I’ve been meaning to get a blog started again and this seemed as good a time as any. Our team, HashBangTV, made it to the interview phase, but was not chosen to be one of the finalists to attend Seedcamp week. I just wanted to share a bit about our experience.
Firstly, I’ll give a little bit of background about myself and our team. I’ve been a game developer my entire professional career, having worked at Insomniac Games in California and then at Media Molecule in Guildford (UK). My cofounder and I got started only three weeks before the application deadline. We had tossed a few ideas around before then, but really didn’t settle on anything until then.
We spent two weeks building a prototype and going through iterations on our application. The application deadline forced us to quickly get into gear and start coding something up to show. Also, as programmers, it made us start learning the other aspects of running a company like researching all the business details and throwing our hats into design and even some terrible programmer art. Most importantly, though, it forced us to get out there and start pitching. By talking to people from all walks of life, we received a massive range of reactions from utter confusion to passionate excitement.
I was in a pitch training session when I got a text message from my cofounder informing me that we had been shortlisted. I must admit that I was a bit surprised. It’s not that I didn’t believe in our idea or anything like that. It’s the fact that I talk to so many people and learn so much from that process that I didn’t feel completely comfortable with how the actual text of our application turned out. Being shortlisted meant that we were going to have an opportunity to pitch our idea to a panel of venture capitalists for a position at Seedcamp week. I was equal parts uncontrollably excited and absolutely terrified. Having both come from programming backgrounds and tending towards the geekier side of life, this was definitely a magnitude more intimidating than anything else I’d ever encountered in my life. So, I got to practicing.
Yesterday was the big day and we had a chance to meet a lot of the other teams before it was our turn to pitch. It’s incredible how many great ideas there were and how friendly the teams were. Finally, though, it was our turn. We walked in, I gave our pitch, and we answered questions. I was actually very happy with how the pitch went in terms of my actual presentation skills (ignoring the content of the pitch). Despite being terrified, I felt like I came across as being confident and competent. However, it was very clear from the mood of the room that things weren’t going well. When you’re in a room with twelve people at that level of intelligence, the questions are immediately to the core issues at hand and it is abundantly obvious when your answers are not addressing them.
There was a session of drinks after the whole event to mingle with the other teams and talk to the members of the selection panel. I had the opportunity to chat with four members of the selection panel and thus solidify my hunch that we weren’t going to Seedcamp week.
Overall, despite being disappointed that we aren’t going to Seedcamp week, I’m not surprised and I can’t think of a better way to have spent the first five weeks of a new company. We’re still waiting on the formal feedback from Seedcamp about why we didn’t make the cut, but I think I already have a pretty good impression. Before I get into what went wrong, I think the thing that went right and the thing that got us as far as we got was our experience. We’ve each built strong track records behind us of getting things done and getting things done well. What went wrong, though, was our idea. I think we made the classic mistake of mentally creating a market in our mind. I think everyone wants the ability to say we’re doing something in a space that nobody else is operating in and a common way to attempt this claim is to either aim for a non-existent space or a small niche and either confuse it with associated large spaces or assume it has the potential to grow into a massive space. That isn’t to say that it never works out. Some companies do actually create a brand new space or a brand new service that nobody ever knew they wanted. However, that is not the usual case, and probably not our case.
So, it’s back to business as usual. As we’ve been doing the entire time, we need to take in the feedback and take the appropriate course correction. We look forward to actually having some time to focus on development so we can iterate on a tangible service instead of simply iterating on an idea. In some ways, it’s a sad day for us, but being set in the right direction is incredibly valuable and a much better outcome than gaining momentum in the wrong direction. It’s onward and upward from here.