took away from the experience. If you’re the Founder of a startup, perhaps some of these ring true?

#1: Don’t project your solution and benefits on to your customers!

Throughout the program, we were pushed to interview our customers, and dive into why they decided to do business with ColourSpace, compared to our competitors. What we found was quite eye-opening (and humbling)! We thought that because clients subscribed to our service of changing artwork, it was because they wanted to improve engagement with their customers and employees; this was the main benefit we’ve been touting.

However, what we actually found was that whilst people engagement was a good benefit, the foremost reason was that displaying with art (and working with ColourSpace) was a way to express their identity through the channel of their work environment.

In other words: just because ColourSpace has clients, we can’t assume that the benefits we intended is actually the reason why our customers engaged with us.

In startup-land, I believe the lesson here is: ‘Take the time to talk to your customers and actually figure out what they want.'”

#2: Be open to insights from everyone and everywhere. 

“Similar to above, I had to constantly remind ourselves not to jump the gun on dismissing new ideas and perspectives. The more experience we have on something, the easier it can be to shut down new ideas because they are things we knew the answers to. However, that doesn’t mean those ideas aren’t good. I think I’m an open and receptive kind of person, but even then I still sometimes catch myself wanting to interrupt ideas and discussions from people less familiar with ColourSpace, because I knew what the outcome was.

Getting into the habit of ‘yes and’ really helped me overcome that mindset, and as a result we were able to get some wonderful insights from everyone we had the chance to work with in the bootcamp.

#3: Networking is key, but more than that, actually following up and cultivating those relationships.

“Throughout the boot camp, we were introduced to some amazing individuals; people who were willing to make the time to share their experience with us. These insights have been incredible, and has nudged us towards changing our business model entirely. We have met and connected with several important mentors (both once-off and ongoing) who have shared vital insights.

However, I do think that it is important to continue cultivating those relationships, to make concerted efforts to get in touch, to ask meaningful questions, and be clear what type of help we’re looking for. Having great people meant that it was much easier to reach out to find people already interested in what we do.”

#4: Just because we’ve done some of the work in the Boot Camp program, doesn’t mean it’s not worth revisiting the fundamentals. 

“This is similar to point 2, in which we were reminded that it’s always useful to re-evaluate how we do our business. Businesses, in particular startups like ours, must always evolve. We can’t be fixed in our mindset, and we can’t assume that we’ve ‘solved it’ already.

Whilst some of the topics and activities in the Boot Camp were ones we had already achieved, it was still useful to go through the exercise. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that we have confirmed that what we’ve done is on the right path. The best thing is that we find a way to improve!”

#5: And finally, we are not alone! 

“As any startup founding team will know, it can be incredibly lonely. It’s us against the world, and that type of pressure can be incredibly tough. For the leader, it can be incredibly lonely (speaking from experience). Simply by being in a community with other people who are also going through the same challenges is enormously validating. 

After… misery loves company amirite?? #startuplife”

“The experience was fantastic, and it was wonderful to work alongside other creative startups
The key lessons we learnt was to focus on the problems, and not to assume that just because we’ve been in the market for a couple of years and have clients, that we truly understand what impact we’re really having for both our clients and our artists.” – Scott Ko.

Good luck to the next cohort of Foundry658 Bootcamp attendees – it’s a great experience. With any luck, we’ll all connect in the Accelerator program!

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