This post was orignially published on medium.com on September 26th, 2018 by Olu Okusanya.
I’m very proud to say that my startup, Partboyz Auto Parts (www.partboyz.com) received the honor of being chosen to participate in this year’s MassChallenge Program in Texas. After receiving hundreds of applications from many countries, only 84 startup finalists from around the world were selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of MassChallenge Texas from April to August, 2018.
If your startup company is fortunate enough to be chosen by MassChallenge you’ll benefit from taking part in their many programs. MassChallenge drives growth and creates value all over the world through structured business classes, expert mentorship and pitch competitions.
The biggest highlight of the MassChallenge program for us was when we emerged as one of the top 16 startups from the cohort to compete for the $500,000 in prize money. We may not have won the prize but we did take away something even more valuable, an expanded network and publicity about our startup!
Here are my key takeaways from my time at MassChallenge:
Startups Are Hard: Our culture has glamorized startups. In reality, startups are much different. Often left out in the TechCrunch articles is the grueling schedule. Every day, we stayed up till the early morning hours attending educational workshops during the day and implementing lessons learned in our startups till the early hours of the morning. It was a real hustle, we went home to take naps and repeated the schedule daily. The only way to keep up the insane schedule of building a startup is by caring deeply about your startup.
Fundraising Sucks: What makes it even worse is when you are an African startup and you’re not in any of the hot areas like Fintech or artificial intelligence, in spite of the fact that there’s a demand for what you have to offer. It’s especially true in our case because we remove the pain and frustration of car maintenance for a market of 11 million motorists saturated with counterfeit auto parts and bad service providers……now that’s an impact!
You also feel that you are constantly explaining yourself to investors who don’t understand your industry and certainly don’t understand the dynamics of the sub-Saharan, African market…and who can really blame them? If you are a US investor, It’s safer to put your money in a startup in Austin, than one operating in Lagos, thousands of miles away. Fortunately, the exposure and good press coverage we got from finishing as a top startup at MassChallenge has attracted the attention of investors that understand the Nigerian market and are looking to fund entrepreneurs that they can trust to deliver. As a bootstrapped startup, we are hopeful we will secure the funding we need to scale to the next level.
Mentoring Matters: This helps you avoid the landmines that will most likely hurt your startup ……. like, lack of market, running out of cash, poor marketing or getting blown away by the competition. MassChallenge has lots of extremely smart mentors with deep experience in different disciplines.
I was very surprised how humble and approachable they were despite their accomplishments. I had office hours with many successful entrepreneurs with insane value to share and walked away with actionable insights that will dramatically impact our business as we implement them.
All in all, our time at MassChallenge was the most productive period so far for us as a young startup. We started a collaboration with Nexus Automotive (the global aftermarket auto parts group) for sourcing quality auto parts for the sub-Saharan African market. We were also able to launch a new startup, Brakes and Shocks (www.brakesandshocks.ng), an on-demand auto repair site that sends a mobile mechanic to a client’s home or office to conveniently repair their car.
While MassChallenge may be over, we came away with an expanded network of amazing startup founders and confidence that we are a world-class startup.