Why do you need to validate the team?

Vunk Team Validation together with Calum Cameron from Startup Wise Guys has kicked off at full speed and teams are preparing for the final two weeks. We caught up with Calum to give a short intro to what has been happening so far.

So, how do you find the teams this year compared to our first batch in '15? 

The depth of quality teams is clearly higher this year: we couldn't even narrow it down to a top 7! It feels like there are more B2B teams as well. As last year, a few of the teams stand out as they were already running before VUNK but jumped in to get closer to Telia. But some of the newer teams have moved so fast during the first two weeks, clearly commitment isn't an issue! 

What topics have the teams covered during the first weeks & how do you see teams progressing? 

The first two sessions of team validation have been about the teams validating their ideas and each other as soon as possible.  

The first session built upon the hackathon and asked teams to condense their company into a two-sentence value proposition. This is hard, but it makes them really focus on what they are doing, and what they need to test, fast. It also brings out any differences in opinion. Each team member also had the chance to pitch themselves to their teammates using the same format: i.e. what is the value they bring to the team and how do they do that. For homework, teams had to agree their roles and responsibilities and riff on their company value propositions. 

In week two the teams all presented their two sentence pitch and updates to the other teams. This keeps the pressure on from the whole cohort to perform, and the presenters also get useful feedback and support from their peers. Like last year, the cohort is extremely energetic in giving feedback, even if they are slow to start. Just don't be the last presenter or you'll get a real grilling! We went on to build mantras for each team - instead of over-though mission statements - talk about team design and founder agreements. The teams are now nutting out these agreements and will report back next week. 

All the teams that joined us on week one are still with us and keeping up. Now they are talking about founder commitments we'll get to see who's really up for it. 

What does it mean to validate a team for a really early stage startup? Have you seen some failures and/or success stories? 

This phase is really about the teams validating themselves: is this the bunch of people I want to share a really intense few years with, and do I care enough about the business to give it everything I have, and still probably fail. Not easy. Those teams that really commit should be considered 'validated' for everyone else. Because this passion and commitment are the best chance they have of success. 

For example, we saw a team last year that had a lot of potential, excited everyone, but have now given up as at least one of the key members could not commit full-time. Without that, they didn't have much chance. We've also seen teams that were built to deliver a particular solution, not solve a particular problem. When it turned out the solution was wrong for the market, the team fell apart. This happens a lot, especially coming out of hackathons when the initial commitment is based on the afterglow of the event, not a real need to fix something. But some work. A few SWG alumni formed in hackathons. Often there are significant changes to the team down the track but if at least a couple of people carry the passion, it's amazing what they can endure. 

Talking about trends in startup world, do you see this year’s startups following the trends or sticking to what they are good at?

There are certainly some buzzwords about: AR, VR, AI. Mostly, though, these are real and the teams know how to execute on them. They are living the hype!

Want to see what teams made it to the Validation? Read
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