When I wrote 5 questions for a Start-up Accelerator two weeks ago, I only spoke to the incubator side of the equation. This week, I spoke to Dave Lifson, an entrepreneur whose company went through the program this past summer. Dave was formerly a product manager at Etsy, and his partners Chris Maguire and Hiam Schoppik were 2 of Etsy's cofounders. So, they had some previous experience in a start-up mode, and had credibility for creating a large site that had traction.
Dave told me his primary motivation for joining DreamIt was money. They had raised just a few thousand dollars from friends and family for their small company, Waffl.com, which helps Bed and Breakfast and innkeepers with technology and online marketing. Waffl lets these small inns create very good looking, search optimized promotion pages and more.
However, now that the team has been through the accelerator/incubator experience, "The money mattered much less than the experience value. For example, we worked with the law firm, racked up thousands of dollars in fees, but they were covered." Lifson also said that the experience gave them credibility with other angel investors and early stage venture funds. Finally, they learned a great deal about skills they were lacking such as Sales and Business Development. "We now understand price elasticity and how to create surveys to see what prices people are willing to pay for a service."
Additionally, a few weeks into the incubator experience, Lifson, Maguire and Schoppik had switched direction. They still manage Waffl, but ended up spending most of their summer creating Postling, a tool to help the innkeepers they met at Waffl (as well as any other small business) promote themselves in many forms of Social Media. A small business can create their own blog posts, and have those posts promoted via Facebook and Twitter. The posts can also flow to blogging services like Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace and TypePad, and even more importantly, comments flow back to the Postling dashboard. So, in one place, a small business with limited time and resources can manage their social media presences.
The Postling team recently added a feature that allows postings at a certain time. So, a small business owner can schedule a blog post for 10am, with Twitter and Facebook promotion at 10:05am and again later in the day. That way, if the business owner is busy at the register or speaking with a client, their information still goes out on time.
There are more good things coming to Postling, according to the team, much of it from what they learned from their Waffl customers and experiences at DreamIt's Start-up Accelerator.
Is an incubator right for your business? Ask your questions below.
Last updated: Oct 7, 2009
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr