Turn Your Business Idea into a Validated Business Model

An 8 Steps Go to Market Program

Have an innovative idea for a product or technology?

Congratulations!!

This can turn out to be one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences of your life.

Unfortunately, whether you own a business, are managing a business unit, or are just starting up, you are taking a risk. How do you know if your innovation will succeed when so many new business initiatives fail? And how do you make sure you can reach and convince enough of the new customers?

Join the Sirris Team to validate your business model and design your go-to-market strategy in 8-session training with experienced entrepreneurs.
(*) No obligation. We will sit down and discuss your idea in full confidentiality.

Need more information? Just read on.

Why do so Many Innovations Fail?

Unfortunately, not every innovation succeeds - even when it is founded on superior technology and products.

Do you remember Google Wave? It was a technically superior product, supposed to replace e-mail as the next generation collaboration platform. It was first successfully used amongst Google engineers before a multimillion dollar launch.

A launch that flopped. The product did not solve a real problem and it was confusing for the end customers.

How about Geo Cities? In the early days of the Web - the platform to host a "home page". Very popular product, solving a real pain.

Unfortunately, Yahoo! had to close down the product, as they failed to successfully monetize it.

"Build it and they will come" used to be a mantra during the Internet bubble. Not anymore! You need more than technology in order to succeed. There is no business without customers, a monetization model, a go to market path...

Innovation is more than technology or a product. Innovation = technology + a business model.

The business model canvas from Osterwalder (above) lists 9 essential building blocks of a business model.

In other words, your first task is to answer each and every of these questions.

"Startathlon is a great startup accelerator program. Excellent content, top coaches and some very strong participants. It really helped me and also pushed me to get the maximum out of the idea we were working on. The bi-weekly investor pitches for the group and finally for real investors were a very good way to sharpen the story, both for ourselves as well as for potential partners."
Frederik Middernacht, Managing Director, Kipando

Already Thought About Your Business Model? Are You Sure It's Correct?

Every new technology-based business goes through the same early stage filled with uncertainty.

Flickr - the photo sharing website - started off as a multiplayer online game. Photo sharing was just a side feature. However, it generated way more traction than the game did.

The founders fought for a while trying to stick with their original idea, but it soon became obvious where the real need was.

How about PayPal - the online payment service? It started as a PDA payment solution (back in the time of the bulky PDA's). It turned out no one really wanted to do that.

Luckily, the founders of PayPal recognized where the real problem - and the money - was: in online payment.

Holy smokes! They did not know who their customer was and what they wanted! Is that exceptional?

Not if you are building or repurposing technology, trying a new business model or a new market segment. You are faced with uncertainty.

In the beginning, there is uncertainty about your customers, their needs, acceptance of your technology, willingness to pay.

You Are only Guessing

Treat your Innovation as a Research Project

So if you're only guessing - what can you do? According to Steve Blank, you should

Form a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
"To search". Go-to-market of innovation is a lot like a research project. And what do scientists do in a research project?
  1. They state their hypotheses (= your guesses)
  2. They define and run experiments to validate or invalidate these hypotheses.
  3. Finally, based on the results, they persevere - develop their idea further, or pivot: change one of their hypotheses.

Not sure how to do this? We can help

Join the Sirris Team to validate your business model and design your go-to-market in 8-session training with experienced entrepreneurs.

Why not schedule a free, no-obligation, confidential meeting and we will discuss your idea with you.

Need more information? No problem, just read on.

"I can recommend the Startathlon programme for everyone who has a great idea and wants to move forward by implementing hands-on start-up techniques taught by real entrepreneurs. It's all about making fun, progress and friends!"
Kin Chi Chow, Managing Partner, Wigoh

Build Minimum Viable Products

The way innovators run experiments is by making "minimum viable products". A minimum viable product is the minimum work needed to validate a set of hypotheses (business assumptions).

Your minimum viable product doesn't not have to be a product at all. It is good to start by getting out of the building and talking to your customers.

And no, it is not about asking customers what they want (because "if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses", Henry Ford). It is about validating your innovative vision.

Food on table is an online service that provides a weekly recipe and grocery lists based on promotions at your local store. When starting out, instead of building out their service, the founders went out of the building to find a first interested customer.

They visited their first customer every week, let her choose the recipes, delivered groceries to her door... and collected a check of $10.

Zappos shoes - the biggest online retailer of shoes didn't start by building a product database and a network of suppliers. Instead, the CEO went to local shoe stores, asked the owners if he could take photos and put them online.

When the order would come in, he would go buy the shoes at the store, ship them, handle returns... all by himself. Needleless to say, he learned tremendously.

There are many more examples. They all sound convincing and inspiring. The theory makes lots of sense.

Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. You may be wondering: how do I do that for my own case?

It's not the first time we hear that question. From our experience, many innovators struggle with applying this process in practice. They are seeking to know how others have done it.

That is exactly why we decided to do create this program.

