Entrepreneurship as a Service at Antler Nordics
Go for It 🌿
Is Entrepreneurship for anyone? Can anyone be their own boss? What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Have you ever wondered how entrepreneurs kick off their startups? What could be the triggers and what are the initial challenges? What are the chances for success? I decided I want to GO FOR IT!, so let me tell you about my Antler journey and its rollercoaster ride!
Numo at Antler 📈
A year ago, I decided to leave my job as an in-house organizational designer and embark on building my startup- Numo. I wanted to experience and learn how one can execute one’s businesses, navigate all the challenges and above all, be my own boss. Autonomy and self determination has always been my north star. Numo means growth in Arabic and derived from currency in Latin. Numo’s mission is to reduce organizational debt by enabling managers at Tech companies to own their professional growth metric. Numo aims to reduce attrition costs and increase employee‘s engagement thus creating resilient organizations.
Numo and I were fortunate to be invited to the Antler cohort in Oslo. In 12 weeks, we would be able to validate Numo’s business idea, gain traction and have the chance to receive pre-seed (Ventral Capitals- VC ) investment. Antler is an early stage VC with the mission “Where exceptional people build incredible companies’ ‘. 150 founders met in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen to join the Nordic Love Cohort (we started on Valentine day, Feb 14th).
Trust the process💡
We were all encouraged to “trust the process” — a well studied and well perfected process based on many successful Antler cohorts in 18 cities with thousands of founders since 2017.
First week was dedicated to getting to know the other founders, collecting impressions on who could be a match for our teams, but also discussing our motivations to be entrepreneurs. Are we here for financial gains, changing the world, disrupting an industry, being your own boss..etc.
Next 4 weeks have been dedicated to Sprints. We would be matched to teams and given 24h to pitch a solution to problems presented to us by industry stakeholders. We sprinted in teams of 4 founders on circular economy, climate, sustainability, energy and other topics to a stakeholder committee. The winning team usually had a balanced team of Hustler: someone who loves to challenge and loves to sell-CEO, Hacker: the one building the technology-CTO, Hipster: passionate about Product/Design-CPO and sometimes a Handler, taking care of operations-COO.
Following the sprints, founders already had an idea who we want to work with or at least who we do not fancy working with. We were encouraged to track out with tentative founders. Tracking out is the process of exclusively committing to work with some other founder/s to experiment on finding the business problem and solutions.
One could also track back if no spark happened between founders. At this point one can track back in, and iteratively search for another founder or team, idea or solution.
All teams aimed to get to the Investment committee Day (IC Day) where we present our pitches in front of Antler partners. The decision to invest in the newly formed startups for equity would be granted. Teams were given the chance in the last 6 weeks to pre-pitch their ideas/solutions in three cycles. Antler shared feedback and provided us with advisors/mentors to help iteratively improve our pitches.
My rollercoaster Antler loop 🎢
We joined Antler as a team of two co-founders. At times we have worked lightly on Numo, but we have not yet been successful gaining clients. When we pitched Numo to Antler, we were in an “accelerated case”. Being already a team of two co-founders with a clear idea, gave us the option to “ accelerate “ and be able to pitch midway if we are able to show traction for our product.. But our journey took a different turn and rollercoaster loop was intense.
- Once my ex-co founder and I, filled out the tracking out sheet, we realized that although we are good friends and have complementary skills/personalities, we nonetheless don’t share the same vision for the product and decided it is best that we split up. We both would be open to all options which included: a) joining other teams/ideas. b) dropping Numo and pursuing other ideas. c) starting something new as a team or as individuals. We decided after 5 weeks that it is best to experiment differently and split up.
- I decided to continue with Numo while my ex-co-founder joined another team. However, in Oslo’s cohort, the focus has been mainly on energy, construction and sustainability and I was not fortunate to excite other founders to join Numo’s mission. HRTech or New work, where Numo aims to position itself as a Learning and Development (L&D) Business to Business ( B2B) software as a service (SaaS) was not an attractive discipline to Oslo’s Tech co-founders.
- I was thrilled to learn that Stockholm and Copenhagen cohorts are more open for people topics. Many teams joined fintech, health-tech, B2C, B2B and platforms. I was super happy to team up with two data scientists and one HR expert from the Stockholm cohort to further develop Numo. We conducted a 24 hour sprint and were successful to sharpen Numo’s value proposition and pivoted to different solutions/offering. However, at the end of that week, the team was less excited to work on Numo for different reasons, some included pursuing other ideas but mainly pursuing own ideas. Every person that joined Antler was already flirting with their own idea which they were hoping to excite others to join them.
- When I finally admitted it to myself that in the 150 Antler current co-founders, I have not found anyone excited about Numo and HRTech, I reflected on what my next moves could be and how I can focus on maximizing learnings from this journey, I decided I need to “park” Numo for a while and try to join someone’s else team/idea.
- I tracked out with another co-founder from Stockholm, we worked for 8 days on validating hypotheses on both the problem and solution by conducting numerous user interviews. Although we worked well together, we both came to the conclusion that I am still more passionate about Numo and this is what I need to put my energy towards.
- That was the lowest point for me at Antler, I felt team-less, idea-less and cohort-less. But, I was not ready to give up yet. Certainly not compromising my learnings. At that point, I decided to reach out to a friend of mine whom we collaborated on an e-learning platform for Algeria a year ago. He was quick to accept my invitation and he hit the floor running preparing for the next pre-IC pitch.
- Working remotely and with utmost pressure was not productive for our collaboration and again I was left alone at Antler just short before the official IC round .
My Learnings at Antler 🧠
Antler’s journey was enriching, amazing, and super insightful but at the same time intense and stressful. I would like to share my main learnings:
- It ain’t all about the money: My motivation to be an entrepreneur was mainly to be able to disrupt the HR industry and be my own boss. This ain’t happening when one aims to take VC money where scalability and profitability on steroids are mandatory. One ends up working for a profit machine which is less tolerant to experimentations, delays and failures.
- Three Musketeers: The first and foremost hurdle in entrepreneurship is finding the right team. Today, I believe that having three co-founders aligned on vision and having clear roles and timelines is a secret sauce. The job to be done is to be able to excite others to join you at the journey early on
- Dare to Grow: Self Doubt, for me those three months have been full of doubt. I have always been clear about my goals/intentions but very open to failures. This has been my legacy as a scientist. But, never have I ever doubted my skills as I did in those months. The ups and downs are almost on an hourly pace. This will always be the trend, so make sure you surround yourself with a compassionate environment and support but at the same time reflect continuously on the reason you are doing this journey !
- Be Kind: Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster from day one onwards. I needed to teach myself how to be kind to myself, learn to recharge, and learn to be clearer about intentions, purpose but also recognition and reward.
What is next for me & Numo ?
Will I recommend the Antler cohort and journey ? Hell ya, my learning curve was steep and I got to meet super smart and thriving co-founders that will lead future unicorns in the future for sure. The Antler team has been there to support us and offer us the tools needed for this journey. One slight improvement would be to invest more in coaching, maybe a service like Numo can help- wink , wink 😉
As for me and Numo, I have decided to bootstrap Numo and meanwhile transition to Numo services , a consultancy where I can offer more coaching & training for my clients. I am inviting my clients to shape the SaaS Numo’s development and create a genuine customer centric product. I will be bootstrapping it for a couple of years before we are ready for the VC world.