June 30th, 2013

ARK Challenge (@ARKChallenge): Week 4

It is hard to believe we are already four weeks into this 14-week ARK Challenge accelerator program for PressBaby. The time has flown by. Time flies when you are having fun!

This week, I spent more time in Little Rock than in Fayetteville, so I missed a few ARK Challenge events that sounded like great experiences based on Jody’s recount of the learnings. But, I made progress on the business while in Little Rock and stayed current on some major Stone Ward projects that we have moving right now.

Here is a recap of some of the things learned and accomplished this week:

  • We got a 101 lesson in building a pro forma from mentor David Moody. The bottom line is that most investors understand that pro formas for startups include a lot of guesses. But, we should document the assumptions that we are making to get to those guesses so that we can have the conversations about the numbers validity when speaking with investors. Everything has to be logical and defendable. And don’t forget all your expenses like staffing, attorney fees, etc. Plan monthly, but show the investors the quarterly plan.
  • We heard from Acumen Brands Creative Director Cade Collister with his top five lessons learned working in technology. I think my favorite tip was to “unplug.” This is something I forget to do purposely because it makes me uncomfortable to not be connected at all times. But unplugging can actually help you re-focus and come back refreshed.
  • We finalized logos/brand identities for PressBaby, Newspaper Next, ZineDay, and VidLibs (including business card designs).
  • We secured URLs for 501Today.com, 479Daily.com (we already owned 870Daily.com).
  • We approved brand (PressBaby) website wireframe that Stone Ward has been working on for us.
  • We completed even more paperwork!
  • Jody tested our product with a group of high school students that are entrepreneurs themselves and received some great feedback and guidance on usability.
  • We continued work with developer on app refinement.
  • I met with our first newspaper partner about the details and logistics of getting content on a daily basis, what was needed to prove concept and timing launching the beta product. This was exciting.
  • We took a strengths finder exam to understand our personal strengths and will be working with our director in the coming weeks to learn how to take advantage of our strengths and become a stronger team. (It does feel a little bit like the pre-marital counseling I had to do once upon a time. I guess it is true that a relationship with your business partner is like a marriage!)
  • Most importantly: we were finally funded! Which led to the opening of our business checking account and a battle of the banks to get the check cleared. Though the funds aren’t fully available to us until next week, it feels good to have this hurdle (almost) cleared.

Key advice that we received this week:

  • “Culture is very important. Listen to your team and take steps to keep a positive culture.” – Cade Collister
  • “Test everything.” – Cade Collister
  • “Only paying customers count in a pro forma. Downloads don’t matter unless the customer is paying.” – David Moody

My mind has been racing with ideas, to-do lists and mental drafts of plans lately. This has led to fewer hours of sleep. On Tuesday morning, as I was driving to Fayetteville I found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I decided to pull over at a rest stop and promptly feel asleep for 30 minutes. It was 7 AM. With that incident, I have made two decisions about my schedule: (1) I am only making a round trip once per week (I’ve been averaging twice) and (2) wherever I am, I am staying for a minimum of two nights. It is senseless to risk my life driving back and forth when much of what I do for either company can be done remotely.

photo 1
Jody whiteboarded the Newspaper Next concept to help explain it to people. I think he is proud of his work!
photo 5
Then he sketched out how the self-serve model would work for smaller publishers.
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Jody loved showing the high school students how the product would work and letting them record themselves.
photo 4
We never miss an opportunity to get a customer testimonial!
photo 2
Self-testing the product (reading text from the computer and recording video to the iPhone).
Advice to never forget.
Advice to never forget.

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