Reflecting on my 11-week rollercoaster through Startmate's inaugural Launch Club fellowship, I can't help but marvel at how pivotal the experience has been. Shaking off the cocoon of my solo venture, I found a vibrant community that championed honesty, vulnerability, and camaraderie.
Startmate, “the Y Combinator of Australia” as I affectionately dub them, has crafted an experience that makes the daunting task of starting and founding a startup feel accessible, inspiring, and exciting.
Pre-Launch Club, I was at a crossroads, balancing full-time employment and my startup GitConnect, a 2-sided marketplace designed for engineers to build their online presence, grow their network and find fulfilling jobs - kind of like ‘Dribbble for Devs’. However, a persistent question echoed in my mind - 'Should I fully commit?'. The imposter syndrome was real, and I felt miles away from actually referring to myself as a ‘founder'.
But, the supportive Launch Club community swiftly chiselled away those apprehensions. They proved themselves as not just any community, but MY community, a home amidst a myriad of career ventures. This warm embrace of fellow founders dispelled the frosty veneer of competition and replaced it with a united front championing collective growth.
Guiding us through this journey was our fearless leader, Cam. His infectious enthusiasm and genuine desire to help us thrive amplified the Launch Club spirit, fostering a culture that celebrated wins, cushioned falls, and nurtured dreams.
The fellowship provided an enriching banquet of expert talks from industry leaders (many of whom had once been in our shoes), AMA sessions with VCs, and co-working opportunities.
Each nugget of wisdom unearthed during these sessions fed directly into the growth of GitConnect and my personal development.
Notably, Max Meyer's AMA session about his work as a VC for Blackbird punctured my misconceptions about interactions with venture capitalists. He painted a relatable picture of the broader startup ecosystem and unravelled the intimidating prospect of fundraising. His advice helped me double down on customer obsession, identify my ‘earned secrets’, and see the value in my generalist skillset, igniting renewed confidence in myself.
Another standout session was a talk from Dom Pym, co-founder of Up Bank. Hearing about his approach to nurturing a progressive, vulnerable, and open culture - in an industry not often known for disruption - was surprisingly moving. It drove me to assess my values and the culture I would want to champion within GitConnect.
Early on, I was grouped with fellow Launch Clubbers, and our mentor Sid Kasbekar from AirTree. I found solace in our 'squad', a mini Startmate family that met weekly. Sid's actionable feedback nudged me towards refining my approach. His advice to find '5-10 people who are having this problem right now and want to work with you to solve it' pushed me to holistically view user research and target warmer leads.
This revamped focus and dedication, along with limitless learnings from the wisdom shared through Launch Club, precipitated a pivot in GitConnect, evolving it from a “social project sharing platform for devs” to a “marketplace for tech talent and companies to find and vet each other”.
I deepened my research around how GitConnect could provide more utility for each user, without waiting for network effects. This led to many insights into the desirability of helping developers build a great portfolio, and helping potential employers discover those portfolios.
I redefined my target users and planned a validated path to solve pressing industry issues, on both sides of the marketplace. My current focus is on reimagining portfolios for tech talent, and reducing the time to hire for employers, with a platform where creating a compelling online presence is simple, fun, and easily shared with companies.
As the fellowship concluded, the momentum didn't stall. Instead, I found myself teeming with opportunities and a clear vision for the future. Armed with newfound confidence, I managed to partner with my “alma mater”, General Assembly, to run a joint hackathon. GA’s continuous stream of engineers looking to enter the job market falls right in line with GitConnects target audience. Such collaborations echoed the value proposition of GitConnect and the success of Launch Club to push you on a continued trajectory beyond the fellowship.
During the fellowship’s final weeks, we honed our pitch decks and practised our pitches with peers, VC fellows, and industry investors. This exercise demystified the complex process of fundraising and I was delighted to make it into the finals of the Pitch Showcase competition that concluded Launch Club.
Despite not being selected for the Startmate Accelerator intake, my connection with Launch Club enabled me to receive actionable feedback, bolstering my optimism and readiness for the future. I am especially focussed on another upcoming Startmate initiative, the small bets fund, which I plan to apply for post-haste.
Looking back, joining Launch Club has been one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I gain invaluable knowledge and professional growth, but it also enabled me to establish valuable partnerships, significantly expanding my network.
I emerged from this journey, not just with a refined startup, but with a renewed sense of self and belonging. I'm no longer hesitant to call myself a ‘founder’.
Although the road ahead is filled with unknowns and potential pitfalls, I feel better equipped to navigate them. The Startmate experience has made me a confident, yet realistic optimist about the next steps. I now view my journey not as a lone founder, but as part of a nurturing and supportive community.
So to every budding founder out there considering Launch Club, my advice is to dive in. The water's great!
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