Collective Campus in its third year now and in that time I’m proud to say that, unlike other consultancies and education providers that have come (and gone already in many cases), we didn’t start out with fundraising as a key priority. It still isn’t.
We started by focusing on finding our value proposition and delivering on it in a cashflow positive way.
Over the course of the first 18 months we built a seven figure business, then with what was just a team of four (soon to be a team of nine), but the purpose of this blog is not to chest-beat, it is to paint a picture and deliver some important lessons.
By not tapping into funding early, we were operating under conditions of serious constraint. Both my co-founder Sean and I didn’t pay ourselves anything in the first 12 months of operating, opting instead for side gigs and part time shows to keep the lights on - literally - and we had to be creative with hiring, incentivisation and marketing - opting for free third party platforms and quid pro quo arrangements where possible.
Most of all, we ran countless short and fast experiments across our entire business model - and still do to this very day - across product, service, customer segment, distribution channel, price point, marketing channel, target geography, sales strategy, messaging and so on, in order to land on a model that delivered value to customers and therefore also created monetisable value for us.
But because we hadn’t taken on external funding, we had the freedom to try different things and fundamentally decide one day to change the direction of the company entirely by ditching public facing workshops and instead focusing on corporate consulting, training and accelerator programs.
There are significant lessons in this not only for startups but also for corporate innovation teams who often seek out funding, way beyond what is necessary - often through business cases - to build and test ideas, when far less would not only suffice but would be far more likely to get people thinking and acting like resource constrained early stage entrepreneurs, and therefore result in a more diligent application of those dollars and a higher likelihood of finding product market fit for new ideas.
This isn’t to say that you can’t do that if you take on funding early, but oftentimes, taking on especially large amounts of funding early on can be a curse dressed up as a blessing.
In this episode of Fast Fix Friday we unpack the five ways that investment can KILL innovation.
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For more information on Collective Campus, our innovation hub, school and consultancy based in Australia and Singapore check out www.collectivecamp.us