Inside Story: Our Techstars Experience with Qovery

Qovery’s founding team (Romaric, Pierre, and myself) recently participated in the Techstars 2019 accelerator program in Paris. It was an intense 3-month experience during which we had an incredible time, both professional and personal. In this post, I will share a bit more with you about what this adventure was all about, but the main takeaway here is that it was instrumental in helping us lay the foundations for Qovery and establish our new mission. After those three incredible months, we are ready to carry on but before we do that, let’s take a little time to unpack everything while it is still fresh.  

Morgan Perry

Morgan Perry

December 17, 2019 · 8 min read
Inside Story: Our Techstars Experience with Qovery - Qovery
Written byMorgan Perry

Morgan Perry

CRO and co-founder of Qovery. Morgan is a Tech entrepreneur with 7+ years of experience in the SaaS industry.

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Reasons for participating in Techstars:

Like YCombinator, Techstars is a highly competitive and selective program (supposedly 1% of applicants are accepted). Some major global successes include SendGrid, DigitalOcean, ClassPass, and Localytics, to name but a few. 

Our primary motivation for applying to the Techstars Accelerator Program was crystal clear from the beginning: THE NETWORK. 

Before going into more depth on that topic, I would like to raise an important point. When we applied for the program, the team worked on an entirely different product: analyzing images on social networks using deep learning techniques for marketing purposes. We were accepted into Techstars based on this project and were very open to betting on the team rather than the project.
I could write a whole other post based on the premises of that project, but that's a topic for another day but let's take it back to the networking.

Romaric, Pierre, and I worked for many years in significant finance (Ullink), tech (RedHat, Criteo), and media industries. We had years of experience and expertise in our respective fields (Dev, DevOps, SRE, Growth, Marketing), but we were facing a major issue: we had no network whatsoever. This became blatant when we embarked on our initial project, intended for major corporate clients light years away from our professional sphere.

Next up... the first 3 months of the program

Mentor Madness (1st month)

Shayan (AWS), Morgan and Romaric
Shayan (AWS), Morgan and Romaric

The first month, also known as Mentor Madness Month, was dedicated to meeting over a hundred industry experts and mentors. Mentor Madness could compare it to an intense speed dating session between startups and roughly about a hundred professionals carefully selected by Techstars. The idea was to present our project and address the challenges we were facing at the time. In return, we received feedback, advice, and support on specific topics based on the mentor's own experience.

On top of that, the goal was to find 3 to 5 mentors to work with and develop our project over the following 2 months and possibly after the program. 
Our decision to completely pivot and focus 100% on Qovery took place during this period.
Our reasoning was simple: our initial project did not bring any value to the client other than a semblance of innovation, and the team was not obsessed with the product. As one knows, the chances of success are incredibly slim without these key elements. 
Discussing our initial project with the mentors was a huge catalyst in our decision to scrap it and start over with something that the team was already an expert in: issues in infrastructure management. Indeed, both Pierre and Romaric had managed thousands of servers worldwide over the years during their time at Criteo, RedHat, and Ullink.

Et voilà! 15 days after the beginning of the program, Qovery was born. 

After this change in direction, we only had 15 days to introduce our new project to the mentors: Qovery, a platform that lets anyone develop and launch an application within minutes.
The change in response was striking, and the first feedback was incredibly encouraging. Some mentors immediately put us in touch with relevant contacts, and others expressed interest in supporting us in the future.

[Quick aside to explain the problem we were addressing and how frustrating it was:
So what is Qovery all about? Cloud providers came on the scene in the early 2000s to allow anyone to start a tech company and manage infrastructure. Over the years, these providers have become increasingly complex and expensive to operate. For example, AWS, which began with three services, now has over 170 each specificity. As a result, in  growing tech companies, developers have to manage their tech development and these complex infrastructures wasting time, energy, and resources.]


By the end of Mentor Madness Month, we came out with much clearer ideas and more motivation than ever to tackle this new challenge. More importantly, we got to meet incredible mentors who continue to support us in this adventure daily (warm thanks to Amirhossein, Julien, and Grégoire).

Execution (2nd month)

Techstars offcie - deep working session
Techstars offcie - deep working session

The second month was when we had to validate our hypothesis by building our product as quickly as possible. We also presented the early versions to our client segment, in our case, CTOs in tech companies.

We met with over 50 CTOs and lead developers, both from great tech companies such as Front, Back Market, Malt, Sqreen, Datadome, etc., and startups from the Techstars network. This allowed us to gather relevant feedback on our product and identify areas of improvement.

