One year, hundreds of clients, $1.25 million raised and an international move later, Mike Baukes and Alan Sharp Paul credit the Startmate accelerator program with the rapid growth of Scriptrock since joining the second intake of the program in 2012.
Baukes told StartupSmart he decided to give the Sydney accelerator program a go the second time it ran, after watching the progress of intake one start-up Bugherd.
“We had a rudimentary product that we’d been consulting around for a year, and we wanted an opportunity to commercialise it. We reckoned if the Startmate founders and mentors saw the value, that’d be a good sign to take our idea seriously and give it everything we had,” Baukes says.
Scriptrock is software that companies use to track and manage configurations to guarantee reliability and security.
He says despite following the first Startmate program closely, and being familiar with several companies involved, the application process, which Baukes says included 20 interviews, took them by surprise.
“The interview process is pretty crazy and we didn’t feel so good at the end of it. Suddenly you’re sitting in front of very impressive strangers who have done significant things. And you’ve got to try to share why you think your idea has a shot at doing something big. Honestly it’s exhausting.”
Baukes says the same factors that made the application process tough-going transformed into the best elements of the program: the expert mentors who were willing to push them.
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“These guys had done it before, so we were able to shortcut all of those problems that you hear about raising investment and getting a product to market. We learned so much more about working as a small team with their support than we could have going it on our own,” he says.
He adds the breakthrough moment for them was when they realised over drinks with Startmate founder Niki Scevak and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon Brookes that their cherished idea was nowhere near as important as what they did with it.
“The realisation that the idea is nowhere near as good as you thought, and it’s nothing compared to execution was the big one. Niki kept asking us how we were going to maximise the opportunity, and it clicked,” Baukes says. “We’ve got an idea, but how the hell are we going to do this? We pulled all the stops out and ran at it, and we’ve been running at it ever since.”
They started working with eight large corporate customers in Australia, and began raising their first round, with an eye on moving to San Francisco to access a bigger market and start-up network.
They moved their team of five to Palo Alto in August 2012. Baukes says they effectively shut down their Australian operations, and were both relieved, and a little surprised when all their Australian clients renewed.
“Moving to the States was the hardest decision for us to make, as things were going well here with awareness and good lead flow. But we needed to go where the biggest market was, so knew we had to make the break, and do it now,” Baukes says, adding they wanted everyone together so they could learn more together and grow fast.
Baukes says moving out of the accelerator and into the real world as a young company was intimidating.
“It’s an intense three months, and then you get funding and you’re on your own. Everyone is still contactable but it’s different, and difficult,” Baukes says. “Particularly if you’ve come from a corporate background like us, you’re used to everything being systematic. So a start-up is terrifying. Corporates have been built over time, and you’re building something from the beginning with no background, and no proven business model.”
Scriptrock is now working with 240 active clients. Baukes says Startmate’s focus on online distribution and AB testing has been crucial for their customer acquisition process.
Baukes adds anyone considering applying for Startmate’s fourth round should go for it, but be ready to work insanely hard.
“The expectations are really, really high right from the beginning. It’s up to the individuals who are applying to make the most of it. The reality is that if you think it’s going to be handed to you, you’re totally wrong,” Baukes says.
“It worked for us because we’re kind of opinionated but we’re not sensitive about it, and a lot of the mentors are the same. You can just say whatever needs to be said, and know you’ll get the same back.”