Ric Pratte pitching AlignMeeting at the VVM accelerator.

VVM Accelerator Boosts AlignMeeting Velocity

We were extremely fortunate to have completed the 2017 Valley Venture Mentors accelerator program (VVM). Spoiler alert… it ignited our mojo and boosted our business beyond our original imaginations.

What is a startup accelerator program? In reality, a startup is just a bunch of ideas and hypotheses. The quicker the founder(s) learns reality the better. Simple things like… Who is the customer? Do they really value the solution? How will we reach them and sell to them? Accelerators help startups iterate through this learning process faster. Few, if any ventures, come out as the same business as they entered.

The experience

What we didn’t expect were the relationships we developed and the comradery of the other 35 participating companies. One would expect a bunch or type A, competitive personalities. However, VVM designed the acceptance process to filter in people who collaborate and like to work together. A concept that still blows my mind. We all became familiar with the phrase, ‘lovingly critical feedback’. We all need feedback from each other, constantly. Sugarcoating feedback doesn’t help you learn. As we were all empathetic to each other’s situation, feedback can was framed in such a way to make it easier to stomach and accept.

Class picture of all the participants to the 2017 VVM accelerator

What happens when you bring together 36 companies of wildly different industries and cultures? We got diversified approaches rather than the same old techie echo chamber. Diversity provides unexpected perspectives. Diversity provides unexpected learning. Diversity provides strength. During my initial pitches, people just cocked their heads in wonderment to what planet I was coming from. I learned a massive dose of humility. I learned I liked helping others and in turn, it boosted me even further.

Transformation

Entering the program we knew we had a messaging issue. We had a difficult time having others understand how we wanted to help people through our software. People just didn’t ‘get it’ and few people who tried our early release stayed around to use it again. As the saying goes, that was the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

VVM Finals showcase

Sure, people said they were interested in improving best meeting practices, but their actions didn’t match the words.

Learning 1: Simplify as much as possible. When done, simplify more and keep going to continually find user friction and clear it away. Our ‘Instant meeting’ was an instant hit. Our goal was to see how quickly we could get a new person within the system and discover value. As part of this process, we even rebranded the business with a cleaner, simpler look and feel. New logo and website provide a flavor to the transformation.

Learning 2: Having a meeting isn’t a person’s goal, it’s getting things accomplished FROM the meeting. Through endless interviews, people gravitated towards wanting to have a way to organize next steps resulting from calls and meetings. Now the system has easy ways to create action items during meetings, ensure the actions get to the right people and remind those involved to move towards completion.

The end results

AlignMeeting now has more daily users than we had in any given month last year. People regularly use the system to facilitate calls and meetings, collaborate with others between meetings and get work completed. Hearing stories of people finding successes from a clearer discussion, quicker project momentum, and overall progress confirms we’re on the right path.

I was humbled by other companies out to cure breast cancer, reduce infant mortality, feed homeless people and other ‘real pains’ of the world. While AlignMeeting doesn’t address such ‘hard’ pains, AlignMeeting can help all organizations reach their goals faster than before. And that feels like a worthwhile accomplishment.

Ric Pratte
ric.pratte@alignrmeeting.com

Ric Pratte is CEO & Co-Founder of AlignMeeting. Ric is a long time high-tech entrepreneur and is currently focused on new business models in our digital world such as social business, digital sales & marketing, predictive analytics and game mechanics. Previously, Ric was a President & COO of Rapid Insight; Founder & CEO of JitterJam, a pioneer in SocialCRM software that was sold to Meltwater Group in 2011; and Co-Founder & CEO of Campagne Associates, acquired by Blackbaud, Inc. in 2006. Follow Ric on Twitter: @ricpratte

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