This is a reblog of my original post at http://miiglers.tumblr.com
As any person who’s experienced it would tell you, being the “new kid on the block” is rarely fun (perhaps not if you’re a boys band). That is until you show everyone that you’re better than the “old kids on the block” then you quickly become a hero, get the girl next door, and live happily every after.
When it comes to social innovation, we are most certainly the new kid on the block. There are a multitude of sites, mostly crowdfunding, such as AngelList, Kickstarter, as well as incubator programs like Y Combinator, Amplify LA, and many others that in their own right do a great job helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful products.
We just do it better. Don’t worry we don’t expect you to take our word for it – we intend to show you.
Going back to my analogy as the new kid on the block: whenever I talk to potential investors I’m always asked (or told), “Well isn’t AngelList already doing that?”, “How are you different from Kickstarter?”, “Why are you trying to reinvent the wheel?” (This last one really threw me off especially given who it came from).
Interestingly enough, entrepreneurs rarely ask me that question and when they do it takes about 30 to 90 seconds of my explaining it for them to get it.
In the beginning the question annoyed me because I felt people were too quick to categorize and discourage us by insinuating to us “these other kids are already doing it, we don’t care if you think you can do it better”. It took some time for me to adjust my mindset but the moment I turned that feeling of discouragement into an opportunity to educate I couldn’t wait for people to make those remarks or ask the questions. It was only the 2,356 times I was hearing them anyways and I had room for a whole lot more.
A few weeks ago, I sent an email response to the following question “How is Miigle different from AngelList or Y Combinator?”. I’ve repurposed the content of that email into this blog post.
Here it starts…
I’ll first start by explaining what AngelList and Y Combinator are then follow up with how Miigle is not only different but better.
Grab some popcorn and get comfy!
Let’s begin with understanding the process of creating, developing and launching a startup/product.
Generally speaking there are about 5 main steps to developing an idea into a startup/product/company:
1. The Concept – which I like to refer to as the Eureka moment! You’re filled with excitement because you have what (to you) seems to be one of the best ideas in the world. You start doing some additional research and working on a pitch, executive summary, and/or business plan.
2. Team Building – you can’t do everything alone (maybe you can but it’s not as fun) so you recruit friends, colleagues, family, or strangers to help turn your concept into a project. This doesn’t always fall as #2 sometimes you can have the team before the concept – which can be ideal.
3. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Development – The brilliant minds on your team work tirelessly to turn that idea or concept into something that the rest of us understand, can use, and hopefully derive value from. If all three boxes are checked then you’re in pretty good shape.
4. Funding – Armed with your MVP and great traction you go raise money to either make more money (easiest way to get funded) or acquire more users faster (works if investors find your idea appealing with loads of potential). I should also note that funding doesn’t always fall in this stage it can happen before #3 (it’s rare) or take the place of #5
5. Marketing – MVP in hand, cash in the bank, brilliant minds on your team, a growing user base, and now you’re ready to convert the rest of your target audience and eat up market share like a starving kid eating crackers.
Knowing this let’s look at AngelList and Y combinator and how they add value in each step of this process.
AngelList is a site that connects entrepreneurs with angel investors. “Connect” is giving them a bit too much credit. A more appropriate description I think would be “a site where startups can display themselves to potential angel investors.” Therefore, entrepreneurs create a profile and post their startups on AngelList in the hopes of attracting Angel investors. Angel or Seed funds is the first round of funding most entrepreneurs go through to raise money. After angel funds, the “good” ones will go on and raise Series A, B, C, D etc.
AngelList has done a great job providing a single location where entrepreneurs can find some of the best and most active angel investors, for which they absolutely deserve all the credit. However, for non-connected or first time entrepreneurs going to AngelList and connecting with those investors is practically impossible – about 93% of AngelList deals were done through introductions.
That said, AngelList to me is really a bulletin board. It’s fairly static in terms of engagement. For example, it’s not built for collaboration between entrepreneurs. It’s simply a 2 way conversation between entrepreneurs and potential investors. Even that is not done right because the platform doesn’t do much to align you and your startup with the right investor – there’s still a lot of leg work you have to do after posting your startup.
That’s a half-ass solution for both the entrepreneur and the Angel investor but more so for the entrepreneur.
Keep in mind that AngelList was founded by 2 former venture capitalists so I definitely understand why they focus solely on improving that part of the process.
The problem AngelList doesn’t solve is what happens after you’ve got the money, launch and you need to market your product? AngelList doesn’t help you with that. They do however have a great job board where you can post openings and find hires for your startup.
I have a personal page on AngelList and so does Miigle. I’d be lying to say they provide no value because they do but I believe we have better product. Keep reading and you’ll learn why.
In summary: AngelList helps you mostly with step 4 and a bit of 2 BUT you need to do MOST of the leg work.
2. Y Combinator
Y Combinator is what you call an incubator program. They provide entrepreneurs with some money and usually have an extensive network of professionals who act as mentors.
