What do you do? How does it work? How do you help companies? These are some of the most common questions I get asked on a regular basis since I took on the role of helping grow companies in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent back in August of 2017. Over the course of the next few blog posts, I aim to answer all of these questions and more, while providing a tangible roadmap and toolkit to enabling High Growth Startups to go global.
In my role as the Director of Business Innovation at WEtech Alliance, it’s my responsibility to build unique, measurable, and tangible ecosystems and programs that help Early Stage Startups, and High Growth Startups, while at the same time developing internal engines of innovation for large Corporations. Myself and Adam Castle have worked incredibly hard to think through exactly the best ways to do that and this specific series will highlight our experiences and work on developing tangible support structures that enable High Growth Startups to flourish.
This first post aims to give a high level overview of the entire process from start to finish, detailing our thoughts on why each structure has been built and the role it plays in providing tangible support to entrepreneurs in the region. The posts to follow will outline each structure in detail and provide the toolkit we use here at WEtech to any who may find it valuable.
Building TANGIBLE Support Structures
As Adam and I began to take a close look at what it takes to help a high growth potential company hit their ambitious targets, one theme became abundantly clear. BE TANGIBLE. Entrepreneurs simply don’t have time for fluff. High growth companies are moving (or are about to be moving) incredibly fast, they therefore need tangible support structures in order to help them develop scalable back end processes and systems that do not break in 6 months once they hit scale.
Like any good Lean Startup or Design Thinking disciple, we simply started by asking questions. Luckily, we have a fantastic portfolio of over 165 active companies that were willing to give us their thoughts, experiences, and dreams about what the future would hold and how they would get there. Out of these customer interviews, our method was born.
“What the heck do I do first?” – Every Entrepreneur Ever
This is the number one question Adam and I get from almost all of our High Growth startups. They have this incredible passion and vision, and even for the most part they know from a high level what needs to be done. However, we were finding over and over that our entrepreneurs were struggling to define their roadmap to achieving specific growth outcomes. Thus, our value prop was born: give founders tangible guidance on the next 30/60/90, providing a roadmap to solve for a specific growth outcome.
We create a living document with every client that serves as that roadmap over the course of the next three months. Every time a client comes in, we revisit it, we add notes, hold one another accountable, and shift priorities based on key learnings, but we always track our progress based on this document. It’s the foundation that the rest of our supports are built on.
Out of this exercise we had a really interesting and compelling realization. Founders as a whole were struggling with one of three areas: Sales, Growth Marketing, or Pitching to Investors. Each one of these themes popped up in the 30/60/90 day documents of almost all of our founders in one way or another. So we decided we needed to build a resource that filled the knowledge gap, while still providing a tangible deliverable. Our Entrepreneurs Toolkit Workshops were born from this realization. The Entrepreneurs Toolkit Workshops are comprised of three sessions that run in consecutive weeks for four hours each. The founders leave with the 101 baseline knowledge and a tangible output, whether that be a channel strategy, strategic marketing plan focused on social spend, or a polished pitch deck.
But What Happens When We Need To Execute In the 60 Day Phase?
Our next challenge was solving for very specific skill gaps that existed in the execution of any given strategic plan. For instance lets say in the 60 day phase of our milestone tracker our client is launching a new marketing campaign to promote their product to a new market. The 30/60/90 has given us the high level milestone, the MarCom Entrepreneurs Toolkit session has allowed them to develop their strategic marketing plan, however they still don’t know how to execute on something as specific as creating and running a Facebook Ad, an essential part of most social spend strategies.
Our solution, WEtech War Rooms. This is where we bring in an industry expert for two hours with only 5 clients for a tangible coaching session. In the Facebook Ad example, clients would come in with their copy and a photo, and leave with their ads up and running, regardless of their knowledge level.
Again, TANGIBLE, is the theme at the core of all of our client work.
“How do I skip the obvious pain points that others have gone through before me?”
One of the largest hurdles for most startups across Canada is access to high end mentors who have gone through the journey to running a successful business from scratch. Luckily for Adam and myself, Windsor is home to a vibrant community of high end individuals with a breadth of knowledge to access. We have brought these rockstars together in order to create a Venture Success Team, broken into two roles. Our EIR’s, who handle high end strategic conversations, and our Community Advisors, whose role is to provide tangible coaching on a specific pain point. These are paid positions, that rely heavily on the 30/60/90 and our guidance to ensure a strong conversations and engagement happen in the very first meeting.
“I’m ready for a cash injection to really kickstart our growth trajectory.”
The final piece to the puzzle that came out in our customer discovery, was when and how do high growth startups bring on early investors. Our challenge became taking those top performers, the ones that have early sales and a path to global growth, and fine tuning their model, processes, and strategies, in order to align them with a path to investment. For that reason we created an Tech Accelerator called ScaleUP.
We take our five highest potential startups that have early sales and run them through a four month sprint, culminating in a pitch for $10K in front of our local Angel Group.
This journey we take our founders on over the four months, as well as the process of running a high growth accelerator is outlined in a post to follow!
After taking a really close look at what our High Growth Startups need to not only thrive locally, but scale internationally, we developed a framework for supporting them through listening to our customers, asking challenging questions, and measuring a few core outcomes. From a high level here are the pieces to our framework:
• 30/60/90 Day Milestone Tracker: Giving founders tangible guidance on the next 30/60/90 days, by providing a roadmap to solve for a specific growth outcome is essential and at the core of what we do.
• Entrepreneurs Toolkit Sessions: Taught by industry experts, these provide 101 knowledge based on gaps the founders have in Sales, Growth Marketing, or Pitching to Investors.
• War Rooms: Taught by local leaders, these provide focused and tangible coaching on specific elements of a plan (i.e. running Facebook ads).
• Venture Success Team: A deep roster of EIR’s, and Community Advisors focused on tangible support, guided by the advisor.
• ScaleUP Accelerator: Takes the top 5 High Growth Potential Startups and engages them in a four month sales sprint.
In future blog posts, I will be diving into each segment of our our framework to offer more detail into how we set each portion up, provide some tangible resources to those who are interested in learning more, and hopefully supporting ecosystems looking to launch startups across the globe.
Thanks for following along, any thoughts and comments are always welcome!
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Adam Frye is the Director of Business Innovation at WEtech Alliance. Before that, Adam worked extensively in the startup space in Waterloo and Toronto, both as an early employee in a high growth social enterprise, as well as a startup coach and mentor for young entrepreneurs. In his free time he enjoys golfing, rock climbing and portaging. His values can be summed up in 3 quick sentences. Find your passion. Relentlessly pursue it. Help others to do the same.