Yesterday, we brought you part 1 of our EPIC Demo Day episodes. If you haven’t watched it yet, head here to catch up.
After the whirlwind of Demo Day was over and the dust had started to settle, we caught up with co-founders of Otlet Madi and Lauren. Together, we have explored the co-founder conundrum in our very popular “divide and conquer” episode and the struggles the founders have had juggling endless competing demands of running a startup in “sleep like a baby“.
We touched base to get Madi and Lauren’s take on the big day and, after all these weeks, see if anything has shifted in their focus for sample sharing global domination.
Everything seems possible, but it entails an enormous amount of work. Not that it scares us, if it did, we wouldn’t be here. – Madi, Otlet
THE OPPORTUNITY OF DEMO DAY
Coming up to Demo Day we felt both excited and prepared to showcase our progress and vision, as we had launched the shark and ray trial one month before. We were able to invite everyone to explore a tangible MVP with real users and real samples from around the world, highlighting some of our promising early traction. Bringing in actual tissue samples from some of our research, Madi and I were eager to bring the project to life with our mock science fair set-up.
Despite Otlet being limited to research scientists, it offered a rare opportunity to engage with people across the business sector, and open the door to in depth, candid conversations that are invaluable at this stage. Additionally, DD followed key strategy meetings with our development team, so we went into the day with a clear vision for how Otlet is moving forward. This gave us both tremendous confidence in opening up discussions about not just where we are, but where we are headed.
(Lauren and Madi of Otlet, in front of their Demo Day stand)
AN MVP RELEASE, SO FAR, SO GOOD
We had a vision of what we wanted for our MVP release and it came together. But the process has been a journey of ups and downs. We are certainly achieving what we wanted to with samples currently being uploaded and shared between researchers.
Its exciting, but there’s always more to do. We are learning that developing a product is a constant evolution. As soon as we launch features, we realise there is more to do or areas we can tweak to make sure they really fit what our users need. It’s a constant journey of development and progress that doesn’t have an end point. We are constantly growing and learning, bettering our product and ourselves as entrepreneurs.
WITH VICTORY COMES CHALLENGE
Prior to DD, we had two key tasks we wanted completed. First, was to launch the shark and ray section to gain traction and begin to test new features with real users. Launching the beta version of this platform was a tremendous personal challenge to pull together and ultimately launch something that we knew was far from perfect. Having cultivated a vision for a gorgeous, flawless product, only to realise that what we needed was a working product, was hard. We also accidentally launched with a broken signup function, which took us 24 hours to catch onto, during which time we thought no one wanted to use our product. Oops.
In the end, getting the MVP off desktops and into the world has been a tremendous victory for us, even if it is not perfect. We have an incredible user base and samples being submitted regularly, we get emails from people in rare places wanting to upload samples and contribute to science. Despite the ups and downs, seeing something come together and work for researchers globally is an incredible feeling.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
Now that Demo Day is over, we feel confident and excited about where we are moving and how we are going to integrate with research institutions. Before the day we were pushing so hard to get traction and make our tools work we didn’t take a moment to step back and see how far we have come. Showcasing our product and receiving such great feedback and support really made me realise we have done so much and our traction is great!
‘We are doing okay I thought to myself’.
It can be really easy to get bogged down in the to-do list and not take a look around to see what you have created. It’s an important reflection that all start up founders should take.
Our immediate focus is now on a new feature, which we are testing with the shark and ray beta test. This will allow is to uncover the other side of the market place, and delve into how people search for samples but allowing members to post a “samples I am seeking” add. This will help steer how we develop Otlet, and what functions are most valuable and effective.
A STEEP LEARNING CURVE
We have learnt so much in the last 5 months, as students we love learning, but the SheStarts program is a whole new beast. Its been a steep learning curve to understand what it means to run a startup and to be an entrepreneur. One that we wouldn’t take back. Our failures or shortfalls have been our largest lessons so we vary rarely regret or think of what we wished we had done better.
We recommend that anyone new to a start up should try to find an accelerator program. It has given us the support and immediate advice needed to understand how to run a business. With the odds against start-ups, any help you can get is valuable, its then how you disseminate the advice and choose what is right for your company that can be challenging.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
We are excited about moving forward and testing new functions so we can start to design a CVP version of Otlet. Our largest goals are to launch the product and have a few select universities from around the world sign up. It’s exciting to have this opportunity and to help so many researchers from around the world.
We have also just returned from meetings with natural history collections (which was a huge goal for us), we have a tech conference in Hong Kong coming up and of course the She Starts trip to San Fran. We will be having meetings with some of the biggest universities in the US; an exciting step for us to take.
Everything seems possible, but it entails an enormous amount of work. Not that it scares us, if it did, we wouldn’t be here. We just have to stay organised and driven.
(The future of global sample sharing is in good hands)
We are so excited for the future of Otlet and SharkShare, the vision Madi and Lauren have and are showing is nothing short of inspirational.
To catch up on all the episodes and watch next week, stay tuned!
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