Join our 8-Step Program with Other Innovative Companies to Search for and Validate Your Business Model

We could not ignore the questions from companies - large and small - when faced with these challenges. So we've come up with a state-of-the-art program and a great mentoring team to guide you through the process of searching for a viable business model.

The program consists of 8 high-end training sessions with experienced entrepreneur mentors, but also includes in-between one-on-one coaching.
  • "I would certainly recommend the program to other entrepreneurs, because it's practical, calling for direct implementation. You really only learn what is "necessary and sufficient". It's straight to the point, interactive, small group, and you really care about each project. ..."

    Alexander Prym is the founder of Mondays Like Sundays, a recruiting company that finds "hidden gem" candidates, still employed by other companies, and provides perspective employers with a free onsite assessment between 2 days to 2 weeks. More

  • "First, I had my doubts. I thought it was too early - my product was not there yet.

    I like that every session, you get a new insight from a professional, expert in their domain. And it's good that it is not limited to the group sessions. You can meet experts in between and discuss your questions one-on-one. They are very flexible and genuinely helpful..."

    Inez Michiels from City of 8 knows the power of design and visual communication when done well. More

Session #1. Towards the Early Adopter in the Right Market

30th October 2014 (13h-18h)
Session objectives:
  • Choose a market with high potential. Market choice impacts everything. Eventually, it can make a difference between a business and a hobby. It's a choice you need to make early.
  • Identify your Early Adopter. This is a special type of customer, ready to work with you in an early stage. They will become your go-to-market beachhead.
  • Find your customer-problem fit. No one cares about your product, or about who you are. Who do you think is the center of your customer's attention? Him/herself and their own problems. So your job as an entrepreneur will be to find and solve a pressing problem of a customer - or make their life much better.

Session #2. Develop your Problem-Solution Fit

13th November 2014 (13h-18h)
Am I building the right product? Will I really be able to improve lives (or business) of my customers? Is my major product feature solving the identified problem? Do customer think it's a must have? Are there any barriers to adoption?

Session objectives:

  • Define the scope for the minimum viable product. The way innovators run experiments is by making "minimum viable products". Here, you will learn about tactics to define the scope of your minimum viable products.
  • Determine your initial pricing strategy. Pricing is complex. There are many pricing strategies, and at the very beginning, it is difficult to pick a price point that makes sense for your new product. Here you will learn a simple and practical approach to pricing your new product.
  • Carry out first validation of the solution and pricing. "Validation" is the keyword of this program. You want to find out as soon as possible - from your customers - if your assumptions are valid or not.

Session #3. Go-to-market Design

27th November 2014 (13h-18h)
How will you market & sell: generate leads and close deals? Do you have a clear path to customers? You can have a great product and customers willing to pay for it. But if you cannot reach your customers, you haven't got a viable business yet.

Or if it costs you more money to sell to one customer than what you can make off of them. Session objectives:

  • Pick a channel to focus on based on validated learning
  • Estimate the customer acquisition cost
  • Understand the potential for scaling

Session #4. Structure your Offering and Build a Sales Argumentation

11th December 2014 (13h-18h)
If each sell remains a time-consuming effort with a necessary involvement of the entrepreneurs themselves, scaling your business will not happen.

To build a successful sales machine requires a structured offering with the right messages for the focus customer segments.

Session objectives:

  • Build, test and iterate a sales argumentation
  • Create presentation material (sales presentation, landing page, product flyer...)

Session #5. Revenue & Cost Modeling

8th January 2015 (13h-18h)
You are building a business - which comes down to making money. You will have to come up with revenue streams and then determine and validate pricing that will be accepted by your customers. And you'll have to see if the model you've come up with is viable (more money in than money out, and enough delta to grow a healthy business).

Session objectives:

  • Select a revenue model for your business
  • Create financial projections
  • Identify metrics that will drive your business decisions

Session #6. Growth Hacking

22rd January 2014 (13h-18h)
Your new business went online yesterday and you've got a marketing budget of zero. How are you supposed to create a movement around your product? How can you get to your first thousand - or million - customers? Starting from zero, it feels impossible. Enter the growth hacker. You may not have heard of growth hacking yet, but you've certainly used the billion dollar brands built by it: Hotmail, AirBnB, Facebook, Dropbox, amongst many others.

This sessios will help you adopt the growth hacker mindset. It is all about hands-on tactics that bring you results.

Session #7. Mentor Day

5th February 2014 (13h-18h)
This is truly a unique opportunity to get feedback and advice from 7 experienced mentors in a single day. In a very intense afternoon, you will get 30-40 minutes, one-on-one with each of the mentors to discuss your main challenges or any specific issues you may have with your business.

Session #8. Demo, Landing Page & Pitching Contest

5th February 2015 (18h-21h)
Here, you will present your business in front of a panel of experienced entrepreneurs. You will get validation of your ideas, and feedback on how to improve your business design.

