What I learned from the AI Nextgrid Seed Program?⋅ Marcin Laskowski
Your goal is not to sell a product but to inspire with your vision, a big vision because if you want to play big you need to act big.
3 months of super-exciting, super-intense program where you’re pushed to boundaries of your own creativity, time management, and persuasion in order to deliver next-generation product crafted to disrupt. I think that’s the best one-sentence-summary of what Nextgrid AI Seed Program is about. If you’re curious how the program looked like, why you should try it or not try it, and who is the best fit — feel invited to the following paragraphs.
What is this all about?
The main idea of the program is to gather wise minds specialized in AI and help them monetize their visions. It consists of three phases — plan, build, and communicate, each one created in order to develop one of your most important entrepreneurial skills.
During the first phase, our goal was to create a tech and business roadmap for the project in order to assure that the MVP will be delivered on the final day. We learned not only how to perform customer validation but also learned a lot about project execution and goal setting.
The second phase was mainly a technical one and our job was to focus on product development. Equipped with credits for the cloud and a lot of guidance from tech mentors working in the field of AI, product design, and development we were able to keep a high pace and stay focused during that demanding time.
The third phase was dedicated to preparation for the final demo day, where we had to present our startup in front of Venture Capital investors and companies like Amazon, Google, Intel, IBM and Nvidia. During that time we had a chance to participate in workshops prepared by specialists working in the field of communication, marketing strategy and acting. A lot of training sessions and preparation was done. Everything in order to minimize stress and make that final pitch the best one we could ever give.
Ok, so what I learned?
1. Be ‘stubborn on vision and flexible in approach’
Jeff Bezos quote exactly explains what kind of mindset you should have not only when attending a program but first of all when starting a business. It’s super important to have a clear vision of what exactly is the problem you are trying to solve and what would be your desired outcome if that would work. If you stick too much to your idea or solution, and not the customer’s pain point — you will find yourself in the quagmire of unprofitable business.
2. Ask proper questions
One of the biggest mistakes I‘ve done in the past was getting opinion about the product, not people’s past experience, problems they faced, and the tools they have tried. It’s like asking your mother for an opinion about your first drawing of a cat which looks like a machine gun — she will always tell you that’s the best ever piece of art she has ever seen. To overcome that situation we might go for the simple 5-question guide introduced by Eric Migicovsky which is a very good starting point for a lot of founders.
3. Become a listener
This might sounds a little bit odd, because theoretically founders should be great speakers not listeners. However, if you want to be a good leader first you need to be good listener. The difference between hearing and listening is that hearing is understanding words that are coming to you, listening is trying to get to the meaning of the words that are said to you. When you talk to customers it is important to extract information even if something was not said directly or was missed during the conversation.
4. Plan and execute with OKR’s
Tech-savvy entrepreneurs might face a problem with the project execution and product on-time delivery, because they always want to build everything from scratch. A perfect solution to that might be a concept used by Google which is called OKR (Objectives and Key Results). It is a management and execution technic that set strategy and goals over a specified amount of time for an organization and teams. Objectives are any initiatives that you hope to accomplish, while Key Results are numerically-based expressions of success or progress towards an Objective.
5. Keep pace and focus on what really matters
Three months’ time is a very short period of time to bring some really good value. However, a startup is the type of environment where you will always face lack of time so it is important to focus on things that really matters. To choose which step should be the next it’s good to ask yourself Which next activity will give you the biggest step forward towards a desired goal? That might be solving some blockers or making some improvements in the product.
It’s important to have in mind that during three months even the greatest program will never make you a entrepreneurial star. However, right community and wise people can show you the right direction and give tools which might help you significantly in the process of making your vision come true, so it’s important to make a right choice choosing a program.
I hope that this grasp of information inspired you a little bit to make a change and pursue your ideas. Everything I learned and experienced allowed me to push my project to a whole new level giving a lot of energy and believe in what’s next. It was a “smashing” program full of intense work that I specially recommend it to those who already created some sort of the first AI concept and now want to get out of the garage in order to share their great idea with the world.
Everybody is saying be yourself, and I will tell you become someone.
Last but not least you might ask me ‘…so what is a project you have been working on?’
As we all know AI is the major driving force in many applications we see today. However, in order to put that AI in those applications, we need to go through a certain process. That process starts with data gathering and preparation, goes through model building, and training, and finish with deployment, and integration. When it comes to first two steps — it’s not a problem anymore for developers and engineers. The problem is with last step — deployment & integration…
…so what’s the solution? The solution is syndicai.