Creative Destruction Lab: what an adventure!
Friday, February 9 at 11:55 a.m., we had just finished four interviews and a group session in front of a room of some 50 people, including investors from across North America, world-renowned scientists in artificial intelligence, serial entrepreneurs acting as mentors and MBA students from select business schools. The pressure was off; I am proud of my colleagues Isabelle Tremblay and David Gervais, who had given it their all. Our goal was to secure a spot to continue in the Creative Destruction Lab program.
The individual interviews went well, but the group session was more difficult. People seemed to have passed the word to talk about what wasn’t working with D-TECK! At the start of the program, more than 200 start-ups, over half from outside Canada, had submitted their application to be part of the first Montreal CDL cohort. In October, over 60 of us went through a day of interviews. In November, 28 of us underwent a scientific review to analyze our data and its potential. And in December, 25 officially took part in the first session. After that session, the axe fell, and five start-ups were eliminated. There were only 20 left at the February session. With all the effort it took to get there, we certainly didn’t want to be eliminated. It was a long weekend awaiting the official announcement about whether we were going to continue in the program until the April session. Had we performed well enough to earn a spot? It was a long weekend of second guesses and reflection: we should have said this, the members of the CDL didn’t understand our positioning, etc.
You may be wondering why the CDL is so important to D-TECK. When we submitted our application, we didn’t realize how much we would grow through this experience. Here is a list of benefits I have identified so far:
Access to a high-calibre network
Since joining the program, we have been put in touch with people we didn’t know existed, but who are authorities in their field. At each of these meetings, people truly wanted to help us.
The people we had the good fortune to meet provided a rich, valuable outside perspective of D-TECK. Sometimes they agreed with our ideas, and at other times they challenged us and asked the right questions. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to isolate yourself and think you have all the answers, that you know your market and that your products are incredible. Sometimes, a reality check is exactly what you need!
Access to investors
Rarely do you get the opportunity to present your organization to investment firms from San Francisco, Boston, New York and Montreal. One of the main objectives of the CDL is to allow start-ups like D-TECK to obtain financing to pursue their growth and break into international markets.
Management by objective
Every session, we had to agree with our mentors on three objectives that we had two months to achieve. If we didn’t achieve them, we couldn’t continue in the program. Simple as that! There is no better way to get focused than to have clear objectives and to fear the consequences of not achieving them.
A stumbling block for all start-ups is thinking only about operations and forgetting strategy. And of course, we fell into that trap! With the CDL, we are constantly thinking about growth strategies, while pursuing our activities. It was a great lesson that we need to remember after the CDL, because, yes, there is life after the CDL!
On Monday, February 12 at noon, we got the news… Our adventure is going to continue! Two intense months lie ahead. Our three objectives are critical and ambitious. Plenty of hours will be tacked onto our day. But those hours will be invaluable to the development of D-TECK.