Session objectives:

  • Present your business in a compelling way
  • Get critical feedback

Interested?

We would like to help as many companies as possible. Unfortunately, to ensure high quality standards, we have to severely limit the number of spaces in the program.

We can only accept 7 companies.

8 Steps through 8 Intense Workshops - and You Build your Business in Between

The format is the best-of-breed combination between high-end training sessions, one-on-one coaching, and exchange with other innovative companies - your peers - going through the same process.

The program is organized around workshops. Each session covers a separate topic (see the previous section).

What's really cool about our program is that in-between-workshops you get to apply what you've learned - and actually build your new business.

Each workshop is led by a moderator and an external expert. Our experts are not theoretical people - these are entrepreneurs who have done it themselves, and helped many other companies over and over again. See the next section to get to know our team.

During each session you get feedback on your progress. During and in between sessions you exchange ideas with your peers - other innovative, non-competing companies. In addition, you will get the chance to request input, feedback or advice from the mentors during and in between sessions.

We know your business is unique. We will be more than happy to sit together and think together with you about your specific challenges in-between sessions.

Who are we?

We're a team of 11 experts passionate about software, technology and business.

We help companies realize their innovative ideas by providing a combination of business and technical advice. Often, we step in research and development together with you.

Sirris is a not-for-profit, industry-owned knowledge center founded by Agoria, the federation of the Belgian technology industry.

Your Team

For this project, we teamed up with some of the brightest experts and entrepreneurs from Belgium.
Omar Mohout is a serial entrepreneur. After selling his last company, he's now helping European companies go to market in Europe and Middle East

Omar is a genuine person with the utmost integrity and value. He is highly principled and very honest. I have nothing but the highest degree of respect for him. I learned and adapted many aspects of business and organizational processes from Omar, which has enabled me to succeed further in my career. -- John Walker, Business Development Manager, TECHMAR Communications

Toon Vanagt is a serial internet entrepreneur, with expertise in virtualization and cloud computing. Together with Robin Wauters, Toon is the publisher of Virtualization.com.

The man is just incredible. Always friendly, helpful and constructive, while criticizing when needed. His advices and feedbacks were once again invaluable, he is very upfront with his impressions, and took the time to give constructive written feedback to everyone. Impressive. -- Martin Van Aken, founder of 8th Color

Sanjoy Bhose is a sales superstar. His jaw-dropping list of sales and sales management positions speaks for itself. Go ahead and read his 95 recommendations on his LinkedIn profile.

Sanjoy is one impressive sales leader. His wealth of experience, rigor in designing and managing the sales process, focus on results, and his willingness to set the highest standards of professionalism and quality with his team, are all reasons why he was able to earn the utmost respect from Canonical 's senior management team.

Thomas Cleenewerck Thomas is a scientific entrepreneur: loves to drill down in pursuit of new key concepts and turns them into a commercial success. He runs several SaaS companies in markets with high and diverse customer needs where he continuously seeks the best fit between maximum customer fit, minimal products and lean business models. His scientific background (did a PhD in domain-specific languages) gives him a strong technical background and keen insight in balancing forces.

Patrice Roulive is a co-Founder & COO of Telemis, a European Medical Imaging company with 50 employees. He founded the Passionate People community and mentors entrepreneurs through Microsoft Boostcamp, Westartup, Mind&Market, Founder Institute and Nest'up. He was a speaker a TEDx Louvain la Neuve

Dirk Creado has seen his dream come through when he became part of the venture capital community. He has been f(o)unding and supporting companies and projects throughout their lifecycle with several funds for the last 15 years. Dirk was the founder of StoneFund, with the support of the Colruyt family.

Jessie Dedecker is a serial entrepreneur, Internet marketer, software architect and developer and lean startup practitioner and adviser.

Jessie manages to actively push projects in the right direction without losing focus and view on the overall goals. He is able to make complicated concepts and ideas tangible. His positive attitude made it a pleasure to work with him. -- David Bintein, CEO at Lodestar

Vladimir Blagojevic is entrepreneur, blogger and organizer of Lean Startup Circle Brussels. Lean Startup practitioner and adviser. He used to write software and work in agile teams.

Wow! Thank you so much for that advice. I wasn 't expecting that at all. I can't tell you what a profound effect your insight had on me to renew my determination to just get this idea out to the market and adjust as I go. I think I started hiding behind the platform issue so thank you for getting my focus back to where it should be. Thank you again for getting me back on track! -- Andrew Barnett - Founder

Peter Verhasselt is an engineer, jurist and strategist with a large network in Belgian high tech industry. Peter has started and led the Mistral program at Sirris that guided 70+ companies in finding the right technology strategy to enable growth.

Nick Boucart is a software engineer, a web and cloud computing guru, works a lot with startups as a Sirris adviser. He is one of the co-authors of the 'The Art of Software Innovation - Eight Practice Areas to Inspire your Business', one of the first innovation books written specifically aimed at software companies.