Here’s how it generally works: You go and pitch your idea to them (regardless of the stage) and if they are interested they give you some money, a working space, and a couple of mentors to guide you for a specific period of time during which you work and hopefully launch your MVP. This is honestly GREAT! We’ve applied to various incubator programs here in California as well as nationally but never got accepted – the ones kind enough to give us a feedback told us (you guessed it) AngelList is already doing it. Bummer.
As great as incubators are, most of their benefits are offline and non scalable. There are many great startup ideas there that will never get to Y Combinator. Furthermore, the startup incubation approach has mostly been limited to the U.S. because we have the economical and social infrastructure to support it. Other countries in Europe and Latin America are starting to develop similar concepts but the problems are inherently the same. It’s unscalable and we’re leaving it to a small group of people to help solve the problem of too many. Also, after graduating from an incubator program, as I’ve heard, you usually don’t receive a lot of support on the following stages.
A great project would be to identify the success rate nationwide of startups who went through incubators. By success I refer to startup who went on and raised Series A. One of the incubators that rejected us told us that they hadn’t had a notable success rate because they’d only been around for 2 years.
Here’s a great post I highly recommend by Peter Salem, an Internet Executive, Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, and Founder of YouWeb incubator: 90% of Incubators and Accelerators will Fail and That’s Just Fine for America and the World. In his post he lists the reasons for failure to be 1) Too many companies, too little mentorship, 2) No clear funding path after the program, 3) Lack of business development resources.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Salem’s assessment.
In summary: Y Combinator helps you primarily with Steps 3 and 4
I describe Miigle as a social innovation platform built as a global community and marketplace.
Our core differentiators are that 1) we automate the process through which people with ideas/startups/projects connect with people interested in helping them, and 2) we allow them to market their products on the same platform. Miigle members (“Miiglers” as I affectionately call them) can leverage a global human network (constituting of other entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and people who are just interested in innovation) to help ease them through the entrepreneurship process from step 1 to step 5, and everything else in between.
Most importantly we do this by eliminating a good amount of the legwork described in AngelList and introducing a scalable model of many to solve the problems of many (as described for Y combinator and other incubators).
Building a sizable network will be critical to our success and I’m not disillusioned about that but I think we can do so rather quickly – we have a plan, of course. Working in perfect harmony with this growth in our member base is our technology which provides an algorithm that continually introduces project to potential contributors, meaning people most likely and capable to contribute to a project, whether its funding it, providing talent, knowledge, promoting it, or even just emotional support.
We are building a community for innovators but one that encourages the general public to participate.
To help you visualize it let me show you how Miigle applies to each of idea/startup development steps listed above.
1. The concept – Miigle allows you to post both early stage concepts to launched projects/startups. Our plan is to build the world biggest database of startups, apps and projects, so if you have one of those “best idea in the world” Miigle can help you validate that indeed no one else who’s ever heard or used our platform is working on the same.
2. The Team – Because you can post on Miigle as early as just the idea stage, your benefits are just the same as if you were a startup. Miigle will introduce your idea/startup to people who would be most likely to help you craft it or build it based on their various parameters that our algorithm takes into consideration. All you do is post your idea and Miigle takes it from there. You don’t have to do the legwork of browsing countless profiles – you can if you want to but our algorithm carries most of the weight because it’ll work faster and smarter than you.
3. MVP development – Whether you’ve already launched your startup or are in the early development stages, Miigle allows you to get feedback from your peers. You can engage with people (entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs) all over the world sharing ideas with you on how to hopefully improve your product. The benefit of this is that we allow you to build a following before your project goes live; these will be people who are genuinely interested in seeing you succeed. By becoming a part of your story they are more likely to help spread the word on your live project, hence stretching your marketing budget a bit further than working in silo or in stealth mode.
4. Funding – If you’re raising money, Miigle’s algorithm does the legwork for you in getting your startup in front of investors in the platform who’d be most likely interested in what you’re doing based on their past investments.
5. Marketing – Miigle is the only social innovation platform with an integrated marketplace. There’s Quirky but the value proposition is very different from ours. Our algorithm also to our marketplace – instead of chasing after customers Miigle brings them to you! The benefit of our marketplace is how cost effective it is! Startups and companies waste SO MUCH money in marketing because they have to pay for many to get a few (I know this because I spent the past 8 years as Digital Marketer).
Miigle introduces a paradigm shift to the entire process of innovation, one that leverages people and smart technology to make it easier for people to innovate and get their products to the right audience.
I truly see us as the present and future of innovation.
To summarize, AngelList and Y Combinator are focused on solving steps in the process. We are hell-bent on improving the entire process because although individual steps have gotten better the entire thing still SUCKS!
Our vision is to build a platform so people in poorer countries without the infrastructure we have here in the U.S. would be able to go online and have access to a community of millions of people that works just like Y combinator in helping them find the knowledge, advice, and money they need to develop and market their ideas.
This is extremely ambitious but it’s not impossible. We may be an early stage startup but we know exactly where we are going and what the upside is.
We are the new kids on the block and we’re here to make your life better. We’ll pass on the singing, there are more qualified kids than us in that regard.
Luc Berlin, CEO at Miigle.com