It's time to say goodbye.
This is definitely one of the hardest statements to write, and potentially the one that we’ve been avoiding the most. We’ve been struggling with the tone of voice of this message because we want to be empathetic and transparent while transmitting hope to other fellow early stage founders out there.
Let’s rip it off like a band-aid: BETA100 was officially dissolved this February. The reasons behind it are various and perhaps the one irony behind this outcome is that we failed to follow our own advice. In our eagerness to execute against our ideas, we made crude decisions early in our founder journey that we later regretted and led to this conclusion.
There are always three sides to every story; this is ours. We built BETA100 because we wanted to pursue a better way of 1) helping founders get the right people around them in order to succeed, and 2) present an option for professionals to engage with startup projects and broaden their relationship with “work”. And we did that.
The concept, research phase, offline validation and development of BETA100 started late October 2021. We spoke to hundreds of founders, investors and service providers that wanted to be part of the ecosystem. In an offline version we even made some matches of high-skilled professionals to early stage startups and a number of goodwill connections. When we launched in September 2022, we were pleased with our initial traction as 150+ users joined as early adopters within two months.
. . .
So what went wrong?
There’s no simple answer as multiple factors were at play. What we do know is we have to own up to our own limitations. Below is our take on the top 03 mistakes made and lessons learned.
01. Giving up equity too early. Being part of a venture studio is a mixed blessing. Getting structured support and funding to test ideas and build a proof of concept is invaluable when you’re a first time founder - but it comes at a cost. Our mistake was signing away a significant share of the company up front when there was no clarity on the ‘hard number’ to the funding we’d be receiving. In the end this was our undoing. When funding fell well short of our expectations we could see it would have a massive impact on our valuation, the optics of our cap table, and significantly affect our ability to raise external investment.
Top Tip: Don’t give away equity until you can pin down its value: that being financial or in other shapes and forms - such as partnerships or important introductions. You need to be able to confidently justify every seat at your cap table.
02. Building a marketplace is hard. Even harder when you know revenue won’t be generated early enough to fully fund the company’s operations, making it doubly important to have investors (financial and otherwise) who understand the ‘chicken and egg’ nature of a marketplace and have the patience to see it through. Looking back, we can see now that marketplaces really start out as a community. We could have run with a no-code option right from the get go and build out the community on existing platforms like slack, circle, even WhatsApp! This would have made it easier to communicate more fluidly with our users and keep engagement high. So even though we were fortunate enough to have access to capital to build our MVP and test interactions, having to drive engagement through an imperfect platform which required further investment to open up communications made it harder for us to deliver against our value proposition quickly.
Top Tip: Make the communication / feedback loop with your early users a priority. Build this into your proof of concept and run with a no-code option for as long as you can to test the interactions your users value the most, if you’re a non technical founder - like us.
03. Be wary of ‘technical debt’. In prioritising getting a web application out to market, one thing we did not factor in was the need for it to be agile - and how closely this need was tied to pricing. The relationship between the two did not become apparent until we started diving deep into our pricing strategy and the experience we wanted to provide our users based on their feedback. How will we deliver value to our users? What will people be prepared to pay for? At what point? How does this affect our business model? Having a platform agile enough from the start to help test these aspects was key.
Top Tip: Be crystal clear on how you want to make money - before you start hard-coding anything; and build a platform agile enough that allows you to segment user experience and implement changes to your pricing tiers easily.
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Lastly, we are beyond happy to have been able to meet some incredible founders and people in the startup ecosystem that, to us, was very welcoming, kind and supportive. It has been quite a ride. We shared memories and experiences with incredible champions that made this 1 year and four months of working on the concept of BETA100 - and its many pivots and variations - worth it.
A special thanks to our advisors Ben and Adam, who were there to support us not only on the business strategy side but whenever we needed a little mood booster as well. To the outstanding entrepreneurs and professionals that gave us their time and shared their projects on our platform. To Ravish, who jumped right into this project with no hesitation and was such a great addition to our tiny team. And to the very many people that we, somehow, managed to get around our table. We end this journey with the same drive and passion for the ecosystem as when we started the project.