This blog was written by our Co-Founder, Loo Soon Yi in May 2016 when the idea of CanLaw was first conceived. In this blog we explore how CanLaw developed from Stage 1 to Stage 4 of their Project Brainchild Pre-Accelerator. Be sure to tune in next week to read about how CanLaw drastically pivoted from Stage 4 to Stage 5, which is where we are today!
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In Apr 2016, my co-founder Amir and I signed up with Project Brainchild (an initiative by Khazanah to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation within Khazanah-linked companies – more on the program here: [https://www.codearmy.com/project-brainchild/] and safe to say that it has been the wildest ride of our lives. The lack of sleep, parade of meetings with strangers and finally the adrenaline rush from having validated our problem and identifying our early adopters are all experiences that have deeply changed the way we think about product development.
Having gone through the first 4 stages of the program, we now have absolute clarity on how to launch our legal tech platform which aims to make law simpler and more accessible for everyone. Now everyone Can Law… get it?
Anyway, here are some of MY personal learnings from the different stages of Project Brainchild:
Stage I: Online Preparatory Course
Read some maps before starting your journey.
There are tonnes of startup materials lying out there. If you have an idea and are feeling lost / overwhelmed because it seems like too big of a challenge to take on, relax. There are so many that have gone before you and have graciously left signposts and markers to help guide you along your entrepreneurship journey. As a starting point, here are some of the materials (shared with me by CodeArmy) that I personally found very useful:
-The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine :[https://www.jamesaltucher.com/2014/05/the-ultimate-guide-for-becoming-an-idea-machine]
– How to Start a Startup : [https://startupclass.samaltman.com]
– The Lean Startup : [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEvKo90qBns]
Stage II: Pitching Session
Know your competitors inside out. Healthy paranoia is what will keep you alive.
One of the biggest lessons that I took away from the Brainchild experience is to know your competitors. We had to pitch twice throughout the program and both times, we were asked about what the existing players were doing.
The fact of the matter is that most accelerators / investors are looking for a team with that unfair advantage. What this means is that they are looking for founders that are just paranoid enough to keep running, learning and innovating to keep ahead of the pack, even by just a little bit.
You might not be an expert in an industry when you first have at it, but you darn sure need to be willing to put in the hours, to outlearn and outwork the competition. No product or feature will give you an edge forever. Ultimately, a healthy paranoia is what will give you that sustainable competitive advantage in the long run.
Here’s an interview with Mark Cuban, a successful US tech entrepreneur & billionaire investor that confirms the same:
– Mark Cuban Interview 2015: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8yjzUqK1zQ]
– 5 Business Lessons From Billionaire Investor, Mark Cuban:[https://www.inc.com/stephan-aarstol/5-business-lessons-i-learned-from-my-billionaire-investor-mark-cuban.html]
Stage III & IV: Lean Startup Machine Workshop & 5-Day Bootcamp
Don’t start by building a product.
Instead, you should first validate the problem and pinpoint your customer segment. Test all assumptions and make absolute sure that enough people are willing to pay you for the problem you are solving before you even start coding at all.
Now, I know first hand that it is tempting to immediately jump right into the building of the product. After all, who cares what the customer thinks. Once I build my product with all its sexy features, I am certain they will come flocking.
ALWAYS ALWAYS test your assumptions. When we first started out, my co-founder and I were a 100% certain that what our customers wanted were legal templates. That was before we went on ground and spoke to some 20 different startups. Turns out we were wrong – what our customers wanted were CUSTOMIZED agreements. Because no two startups are the same, they all wanted their very own, tailor-made agreements done by professionals with legal experience. We validated this when two startups agreed to pay us for matching them with legal professionals. Had we not tested this, we would have ended up building a huge template bank and found out later that nobody wanted it.
To help you with this, here’s a tool that we used all throughout the Brainchild program. It helped us immensely when we needed to design experiments for validating our assumptions:
– Javelin Board: [https://www.leanstartupmachine.com/validationboard/]
Startups are by nature an uphill trek, but you will most likely find it easier, if only you remember to:
1. Learn from OTHER ENTREPRENEURS,…
2. … your COMPETITORS,
3. …and most importantly, your CUSTOMERS.
Be sure to tune in next week to read about how CanLaw drastically pivoted from Stage 4 to Stage 5, which is where we are today!