If you’ve been to Cintrifuse’s office this year you may have noticed The Board, affectionately referred to as The Green Monster or The Heat Map, in our conference room. It’s a nice backdrop for meetings but what is it and why did we build it?
Glad you asked. Over the next couple weeks I’ll be writing a four-part blog series to reveal the quantifiable makeup of #StartupCincy.
Let’s jump into it.
The story starts within days of Wendy Lea’s arrival in October. As our incoming CEO and newcomer to #StartupCincy, she wanted a “snapshot” of the region. Some of her requests: “Tell me about the entrepreneurs – are they first timers or experienced? How many IoT companies do we have? How much money does the ecosystem need to support all the companies raising funds?”
We had a problem. Besides anecdotes and personal knowledge about companies, Cintrifuse had little data to aggregate into a comprehensive accounting of the ecosystem.
Since saying “I don’t know” isn’t smart to say to a new CEO, I told Wendy we’d have the data in two weeks. It was time to get to work.
[pullquote]How could we be a trusted broker between funders, customers, and startups if we only knew each company’s industry?[/pullquote]
I set out with my short-term to-do in the front of my mind but also knew we needed a better long-term data strategy in place to execute our programs – particularly Customer Connections and Funding Connections. After all, how could we be a trusted broker between funders, customers, and startups if we only knew each company’s industry? So I intended to leverage this project into a mechanism to create and implement a new solution to help us execute our programs.
Here’s how I got started with version 1.0. In line with what many startups do when beginning a new project, I started manually. I spent a week going through each startup’s website, LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and Angel List profiles, reconciling our database with what was publicly available. By early November we had five key data points for each member:
• Experience of CEO/Leader – Has this person been involved with a startup before and, if so, what milestones did they accomplish?
• Industry – What is the broad classification of a business’ product or service?
• Primary Customer – B2B or B2C?
• Target Market – Who would be interested in purchasing a startup’s product or service?
• Sales Method – Free, Freemium, contract, etc.?
Finally, we could provide a directional overview of the ecosystem with some basic stats about our 113 members (Note: at the time we had 113 members; blog 2 will reveal all statistics about our current 171 members).
[pullquote]Finally, we could provide a directional overview of the ecosystem[/pullquote]
• 56% were first-time entrepreneurs
• 36% were solopreneurs
• 44% were in Information Technology/Software
• 60% were B2B
• 33% offered their product/service through the cloud
But I still felt antsy. As I stress tested our preliminary data points it seemed we needed more layers about each company’s product or service to execute Funding Connections and Customer Connections. The biggest challenge was taxonomy. For example, some people consider “mobile” and “internet of things” to be an industry like “information technology/software” but we didn’t. So if a VC asked us for companies involved in “mobile”, we had no quick way to create a list of all mobile companies in #StartupCincy.
So, version 2.0 was built with a long-term strategy in mind. As such, the process to create version 2.0 included finalizing our taxonomy then going through the same exercise of “tagging” each company.
Katie Austing, head of Cintrifuse’s Customer Connections program, was heavily involved from this point forward. In fact, the physical “heat map” was her idea!
Along with Katie and the help of several external resources, notably Joan Lewis, John Myers, Avi Ram, and Mark Dawes, we iterated and stress tested our proposed language until we settled on the areas listed below:
[pullquote]After the exercise was complete we had a tremendous understanding of #StartupCincy.[/pullquote]
1. Industry – Broad classification of a business’ product or service
2. Innovation Category – Describes the benefit and ultimate business reason for working with a startup
3. Solution Category/Sub-category – Describes the type of technology and/or use case a startup provides in specific categories and related sub-categories
4. Buyer Type – The purchaser and/or beneficiary of a business’ product or service
5. End-user Type – The consumer of a business’ product or service
6. Functional Category – The specific line of business that would implement a solution, if applicable.
7. Tech Deployment Method – How a startup closes a transaction and/or distributes a solution to its customers.
8. Investment Stage – The most recent funding round received
The results were interesting. We discovered some things we knew, others took us by surprise. One thing is certain, after the exercise was complete we had a tremendous understanding of #StartupCincy. Stay tuned for part two where we get into the numbers and take an in depth look at our startup community!