Since we launched France’s first startup acceleration programme, back in 2011, we have received more than 5000 applications from all around the world. As I speak, NUMA runs 7 accelerators worldwide: Paris, Bangalore, Casablanca, Moscow, Mexico, Montpellier and Barcelona. Whatever the name, whatever the location, there was one pain point that we would all share: startup applications. Imagine receiving thousands of applications, which we had to review in detail (if we were not to miss the next unicorn), asking hundreds of people to evaluate, and sending tens of thousands of emails… Believe me, this was extremely challenging.
To help us, we had never found the right tool. Every single platform we used was either ridiculously expensive, very complex, and time-consuming, or just inefficient. It was on a sunny Monday morning that our CTO came with quite a brilliant idea: “let’s develop our own tool”. And that’s exactly what we did.
Building a MVP
Another event happened right after that, the same week actually, and was a tipping point for our project: one of our clients wanted to organize a big startup contest, which therefore involved evaluating big quantities of online applications. Their need was very precise, and perfectly identified. This was a perfect opportunity, as it would finance our MVP. Our CTO and his team worked very hard to deliver the platform on time. This led us to quite stressful times, but eventually we managed to get everything working just on time: the platform was quite simple at that point, though very efficient.
We have startup applications running all over the world continuously, so we decided to use the platform for our own needs. This allowed us to get immediate feedbacks on the tool from all our Program Managers. We iterated again and again. Until we got something close to perfect: we could easily sort applications by their status, send an email to applicants, extract applications to CSV, invite evaluators, ask them to review applications, get comprehensive data about them, discuss with your applicants directly on the platform, remind them to finish their application before the deadline, etc. All these features were developed in only a few weeks.
Until then, the project was mainly led by our CTO. That’s when the idea came to our mind: “what if we were not the only ones struggling with startup applications?” And the answer became obvious: let’s make it a product. As simple as that might sound, it was actually everything but easy. For the past decade, NUMA has been a service providing company: acceleration programmes for startups, open innovation for corporates, events and coworking for our communities. It’s a very different thing to sell a software. But putting your services into products is the new game and we decided to give it a go.
A dedicated team
We devoted a full team to the project, by leveraging our internal skills: Pierre-Jean, a skillful freelance developer, Alban, our CTO, Abdoul, his intern and Lucas formed the core team.
Once we had the team, we started benchmarking. That was probably the easiest part, as we had been looking at every option available for the past 5 years. And the results of our researches would mainly go down to: “too expensive, too complex, or too inefficient. Or the three at the same time.”
Then came the time of user research: who would want to use such a product? The only way to discover was to meet potential clients. We met 20 different organizations using potential competitors, with three different needs: corporate intrapreneurship, open innovation projects, and startup acceleration programmes. We identified three pain points from all those meetings: pricing (platforms are too expensive), data (they can’t get understandable data easily) and timing (we were always meeting our clients at the wrong timing, after they had launched their applications). What do we teach our entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs? “Once you’ve found problems, solve them!”
- Pricing: the development of the product had already been made profitable, allowing us to put a very low pricing. We would make it 100€/month, which is less than half the price of our lowest competitor.
- Timing: we would launch the product as a SaaS (software as a service). In just a few clicks you could get your call for applications running, at the right time.
- Data: we would make nice and easy charts and pies for our clients to understand their applicants in just a few clicks.
The birth of Selecteev
In the meantime, we had been selling the product to our clients, and guess what… They loved it! TF1 was using it for their incubator, RATP for their intrapreneurship program, General Electric for an open innovation programme and all NUMA offices for their acceleration programmes,. We continued getting feedbacks, improving the product, and correcting the bugs, until we got to the version we have today: a fully customizable online selection platform that you can launch in just a few minutes.
Finally, we needed a name and a website.
So we decided to launch Selecteev.io: the simplest, cheapest, and most data-driven online application platform available, made for incubators, accelerators, startup contest organizers, event managers, etc.
Last, but not least: we have to sell it more, our goal is to be the go-to selection platform for every incubator or accelerator worldwide. To be profitable, given our low price, we will need a large market share. But one of our key assumptions, verified after interviewing our clients, was that actually the market is still at its beginning: our main competitors are actually Google Forms and Excel Sheets. Convincing people to switch from free-but-not-adapted to-cheap-and-relevant is our next milestone.
Lessons learned for intrapreneurs:
The overall lesson, after this month-long journey is that we got to this point by leveraging our internal assets:
- Identifying a need inside our organization helped us build a good MVP;
- Testing that MVP with our own teams has been a great way to iterate quickly, adding new features to our product;
- Developing a product in our area of expertise allowed us to easily meet testers, and potential clients. We leveraged our brand’s assets;
- Bundling our new product with larger offers allowed us to absorb the costs;
- Using our internal resources was a blessing: communication experts, designers, entrepreneurial minds…
Following the article that we published a month ago, you’ve created more than a hundred platforms. Thanks for that! Any more info you’d like us to share about this adventure? Let us know, we’ll answer them here or in an other article!
PS: this journey has been made possible by lots of different people, but we would like to give a special thanks to Brice Maurin (deux.io), for all the time and precious support he gave us.