These various interactions and feedback allowed us to iterate the product over a dozen times and come up with a private beta version that will launch in mid-December.

Pitch practice (3rd month)

The third and final month was dedicated to preparing for Demo Day. We had to prepare the perfect speech to present to a crowd of investors, mentors and journalists, and family and friends for nearly a month. Our CEO Romaric, who was due to be on stage, had to practice at least 300 times to be ready for this major milestone in our company's life.  

Pierre and I continued developing the product and meeting with potential clients during this time because business must carry on as usual.

Demo Day

What an incredible day! All the startups from the 2019 class (Asgard, CaptainVet, Genetrainer, HelloBirdie, Heuristech, Hiveway, Koala, Medeo, Shipright) shone bright, as they pitched to a full house in le Théâtre des Variétés, a famous Parisian landmark. Demo Day is the culmination of an intense 3-month experience, and the goal is to demonstrate how our startup brings significant value to a broad market with a unique product and an exceptional team (I'm summarizing that in a sentence, but those are the key elements that investors want to see).

What has Techstars brought us during this journey?

The most extraordinary pivot in the history of Techstars 😅

(At this point, we're not even talking about a pivot.)

We came into the program with an innovative project that had no real client value. We are leaving with a project anchored in the team's DNA that solves a specific frustration many developers face: implementing and managing infrastructure.

From the first day, Techstars mentors, most successful entrepreneurs themselves with a proven track record, challenged us head-on with hard questions about our vision. These challenging discussions made it abundantly clear that we were on the wrong path, and it was the best thing that could have happened to us as a team.

We now have a clear idea of the problem we want to address and the product we want to build. More importantly, we have defined a vision we are passionate about, allowing any developer—regardless of their experience level—to focus on what they love: developing and building unique experiences.

The network

Without a doubt, the network remained Techstars' biggest competitive advantage and was the greatest value of this experience for us. It was our main reason for applying, and it delivered everything we hoped it would. 
We met a diverse set of individuals that challenged and advised us all through the program, and some of them continue to support us more than ever. They gave us access to their network and put us in touch with people who could help. Moreover, the mutual assistance mindset shared within the Techstars network has been truly empowering. We have contacted Techstars alumni several times, and each time they responded, bringing substantial support (warm thanks to the CTOs from EddyTravels, Slope, we played, EnjoyHQ, and Alpin).

Challenges and assistance amongst startups in the 2019 Batch

Who better to help you than the people facing the same challenges and problems? During our adventure, the Qovery team discussed issues and shared perspectives with the nine other startups of the class. Not only did we learn from one another's experiences, but we were also able to help each other effectively. Team Qovery was able to support certain startups with our tech and business knowledge, while they, in turn, were able to give us informed feedback in product management, fundraising, or sales. 

Every Monday, we were required to share our weekly KPIs with the entire class and discuss our progress. A healthy spirit of competition came out of it and pushed us to work harder each week. 

The #GiveFirst culture

This is Techstars core philosophy: "Giving before receiving". It may sound simplistic and romantic at first, but it's pretty powerful in practice. It's emphasized by the entire team in charge of the program and is a genuine part of the culture in the wider Techstars network. The idea behind this philosophy is not to provide handouts but to focus less on the transactional side of the contribution and more on the contribution itself. It helps to create deep, long-lasting, and quality relationships both professionally and personally. "Giving before receiving" does not work for everyone, but it does for Qovery, and we will continue to uphold this value and promote it. 

CONCLUSION‍

Building a startup is one of the most humbling and energizing experiences an entrepreneur could go through. Going through Techstars provided a fantastic springboard for Qovery. We will continue working hard and moving quickly to fulfill the mission we believe in and have set for ourselves: making developers' lives easier.

Our private beta version will be launching in mid-December. Do not hesitate to contact us directly at hello {at} qovery.com

If you think I may be able to help with anything I have shared in the article or if you have specific questions about the Techstars adventure, I am happy to be in touch #GiveFirst 🙂
--> e-mail: hello {at} qovery.com or directly on my Twitter (DM).

***A loud shout-out to the entire Techstars staff that were wonderful during these 3 months (Queta, Julien Q., Claire, Morgane, Melanie, Gaëtan, Domitille, Veronique, Julien L., Fabien, and Alexis)

Read how Qovery helps Techstars startups to succeed.

How Qovery helps Techstars startups to succeed
How Qovery helps Techstars startups to succeed

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