It’s super motivating when you get to chat with really smart, interesting and successful people from all around the world, and the overwhelming feedback they give you is “Believe in your ideas and go harder!”
Opvia was fortunate to participate in Startmate’s Open House program earlier this year, which gives startup founders access to free 30-minute calls with mentors, who, in our case, were VCs and successful startup people. Open House runs twice a year before applications open to the Startmate Accelerator program.
And I’m thrilled to share that Opvia has just received word that we’ve been accepted into Startmate Accelerator 2021. Yay!
Open House was great timing for us, as we were wrestling with the decision to either keep pushing ahead with version 1 of our Configure, Price and Quote (CPQ) application, or go for gold and build version 2, implementing all the learnings we had from v1.
The topic of discussion for our time with the mentors was easy for us to select.
As a small company with a real scarcity of resources, making the commitment to bring v2 forward meant slowing down on v1. We could not continue full steam on v1 and design and build v2 at the same time.
To us it felt like a pretty big decision. If we went all-in on v2, we would need to raise money earlier than planned, as we would be burning more and earning less.
We had learnt an immense amount from v1, and had realised that without making onboarding even easier and faster, we would always have a bottleneck.
Enter Open House. Over the two-week period, I got to speak with four amazing mentors, who all listened to the brief introduction we provided and then dived straight into trying to assist us with the challenge we were wrestling with.
The overarching feedback we received was “believe in yourselves and your ideas”, which was pretty awesome given the caliber of the mentors we spoke with.
What I didn’t expect was a number of conversations that challenged us to go even harder. Wait what??? Go harder?? How would we do that? Surely just committing to v2 was going hard?
But they told us to not just dig deep and commit to v2, but to plan to drive it even harder than we had considered. It was AMAZING. We left inspired, energised and motivated.
Really know your key data points and talk to your customers to understand their drivers.
Believe in yourself, chat to everyone you can in the product-led space.
Push your customers towards great outcomes. Help them avoid using Flexile 'non-optimally’.
Dan really challenged us to think more broadly than we were and to really understand the fundamental challenge of onboarding. We had planned for a free version one day in the future but he helped us realise this was a key short-term goal. This makes sense because self-service onboarding needs to be on-point to allow a free version. Dan also shared really valuable data on how to change our financial model and show traction from adding free users.
The hardest part of the decision was that v1 of Flexile is really good. We had beaten the CPQ heavyweight Salesforce in two deals, and we already had a product that was massively easier to use, with a much lower time and money cost to implement.
So why the hell would we risk this by diverting the majority of our energy and effort to an as yet untested new version?
Product-led growth, that’s why!
While we are really happy with v1, we did not want to run a business that either relied on Opvia building an internal services business to onboard customers, or one that relied on outsourced integration partners, like Salesforce and many other Enterprise applications do.
We did not want to hire a lot of onboarding staff. Our vision for Opvia has always been a small group of highly skilled staff with great systems and automation to ensure peak efficiency. Too many staff that are reliant on service revenue worries us, and feels like it's moving away from the dream of waking up in the morning to see the sales that have happened overnight while we slept. (Everyone with a startup has this dream, right?)
Likewise, our experience as customers of enterprise software taught us that outsourcing does not lead to the best outcomes for our users. Any company that specialises in implementing enterprise software is incentivised to bill the most days they can, NOT to build you the best solution for the lowest price.
So v2 was really the only option that fulfilled our vision for Flexile. We just needed encouragement to commit.
Fast forward to today and we are designing v2 of Flexile to provide for self-service onboarding with a free version to drive adoption. We are now hell-bent on disrupting the CPQ market and not merely being cheaper to implement, but actually, being no charge to implement.
Of course, we are still in equal parts excited and scared because while we have a clear vision on how to achieve our goals we know from experience that it’s damn hard. There is no self-service onboarding for any true CPQ solution that we have seen so far and this is because it's a tough challenge.
Luckily it’s one Opvia is incredibly well placed to tackle with further support from Startmate as we go through their 12 week acceleration program starting in July!
If you operate a startup, or have just an idea for a startup, I would strongly encourage you to apply for Open House. We don’t yet know if it will change our lives, but it did change our business outlook. It certainly tested our thinking and inspired us to make significant changes to our product.
Watch this space :-)