“I Thought I Knew a Lot. Then I Went to StartupYard”
One founder’s story of building a global tech brand, failing, and then founding Chatler.ai with StartupYard.
Chatler.ai, a StartupYard Batch 7 startup from Hungary, is working to create an AI powered conversation engine for big brands to improve their customer’s experience via chat and social media. The team is led by Janos Szabo, whose credentials include being a founder of ClipDis, the Hungarian social multimedia startup that made lots of noise in 2015.
But Janos and the Chatler team came to StartupYard in 2016 with a brand new idea, and some valuable experience from previous failures. During our program, they developed a beta-version of their platform, and signed partnerships with companies like Coca-Cola Hungary, and L’Oreal.
I asked Janos a few questions about his StartupYard experience, in order to show founders who are like him, what they could potentially get out of applying to StartupYard. The answers he gave are, I think, very powerful advice for any startup founder, and a strong recommendation of our program, specifically for teams that are working on complex problems. Here is what he had to say:
We were very early stage with our project. I was surprised that StartupYard accepted us with only a PowerPoint idea, really. But it turned out that it’s never too early, and the StartupYard team and investors knew what they were doing when they took us.
I see now that it’s better to get the foundations of a project right at the very beginning. StartupYard has helped us to define our target market better, to shape and perfect our positioning statement, and collect tremendous amounts of feedback from really relevant people. With all this knowledge and insight we could start building our product with greater confidence and a clear vision.
I don’t think we would have gotten it right so quickly without StartupYard. We might have started building something sooner, but not something we could really sell. As it is, we have a product we will be able to sell from Day 1.
StartupYard is also a unique opportunity to build your contact list with top people not only in the tech ( and investment) industry, but also within enterprises. Since most of the new startups in the region are focusing on B2B it’s also essential to have these connections already Day 1. Honestly, we would probably never have gotten the meetings we got (and that put us over the top in a few cases), without the accelerator. There would have just been no other practical way to get so many meetings with C-level executives.
Finally, It’s a great community. We’re still in touch with other founders, learning from each other, looking for ways our projects can benefit from each other. I feel in a way much less alone than I used to as a founder. We are a team, but we are also part of a bigger team that cares for each other.
Maybe we would have launched our first product earlier, but for the totally wrong market and target group (without any clear vision how we’ll turn it into a business).
Creating a product is not equivalent to creating a business. I think without Startupyard we could have succeeded on the product part, but definitely not on the business part. And if you can’t solve the business problem, it doesn’t matter what product you have.Creating a product is not equivalent to creating a business. - @chatlerai founder Janos Szabo on the SY blog Click To Tweet
And this is a big threat for product focused founders, like me. We’re obsessed with our product, thinking about new features, and tend to forget that somebody has to pay for the product at the end of the day. We like to say that “if the product is good enough somebody will pay for it”. For sure, this is the easy way to deal with this topic, but real life goes the other way. You have to know for whom you are building the product and what is the real problem you try to solve.
-Janos Szabo, Founder and CEO at Chatler.ai
It’s ok to be confident. You need that edge, and you need some ego to succeed. Actually founders have to be more confident in themselves than average people.
But don’t think that you know everything. This is false confidence. You should rather be confident that you can learn everything during your journey. Listen and learn! StartupYard is a good place to start this and to gain real confidence in what you are doing.True confidence is believing you still have the ability to learn more. - @chatlerai Founder Janos Szabo on the SY blog Click To Tweet
I don’t feel, even as a person with many years of experience in tech and in product design, that I was in any way going backward by participating in an accelerator. I feared that it would be that way, but it was a positive, forward-moving experience. It was a chance to break down my assumptions about what I am good at, and improve in ways I didn’t know I needed to.
It is not exactly right to say it is a humbling experience. It is a great context-building experience. StartupYard helped me to see my place in the industry, and also to see ways to grow that I didn’t know about yet.