In the Trenches
No ivory towers here. We build. We get our hands dirty. We believe that a strong and engaged community creates a foundation for success, not just during the 3 month structured program, but in the months and years that follow. In Durham alone, there are over 50 startup and early-stage software companies.
Our partners know startups. They’ve built some of the world’s most successful products. We’ve partnered with experts in multiple fields – user experience, ruby on rails, web marketing – you name it, we’ve got a guy (or gal) who does it. We don’t foist random providers upon you. Instead, we connect you with potential employees and long term partners.
Hands-on Advisory Team
At the beginning of our program, a 3 – 4 person advisory team is hand selected, with your input, for your company. They will help you identify the right customers and validate market fit. These experienced, strategically chosen team members are committed to working with your team for 2 – 3 hours per week.
Walls, Roof, Chairs & Desks
Our lounge areas, old-school arcade machines, conference rooms, tablets for artists and developers alike, huge white boards and even a ping-pong table should make you feel right at home. Better yet, we provide super fast and reliable wireless Internet access, free coffee, and 24/7 access. Need to get out and about? Two coffee shops, seven restaurants and a couple hundred technology startup peers are within walking distance.
Follow On Funding
Our support extends far beyond 12 weeks. Upon successful completion of the program, your company is eligible for a $20,000 to $150,000 convertible note. You’ll also receive the benefit of our continued support, advice, and connections.
Some say the connections and network you’ll receive from TSF are the most valuable aspect of the experience. TSF alumni remain close to their peers, mentors, and investors long after Demo Day. Launching a company can be exciting, trying, frustrating, and invigorating. You’ll become part of a supportive community that’s focused on similar goals.
Durham is a rapidly growing startup hub on the east coast. We are part of an active startup community that hosts startup job fairs, incubators, networking events, and community launches. We’re located in the research triangle park of North Carolina, an area known for its top tier universities, unusual abundance of PhDs per capita, low cost of living, and supportive community.
TSF’s network extends far beyond North Carolina. Our connections to Bay Area funding, Kauffman Foundation mentors, investors, and successful alumni expands our reach from Durham to the tech hubs of the Bay Area, NYC, and Boston.
MVPs & Prototyping
A minimum viable product helps to validate market fit, gather customer feedback, and eliminate feature sets. A MVP can be as simple as an advertisement, a landing page, or a powerpoint slide. We help all of our participating companies launch a MVP and interpret the results.
You’ve built your product. Now what? We use our close partnerships with social media, public relations, and web marketing professionals to drive your visits and customer acquisition rates through the roof.
Real Life Customers
If you don’t get out of the office, we’ll kick you out. Great startups know how to get out of the building and test their fundamental hypotheses with real life customers. Can’t find any real life people? We’ll find them for you. It’s as simple as that. There is no substitute for face-to-face customer validation.
This is more than acquisition funnels, a viral coefficient, or cohort analysis. You’ll knock those deliverables out in no time. One of the most difficult metrics to gather is why people stop using your product. That metric (and a few others) are the critical pieces of information you can use to build a better company. We’ll help you define and measure critical metrics for your business.
User Centric Founders
We focus on market fit. We’re looking for 2 – 4 person teams that have technical chops and a customer focus. During TSF, you’ll interact with your customers on a daily basis. We don’t play guessing games. Measuring customer responses and addressing their needs is central to the TSF program.
Testing Our Advice
Don’t believe a word we say. As a startup founder, you’ll find that many of your advisers will provide conflicting advice. Don’t worry, you can put their advice to the test. The best founders manage a product’s development by testing hundreds of well crafted hypotheses. Build, launch, test, repeat. We push our companies to make informed, measurable decisions.
UX matters. It’s more than a pretty design. Today’s fastest growing companies maintain a relentless focus on their application’s experience. The near-instantaneous ROI of an improved UX can be understood by monitoring key metrics such as brand loyalty, customer retention, upgrades, and conversions. TSF partners with UX consultants to help our portfolio companies improve their product’s experience.
Observe, orient, decide and act (OODA). The OODA loop stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Agile Development methodologies and the Scientific Method. Whatever you call it, we’re here to help you apply a rapid decision framework. You’ll learn from your mistakes. You’ll learn from your risks. You’ll find success in the most obscure places.
Our mentors don’t just give talks. They work beside you. They hold office hours, conduct design reviews, hack on your product, and provide ongoing support and guidance. We’ve selected veterans who’ve experienced a variety of industries and stages of a business. TSF’s 93 local and national mentors will inspire, push, pull, and guide you.
From day one, it’s important to begin laying the groundwork for product monetization. We are experienced with selling advertising, selling content, selling services, and selling technology. Some models are quite simple. Some models are more complex. We’ll help you find the right business model for your unique value proposition.
Burn Your Business Plan
We firmly believe that business plans aren’t worth the paper that they are printed on. As soon as your business plan is extracted from your printer tray, it’s already outdated. Planning is extremely valuable. Just don’t turn your plans into an inflexible roadmap. “Waterfall” business planning is a recipe for disaster.
A Handpicked Audience
TSF’s Demo Day audience is handpicked for your company. While you’re testing market fit, hacking on your product, and designing your interface – the TSF team is hard at work. TSF employees scour the country for investors. We draw on our strong national support network to individually target investors that have demonstrated a strong interest in your company’s market, technology, or value proposition.
The TSF team is happy to answer your questions, debate methodologies, and/or discuss how TSF can accelerate your company. For more details about our program and additional information, send us an email.